Today is the Mid-Autumn Day on the Chinese lunar calendar. This celebrates the end of the fall harvest and tonight is when the moon is the fullest and brightest. It is Chinese tradition to worship the moon deity, Chang’e.
The myth is that there was once ten suns in the sky that scorched the earth. An immortal archer named Houyi heroically shot down nine suns with nine arrows. The sun deity, Dijun, became furious that his sons were killed. So he banished Houyi and his wife, Chang’e to earth. They became miserable of their mortality. One day Houyi sought the Queen Mother of the Western Paradise for an elixir or pill of immortality. She warned him to make sure you take it on a clear night, or you could be trapped halfway between earth and heaven. He brought it home to present to Chang’e. She was delighted and burned with anticipation to re-join her sisters in heaven. Houyi informed her about the warning from Queen Mother. But when her husband left for his daily hunt, the goddess stared at the elixir. As the day and night wore on, Houyi did not return. The goddess knew by its smell that the elixir was already diluted. The dosage was so weak. The goddess developed a plan. She would drink both of their portions so that she could return to heaven first, and beg the sun god to forgive her husband for his brashness in having shot down the nine suns. Then she and her sister goddesses could borrow some sky dragons to visit the Queen Mother of the Western Paradise. There, they would persuade her to mix up another dose of the elixir solely for the Houyi so he could join his wife in heaven. As she swallowed the elixir and as she ran out into the night, her body floated upward to the stars. Unfortunately, the night was not clear. Chang’e wandered among the stars and lost her way. She finally came to rest, trapped in the cold moon. The Houyi was just returning when he saw his wife drifting up to the sky. He called out to her and ran after her shadow, but she was too far away to hear him. Houyi was heartbroken and wept for days. No one could console the grieving hunter. The gods took pity on the Houyi. Houyi had served the gods well and always did their bidding faithfully. Houyi had also saved the earth from droughts and monsters when the gods could not be bothered. Therefore, once a year, the gods grant the Houyi the right to ascend to the skies to be with his wife. On that one night, the harvest moon shines the brightest and fullest of the year, reflecting the Houyi’s love for Chang’e.
There are many versions to the story…. one in which Chang’e was a girl working in the Emperor’s palace and Houyi saved the earth from the nine suns, became king and married Chang’e. He craved for immortality, but Chang’e wound up drinking the elixir and floated to the moon.
The main plot is that Chang’e and Houyi were lovers and were separated unjustly. Chang’e is a goddess that lives on the moon. And each year, women who worship her are endowed with beauty and a matchmaking.
Mooncake (月饼) is a sweet round or rectangular pastry filled with red bean or lotus seed paste and covered in a crust. Sometimes the center may contain a yolk or salted duck egg. Nowadays, there are many different flavors incorporated into mooncakes. If you come across a mooncake, be sure to try some, but do not eat too much. It is very high in calories. Each mooncake (measuring 3.5 – 4 inches) can be approximately 1,000 calories depending on it’s size and content. But they’re still a treat.
Thank you to my cousin for sending me some love!!
Happy Lunar Festival!! And don’t forget to peak out at the moon tonight. 😉