THE LOVE STORY OF THE MID AUTUMN FESTIVAL BECAUSE WHO DOESN’T LIKE A GOOD LOVE STORY?
My parents aren’t really into celebrating holidays (Chinese or Western), then compounded with the fact that I was raised in Vancouver; therefore, we celebrated Mid Autumn Festival with tepid enthusiasm. My mom would buy a pomelo and maybe ONE mooncake shared amongst the whole entire household. We didn’t go outside with lanterns to worship the moon either. So, that being said, I knew certain things about the Mid Autumn Festival, but there was also a whole lot I didn’t know about the festival.
One thing that was particularly perplexing to me (but not enough for me to actually find out then), was that there was always this girl on the moon in the Mid Autumn posters. So, who is she? She’s actually one half of a tragic love story that is a huge part of the Mid Autumn Festival. There are many variations to the story, but they all have the same premise and involve the same main characters, so I’ve picked the one that I’ve heard most frequently. I’m not a great story teller, so I thought perhaps it would be easier to illustrate the story for you. Only problem is, I’m not a great drawer either…
PRESENTING TO YOU: THE LOVE STORY OF CHANG’E AND HOU YI, IN CARTOON FIGURES!
THE TRAGIC LOVE STORY OF CHANG’E (嫦娥) AND HOU YI (后羿)
Long long time ago (because all stories have to start this way)… There was a woman named Chang E.
Chang’E was married. Meet her husband, Hou Yi, also known as her bae in present day terms.
Chang’E and Hou Yi were madly in love. Think those really lovey dovey couples you see on Facebook. But Chang’E and Hou Yi were the real deal.
The Earth at the time had 10 suns.
It was getting too hot. Plants died. People died. The guy in charge, the Jade Emperor, needed to do something fast. Hou Yi was an archer. In fact, he was the best archer in all of the lands. The Jade Emperor asked Hou Yi to shoot all the suns down except for one. So off Hou Yi went.
Hou Yi was very strong and a great archer. So the task was easy for him – he would have most definitely won the Hunger Games. Move aside Katniss.
Mission accomplished. The Jade Emperor was ecstatically happy – he probably would have sent a tweet if Twitter were available back then. The Jade Emperor showed his gratitude to Hou Yi by presenting him with a pill. It looks like a Dr. Mario pill, but don’t be mistaken. It was the Elixir of Life.
Hou Yi didn’t want to be immortal because he loved Chang’E too much and wanted to be by her side. No one knew if one got to stay on Earth once consuming the Elixir of Life. So Hou Yi gave the pill to Chang’E for safekeeping. Hou Yi got really famous for his accomplishment, and tons of people came knocking on his door to be his apprentice.
One of his apprentices, Feng Meng (逢蒙) was greedy and evil. AND he wanted the elixir. One day, when Chang’E was home alone, Feng Meng demanded to have the elixir of life. Chang’E knew he was up to no good, so she did the only thing she could. She ate it.
Right after she took it, Hou Yi came home and saw what had transpired! But it was too late – Chang’E was already transforming… She started floating away from the Earth and its trajectory looked like she would be landing in the Heavens.
She desperately wanted to be closer to her beloved Hou Yi. So she tried to stop flying and managed to land on the moon instead of the Heavens.
Hou Yi was beyond heart broken and he immediately took Chang’E’s favourite cakes and fruits and placed them on a table under the moon for her, worshipping the moon and hoping to get a glimpse of her. This day became known as the day of the Mid Autumn Festival and mooncakes were invented.
More and more of the people soon heard of this sad tale and followed suit with the worship of the moon. It is said that it is on this day that Hou Yi and Chang’E get to see each other.
Unfortunately, it’s like a long distance relationship and sadly one that never ends… Their love story spread far and wide and Hou Yi became the God of Archery and Chang’E became the Goddess of the Moon.
But wait, Chang’E isn’t alone on the moon… This picture isn’t actually right. It should look like this.
We can’t forget about the Jade Rabbit… So how did he get up to the moon? That’s another story for another post.
Check out our next post in the series to see why there’s a Rabbit on the moon with Chang’E. Have you checked our previous posts from the Mid Autumn Festival Series? Check out the post on the Origin of Mooncake here. Did you know that mooncakes can end Chinese Dynasties?