Cultural Exposé: The Mid-Autumn Festival (2 of 2)

Secondly we come to the legend surrounding the Mid-Autumn’s festival and it goes as such.

houyiIn the distant past, there were ten suns in the sky, and they shone day and night. This brought great suffering to the people, as the constant heat burnt crops, killed livestock and dried up rivers and lakes. A young man, Hou Yi, was so moved by the plight of the people, that using his enormous strength and skills at archery, ascended the highest peak of Kunlun Mountain, The Mountain of the Gods, and shot nine of the ten suns from the sky. The people were saved and Hou Yi became lauded as a hero. This act was witnessed by the Western Goddess, and she rewarded him by giving him the medicine of immortality. If Hou Yi took his medicine he would become immortal and gain the abilities of a God. However, Hou Yi never used the medicine, because he did not want to forsake his wife Chang’e whom he loved dearly. Thus, Hou Yi simply hid the medicine in his home.

chang-eOne day, while Hou Yi was out hunting, a vicious criminal who wanted the medicine for himself attacked Chang’e. Chang’e knew she was no match for this criminal, and the only way to keep the medicine out of his hands was to ingest it herself. This she did, and as soon as she took the medicine, she began to fly towards the heavens, out of the reach of the criminal. However, because she so loved Hou Yi, she flew towards a point where she could always be near to him. That point was the moon.

That evening when Hou Yi returned home and realised what had happened, he was overcome with sadness. He looked up at the full moon, and saw Chang’e there, forever unable to return to the realm of man. Hou Yi then entered his garden and while looking at the moon, prepared a meal consisting of all Chang’e’s favourite dishes.

When the people of the land also became aware of the misfortune which had befallen the young couple, every year when the moon is at it’s brightest and clearest in the night sky, they also began to prepare all of Chang’e’s favourite dishes, and present them to her under the full moon.mooncake

Over the centuries this has become the ‘moon cakes’ which are eaten during the Mid-Autumn’s festival.  Traditional mooncake fillings come in a variety of flavours which include peanut, peach, or hawthorn. The design of the mooncake usually depicts the heroic tale of Hou Yi or Chang’e’s flight to the moon. 

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