Mooncake Festival (Mid-Autumn Festival)

Have you ever wonder why the Chinese celebrate Mid-Autumn Festival or better known as the Mooncake Festival? Well, I don't really fancy fairy tales but I guess it's good to look back at how a culture develop....after all, I'm a Chinese and love having mooncake during the festive season. 

If you look back at history, the Chinese celebrated the harvest during the autumn full moon since Shang Dynasty (16th to 20th century BCE). According to historian, initially, they worship Mountain Gods after the harvest period. The celebration of festival only become popular during the early Tang dynasty (618-907 CE). 

There is also the element of moon worship in this celebration (which is why a lot of Christians don't participate in it...idol worship apparently)...anyway, I think it is important to embrace culture and history.

Chang'e


The ancient Chinese believed in rejuvenation being associated with the moon and water, and connected this concept to the menses of women, calling it "monthly water". There is an ancient fable saying the sun and moon are a couple and the stars are their children, and when the moon is pregnant, it becomes round, and then becomes crescent after giving birth to a child. These beliefs made it popular among women to worship and give offerings to the moon on this evening. 

Well, the more popular story for the Mid-Autumn Festival, better known as Mooncake Festival is the story of a well known lunar deity, Chang'e. She is also known as the Moon Goddess of Mortality. The myths associated with Chang'e talks about the origin of moon....in a way. (depends on what you believe in and how you look at myths)

In ancient past, there was a hero name Hou Yi, who was very good at shooting. His wife was Chang'e. One year, the ten suns rose in the sky together, causing great disaster to people. Yi shot down nine of the suns and left only one to provide light. An immortal admired Yi and sent him the elixir of immortality. Yi did not want to leave Chang'e and be immortal without her, so he let Chang'e keep the elixir. But Feng Meng, one of his apprentices, knew this secret. So, on the fifteenth of August in the lunar calendar, when Yi went hunting, Feng Meng broke into Yi's house and forced Chang'e to give the elixir to him. Chang'e refused to do so. Instead, she swallowed it and flew into the sky. Since she loved her husband very much and hoped to live nearby, she chose the moon for her residence. When Yi came back and learned what had happened, he felt so sad that he displayed the fruits and cakes Chang'e liked in the yard and gave sacrifices to his wife. People soon learned about these activities, and since they also were sympathetic to Chang'e they participated in these sacrifices with Yi.

Of course, as usual, ancient past stories always have more than just one version...apparently, there is another version that spoke of an entirely different perspective about the hero, Yi. In this version, apparently, after the hero Houyi shot down nine of the ten suns, he was pronounced king by the thankful people. However, he soon became a conceited and tyrannical ruler. 
In order to live long without death, he asked for the elixir from Xiwangmu. But his wife, Chang'e, stole it on the fifteenth of August because she did not want the cruel king to live long and hurt more people. She took the magic potion to prevent her husband from becoming immortal. Hou Yi was so angry at this  and tried to shoot at his wife as she flew toward the moon. He missed. Chang'e fled to the moon and became the spirit of the moon. Hou Yi died soon because he was overcome with great anger. Thereafter, people offer a sacrifice to Chang'e on every lunar fifteenth of August to commemorate Chang'e's action.

Well, interesting isn't it? We always thought that myths and fairy tales are tales without conspiracy but here we are, presented with two similar stories with an entirely different version. I guess no one will know the truth at the end of the day, but it's good to savor the possibility of these stories....
Happy Mooncake Festival!!

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