When Neil Armstrong became the first man to land on moon on 20th July 1969, he did not manage to make a date with “Chang Er”. When he took the first step on moon, he famously says, “This is one step for a man, one giant leap for mankind”. This may have dispelled the “Chang Er” myth but to the Chinese, the legendary story of “Chang Er” which is very much connected to Mid-Autumn Festival is still very much celebrated in any Chinese community all over the world. Some say her husband was a tyrant, some say he was a great hero but “Chang Er” remains a perfect wife to a fault.
Legend says “Chang Er” had sacrificed herself by swallowing an elixir given to her husband, Hou Yi who apparently shot down nine out of ten suns to relieve people’s suffering from the extreme heat . She then flew to Moon and became a Goddess. Eventually, people offered sacrifices to “Chang Er” to pray for peace and good luck which led to the celebration of the Mid-Autumn Festival.
One legend leads to another. Three immortals reincarnated as three poor old mortals who begged food from a fox, a monkey and a rabbit. The fox and monkey both gave food to the three immortals in disguise but the rabbit did not as it did not have any food to offer them. The rabbit says, “You can eat me” and then jumped into the fire. On seeing that, the immortals were so moved by the selfless sacrifice made by the rabbit and they sent it to moon to become an immortal jade rabbit to accompany “Chang Er”. This perhaps best explained why “Chang Er” has a rabbit as companion.
Mid-Autumn Festival is celebrated on the 15th day of the eighth month of the lunar calendar where the moon is said to be at its roundest and brightest. Moon cakes are typically round which symbolise the full moon of the mid-autumn festival. Egg yolks are usually added to it, which represent the four phases of the moon turning from full moon to half moon to crescent as it orbits the earth. It is a reunion occasion where family members and friends get together akin to Thanksgiving. Mid-Autumn Festival is also known as Lantern Festival or Mooncake Festival. It is where people gather to enjoy the mooncakes from the traditional type to even durian flavoured type, while the children get to parade their lanterns which glow brightly in the night.
This is to wish all Chinese a Happy Mid-Autumn Festival.