Autumn festivals : Chinese Moon festival

My friend Jing reminded me at work yesterday about the Moon Festival which starts tomorrow, 30th September  and runs to 4th October. It is one of the most important East Asian holidays and is around 3000 years old.
During this autumn festival  mooncakes are given as presents and shared with loved ones with tea while you enjoy the moon. They are extremely dense and highly calorific with a number of fillings from bean pastes to ones containing salted duck eggs.
Although, not officially confirmed by historians the legend says that the Chinese people used these heavy weight pastries to overthrow the 14th Century Mongol occupation. I love stories like these :)

This legend of the Moon goddess is also retold to children at this festival.

"Once upon a time there lived a very gifted archer who was able to destroy all the dangerous beasts and enemies of the earth. He was married to a beautiful but very inquisitive woman called Chang-E.

 At this time in earth's history, there were 10 suns orbiting our world, one every 10 days.  One terrible day, all 10 suns orbited in unison, causing the earth's surface to burn threatening all of mankind.  The wise Emperor summoned the archer to him and gave him the heavy task of  shooting down 9 of the suns.

The archer completed this seemingly impossible task and as a reward was given a tablet, the elixir of life. However, the Emperor asked him to take time to prepare before he swallowed it, "Do not rush to take this pill. First you have to prepare by praying and fasting for one year".

The archer took the pill home and hid it under a roof rafter while he set about healing his spirit. While her husband was away one day, Chang-E noticed a beautiful beam of light coming from the roof rafter and a delicate perfume. She followed both and revealed the elixir of life.
Without thinking she place it on the tip of her tongue. Her body floated off the ground and she realised she could fly. But just at this moment the door opened and her husband walked in.  Realising what she had done Chang-E flew out of the open window and up into the sky while her angry husband picked up his bow in pursuit and chased her half way across the heavens.
After hours of chase, the strong wind forced the archer to return home while Chang-E landed, breathless and totally exhausted on the moon's surface. As she was catching her breath, half of the pill fell from her mouth. Now, already living on the moon was a single rabbit. Chang-E ordered the rabbit to take a pestle and mortar and help her create another tablet so she could return home to her husband.
To this day, the rabbit is still grinding another tablet to help Chang-E.  The archer went on to build himself a palace in the sun as Yang (the sun and male principle) while Chang-E remains forever on the moon as Yin (the moon and female principle).
For just one night a year, at this Autumn moon festival, the archer spends a night with his wife, which is why the moon is so full and beautiful."


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