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Mid Autumn Moon Festival Celebration

“When the moon is full, mankind is one”  

The spectacular sight of a full moon has been a subject of Chinese poetry and song since ancient times. The moon looks extremely clear, radiant, and large on the 15th day of each lunar month.  The Mid-Autumn Moon festival is often compared to America’s Thanksgiving tradition, which honors harvest time and centers on traditional food. 

This festival plays in important role in some significant historical events in recent centuries for China. During the Yuan dynasty (AD. 1280-1368), China was ruled by the Mongolian people.  Leaders from the previous dynasty were unhappy at submitting to this rule and planned a rebellion to coincide with the Moon Festival celebration. In order to coordinate this plan with subterfuge, they ordered the making of special cakes, in which was hidden a message with the outline of the attack.  On the night of the Moon Festival, the rebels usurped and overthrew the government.  Then, the Ming dynasty (1368-1644) was established and this festival was imbedded into the national conscious.  During the eating of moon cakes, this historical festival is often citied and during the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties, it grew to be a major festival.

Folklore about the origin of this celebration usually involves the legend of the lady Chang Er who was exceptionally kind and beautiful.   Her husband Hou Yi was a skilled archer and was extremely devoted to his lovely wife.   According to legend, in ancient times the earth once had ten suns circling over it and each took its turn to illuminate the earth. One day all ten suns appeared together, scorching the earth with their heat.  The earth was saved by the archer, Hou Yi when he successfully shot down nine of the suns and ordered the last sun to rise and set according to time. Hou Yi was given an elixer as a reward for saving the earth, that would make he and his wife immortal but they were to wait until the New Year to drink it.  However all legends assert that Hou Yi was not home when his wife drank it to protect it from being stolen by another person, and because she took it alone without her husband, her body began to float off the ground.  She eventually floated upwards, toward the moon. When Hou Yi returned home at dark, he learned from the servants what had happened.  He was overcome with grief and called out the name of his beloved wife. At that moment he noticed the moon was especially clear and bright and on it there was a swaying shadow that was exactly like his wife’s.  It is said that Chang Er transforms herself into brilliant moonlight and descends to earth at this time each year.  Separated lovers and family members often pray for reunion under the full moon at this time of year.

Current celebrations have families get together at scenic spots and parks for moon appreciation parties, eating moooncakes in the cool autumn air.  This festival also has several separate legends to make it lively and is considered a considered a favorite time for children.  One of the favorite child friendly legends is the legend of the Jade Rabbit.  In this legend, three fairy sages change themselves into pitiful old beggar men and ask for something to eat from a fox, a monkey and a rabbit.  The fox and monkey both had food to give to the old men, but the rabbit was empty handed.  So, he offered his own flesh by jumping into the blazing fire to cook him for their benefit.  These wise fairies were so touched by the rabbit’s sacrifice they let him live in the Moon Palace, where he became the “Jade Rabbit.”

The Chinese space program even acknowledges the legend in that, the Lunar Lander (Chang E) moon satellite, took images of the moon for a year during 2007 and 2008.  There have also been preliminary plans made for a Lunar Sample Return (Chang E 2) in 2012; Lunar Sample Return (Chang E 3) in 2017.

We at Lotus Travel wish you many good wishes for your Mid-Autumn Moon Festival celebrations, regardless of where you are when you look up at the moon to celebrate (October 2 in China) or October 3rd in North America.  May you be united with all of your family and loved ones.
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