Falling on the 15th day of the eighth month in Chinese Lunar Calendar, the Mid-autumn Festival also known as 中秋节 in Mandarin is an iconic Chinese celebration that is observed in many Asian countries.
Although it started out as a festival in celebration of a bountiful post-autumn harvest, with the passage of time, this ancient Chinese tradition of throwing grand feasts and offering sacrifices to worship the moon has morphed into an important day of familial gatherings for the modern Chinese. On this night when the moon is at its fullest and brightest, the sight of the full moon becomes a special symbol of auspicious reunion as people reconnect with their family and friends for a night of good food and celebrations.
Given the long history of the Mid-autumn Festival (which easily spans over thousands of years), discussions of its historical origins and the moon worshiping tradition is never done without mentions of the colourful legends associated with this beautiful rite of festivity.
Featured below are some of the more well-loved myths and tales that became synonymous with the celebrations of Mid-autumn Festival in Singapore. Read on to find out how well you know your Mid-autumn legends!
Hou Yi Shoots Down Nine Suns, 后羿射日
Serving as a member of the Imperial Guard since his youth, Hou Yi was an exceptionally talented archer who was loyal to his ruler and good to his people. One day, ten suns suddenly appeared in the sky, viciously scorching the land, destroying all the crops and drying up rivers. This caused famine and widespread suffering for the people. Seeing this, Hou Yi acted courageously, killing all of the demons that appeared to harm the innocent and skillfully shot down nine of the ten suns, saving the earth from hellish fire and giving back the people the warmth they desire. As a reward for his heroic act, he was rewarded with the elixir of immortality.
Chang’e Flies To The Moon, 嫦娥奔月
Despite being hailed as a hero, Hou Yi refuses to consume the elixir of immortality by himself as he is happily married to a beautiful lady by the name of Chang’e and he does not wish to leave his family. The elixir of immortality is thus left at home with Chang’e whenever he goes on trips. During one of these trips away, his sly disciple, Peng Meng, barges into the house to rob Chang’e of the elixir. In the tense scuffle, the kind Chang’e drank the elixir to prevent it from falling into the hands of someone as scrupulous as Peng Meng. No longer a normal being, Chang’e grew lighter and lighter, eventually ascending into the Heavens and away from the earth. However, due to her undying love for Hou Yi, Chang’e stopped at the moon and decided to stay there to continue watching over her husband and their descendents for the whole of eternity.
Jade Rabbit On The Moon, 月中的玉兔
In this tale, Buddha approached three animals in the forest while disguised as a hungry old man. The three animals were a fox, a monkey and a rabbit. With his hunting ability, the fox caught a big fresh fish for the old man. Climbing up tall trees and scouring bushes, the monkey brought fruits for him. As the rabbit looked at the grass he collected for the old man, he felt ashamed and eventually decided to offer himself as meat. Filled with gratitude and appreciation for the selflessness of the rabbit, the Buddha blessed the noble rabbit with immortality and sent it to the moon to accompany Chang’e to be venerated forever.
Through the sharing of these timeless tales on courage, love and sacrifice, one is able to learn more about classic Chinese values while celebrating the special day in the wonderful company of family and good food.
This Mid-autumn, remember to pass on this lovely tradition to the next generation and let us know if you’d like to read more myths and fables of other upcoming festivals!