Happy Moon Festival!
Moon Festival is one of the most important festivals in Chinese calendar. It is also called mid-Autumn festival, and in rural China it was an occasion to celebrate the harvest. In this day, families were making offers to the Spirits of the Land and the Spirits of the Four Directions to celebrate abundance.
Families used to make offers of food, flowers and incense to the Moon on this day (offers to the Sun were made during spring equinox).
The Moon Festival is particularly important for women for divination. Women were making offerings of incense on the altar, while asking to the Spirits a question. After having noticed in which direction the smoke was going, they were walking in that direction, looking for omens along the road which could suggest an answer to their question.
According to Chinese tradition, there are few beings living on Moon.
One of those is Yuelao, the old man on Moon, who is the one that decide all the marriages on Earth and keeps the “book of marriages” where destines are weaved together. In ancient China, engagements were taking place during Spring, moment in which the influence of the Sun is stronger, and marriages were celebrated during the mid-autumn festival, with the blessings of the Moon.
Another person living on the Moon, and the real one that Chinese women worship during this festival, is Chang E. She was the wife of the famous archer Hou Yi. One day, for some universal mistake, ten Suns appear simultaneously on the sky. The climate on Earth become unbearable, vegetation started to dry up and all rivers and oceans evaporated. The emperor asked the help of the famous archer, who was able to shut down nine Suns. With only one Sun left, the universal order was established again, and life could to back to normal. As compensation, he was given the pill of immortality, with the requirement that he should prepare himself with fasting and prayer before taking it. He obeyed and while starting his purification process, hided the pill in a small box inside his house. While out for another of his missions, his wife found the pill and, tempted by its sweet smell and without knowing what it was, ate it. The power of the pill was such that she immediately raised on air and flew to the Moon, where she is destined to stay forever. Desperate about being again close to the wife, the husband decided to take his residence in the Sun and the couple, in the dance of closeness and distance between the Sun and the Moon, become the symbol of yin and yang.
Chang E become soon the Goddess of the Moon, to whom women started to tell their desires and wishes, and the Moon Festival a day to set intentions and ask the blessings of the Moon to realize one’s dreams.
Another being living on the Moon is a rabbit, whose image can be seen on clear nights on the surface of the Moon. The origin of this myth could be influenced by a Buddhist story, but also a Taoist legend speaks about a rabbit on the moon. The rabbit, with a mortar and pestle is preparing a tincture with herbs for longevity which, according to Taoist legend, were growing on the Moon. Interestingly, also Aztec, Mesoamerican and north American cultures have legends about a rabbit on the Moon.
The Moon is also inhabited by a wood cutter, who tries to cut down the cassia tree, giver of life. But as he cuts the tree, it starts to grow again, and he never succeed in his tasks of stopping life from starting again.
Except from my University thesis paper: “Traditional Festivals in China”