Interesting History of Mooncake Festival
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, blazing 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 despot. 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 became a three-legged toad, as punishment from the Queen Mother, according to one version of the legend. Her companion, a rabbit, is constantly pounding the elixir of immortality in a large mortar.
The moon is also inhabited by a wood cutter who tries to cut down the cassia tree, giver of life. But as fast as he cuts into the tree, it heals itself, and he never makes any progress. The Chinese use this image of the cassia tree to explain mortal life on earth — the limbs are constantly being cut away by death, but new buds continually appear.
Meanwhile, King Hou Yi ascended to the sun and built a palace. So Chang E and Hou Yi came to represent the yin and yang, the moon and the sun.
Long long ago, there were 10 suns in the sky. They burnt all the plants on the earth. People were dying.
One day, a hero whose name was Hou Yi used his bow and arrows to shoot down nine of them. All the people on the earth were saved.
One day, the queen of heaven gave Hou Yi a bottle elixir that could make Hou Yi become an immortal, but the elixir was only efficacious for one person. Hou Yi did want to become an immortal, but he wanted to stay with his beautiful wife Chang’e more, so he didn’t drink the elixir and asked his wife Chang’e to keep it for him.
Hou Yi was becoming more and more famous after he shot down the nine suns and more and more men wanted Hou Yi to be their master. Most of them were accepted by Hou Yi.
Not every student of Hou Yi had good morality. Feng Meng, one of his students, wanted to seize his elixir. One day, Hou Yi went hunting with his students, but Feng Meng pretended to be ill and stay at home. When making sure Hou Yi had gone he went to Hou Yi’s house and tried to force Chang’e to give him the elixir. Chang’e knew she couldn’t defeat Feng Meng so she drank the elixir immediately. The elixir made her become an immortal and fly higher and higher. Finally, she stopped on the moon.
From then on, people often pray to Chang’e for fortune and safety. During the Mid-Autumn Festival they offer lots of foods to Chang’e.
Wu Gang was a woodchopper. He always wanted to become an immortal, but he never tried his best to learn the necessary theurgy. The Jade Emperor got angry with him because of his attitude. In order to punish him, the Jade Emperor planted a huge cherry bay, which was 1665 meters (5460 ft) high, on the moon and ordered Wu Gang to chop it down, then Wu Gang could become an immortal.
This time, Wu Gang was very serious, but he could never finish his work. The cherry bay healed every time that Wu Gang chopped it. Wu Gang wouldn’t give up. He tried time and time again.
On unclouded nights people can see some obvious shadows on the moon. They are made by the huge cherry bay.