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Stories of the Moon Festival

Hou Yi and Chang-O

Once upon a time there was a famous archer, Hou Yi, who with his arrows was able to slay mankind's worst enemies, ferocious beasts that inhabited the earth. Yi was married to Chang-O, a beautiful but inquisitive woman who had been an attendant of the queen mother of the west before her marriage. Now at this time, there were 10 suns that took turns circling the earth-one every 10 days. One day, all 10 of the orbs circled, together, causing the earth's surface to burn and threatening mankind. The wise emperor of China summoned Yi and commanded him to kill but one of the suns. This Yi proceeded to do. Upon the completion of his task, Yi was rewarded with a pill, the elixir of life, and advised: "make no haste to swallow this pill, but first prepare yourself with prayer and fasting for a year." Being a wise man, Yi took the pill home and hid it under a rafter while he began healing his spirit, In the midst of this, Yi was summoned again by the emperor.

While her husband was gone, Chang-O noticed a beam of white light beckoning from the rafter. She followed it and a fragrant perfume, discovered the pill and swallowed it. Immediately, Chang-O found she could fly. Just at that moment her husband returned home, realize what had happened and began to reprimand his wife. Chang-O flew out the window into the sky. Yi sped after her, bow in hand, and the pursuit continued halfway across the heavens. Finally, Yi had to return to the earth because of the force of the wind.

His wife reached the moon and there, breathless, she coughed and part of the pill fell from her mouth. Now, the hare was already on the moon and Chang-O commanded the animal to take pestle and mortar and pound another pill so that she return to earth and her husband. The hare is still pounding.
As for Yi, he built himself a palace in the sun as Yang (the sun and the male principle), Chang-O as Yin (the moon and the female principle).

Once a year, on the 15th day of the full moon, Yi visits his wife. That is why the moon is full and beautiful on that night.

God of Marriage

The Old Man in the Moon or the God of Marriage is Yue-lao, who bears the weighty responsibility of deciding all mortal marriages. That means the marriage of any couple in the world have been prearranged by him. Yue-lao ties the future husband and wife together with an invisible silken cord that never breaks as long as life lasts. At the appropriate time, the cord brings the predestined mates together and they wed! This has been a subject of Chinese poetry and song since the ancient times.

Wu Kang chopping the cassia tree

If one looks carefully at the full moon, it may be able to see the dark shadows of the legendary "Wu Kang chopping the cassia tree". In Chinese mythology, Wu Kang is portrayed as a woodcutter fascinated with the magic of immortality. Angered by his hubris, the Jade Emperor banished Wu Kang to the Moon Palace, telling him that he must cut down a huge cassia tree before he could possess the magic of immortality. Though he chopped day and night, the cassia tree restored itself with each blow, and thus he continues to eternally chop the tree on the barren moon. That is why Wu Kang is still at his task, up on the moon.

The Hare - Jade Rabbit

According to tradition, the Jade Rabbit pounds out medicine for the gods with the lady Chang-O. Others say that the Jade Rabbit is a shape assumed by Chang-O herself.

You may find that the dark areas to the top of the full moon can be construed as the figure of a rabbit. The animal's ears point to the upper right, while at the left are two large circular areas representing its head and body.

In this legend, three fairy sages transformed themselves into pitiful old men and begged for something to eat from a fox, a monkey and a rabbit. The fox and the monkey both had food to give to the old men, but the rabbit, empty-handed, offered his own flesh instead, jumping into a blazing fire to cook himself. The sages were so touched by the rabbit's sacrifice that they let him live in the Moon Palace where he became the "Jade Rabbit." Today, eating Moon Cakes is a way of commemorating the Jade Rabbit.

From: www.chinatown.com.au

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