The only thing I am excited about in September is mid autumn festival. Love the dice game (even if I rarely win) as well as the mooncakes. I actually keep my favorite (lotus 1 egg/ made form lotus paste and with one duck egg) mooncake/s for breakfast, and eat another one come afternoon, as my afternoon snack.
As a child, I remember walking to a auntie neighbor’s house to see her making mooncakes, as she makes them to sell come mid autumn festival. The smell of the cakes cooking wafting from her house is just yummy. I usually get a freshly baked mooncake from that auntie as a treat for keeping her company.
My mum and this auntie are friends. She even invites my Mum to cook with her. My mum usually declines and just buys lots of her mooncakes instead. This certain auntie tells me lots of stories regarding mooncake festival while she bakes.
Here are the stories/folklore told to me by our neighbor.
Chang E’s story (the moon goddess)
Chang E was a beautiful young girl working in the Jade Emperor’s palace in heaven, where immortals, good people and fairies lived. One day, she accidentally broke a precious porcelain jar. Angered, the Jade Emperor banished her to live on earth, where ordinary people lived. She could return to the Heaven, if she contributed a valuable service on earth.
Chang E was transformed into a member of a poor farming family. When she was 18, a young hunter named Hou Yi from another village spotted her, now a beautiful young woman. They became friends.
One day, a strange phenomenon occurred – 10 suns arose in the sky instead one one, scorching the earth. Hou Yi, an expert archer, stepped forward to try to save the earth. He successfully shot down nine of the suns, becoming an instant hero. He eventually became king and married Chang E.
But Hou Yi grew to become a tyrrant. He sought immortality by ordering an elixir be created to prolong his life. The elixir in the form of a single pill was almost ready when Chang E came upon it. She either accidentally or purposely swallowed the pill. This angered King Hou Yi, who went after his wife. Trying to flee, she jumped out the window of a chamber at the top of palace — and, instead of falling, she floated into the sky toward the moon.
King Hou Yi tried to shoot her down with arrows, but without success. Once on the moon, Chang E has only one companion, a (jade?) rabbit, is constantly pounding the elixir of immortality in a large mortar.
The story of the moon rabbit
The story goes about a god reincarnated into a poor old man and begged food from a fox, a monkey and a rabbit.
When an old man begged for food, the monkey gathered fruits from the trees and the otter collected fish, while the fox wrongfully pilfered a lizard and a pot of milk-curd. The rabbit, who knew only how to gather grass, instead offered its own body, throwing itself into a fire the man had built. The rabbit, however, was not burnt. The old man revealed himself to be a god and, touched by the rabbit’s virtue, drew the likeness of the rabbit on the Moon for all to see.
Or the alternate ending that, the god was so moved by the rabbit and sent it to the moon to become an immortal jade rabbit. Ever since, the jade rabbit stayed in the Moon Palace to accompany Chang E and pounded immortal medicine for those living in the heaven.
For today, I am going to see my grandama and the rest of the family later to celebrate mid-autumn festival, and eat mooncakes.
*Try to look at the moon tonight, its at its roundest and brightest.
**Mid-autumn festival occurs every 15th day of the 8th month of the Chinese lunar calendar.