Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Mid Autumn Festival

I came back from Korea 3 hours ago and just rushed back to write about the Mid Autumn Festival which falls on 25th Sep. It was a special day for me too because this year Mid Autumn Festival happens to fall on my 30th Birthday. This Festival is a long 3 days holiday in Korea which they call it Chuseok. The celebration method is very different from the Chinese. Anyway, I will write on our Chinese Version.

About Mid Autumn Festival
It is a custom of worshipping the moon traced back as far back as the ancient Xia and Shang Dynasty (2000 BC-1060s BC). In the Zhou Dynasty (1066 BC-221 BC), the people celebrated the Mid-Autumn Festival to worship the moon.
The practice became very prevalent in the Tang Dynasty (618-907 CE) that people enjoyed and worshipped the full moon. In the Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279), people started making round moon cakes as gifts to their relatives in expression of their best wishes of family reunion. At night, they came out to watch the full moon to celebrate the festival.

Origin of Mid Autumn Festival
There are many versions of this festival. Let me share one version with you.

The sky was originally lit by ten suns, whose combined heat scorched the earth and crops so that the people had nothing to eat. To save the world from imminent starvation China's most famous archer, Hou Yi, shot down nine of the suns with his bow and then rid the land of poisonous snakes and beasts so people could live in peace and happiness.
Unfortunately for Hou Yi, these ten suns turned out to be the sons of the Jade Emperor, who was so angered by the loss of his sons, that he banished the archer together with his wife, Chang O.

When the Western Goddess discovered what had happened, she took pity on Hou Yi, giving him an elixir of immortality. But Chang O greedily swallowed the potion by herself and as the concoction worked through her body she became lighter and lighter and floated up into the sky. Fearing that the deities in heaven would laugh at her, she took refuge on the moon, building there a palace known as the "Cold Palace," where she lives to this very day as the Lady of the Moon. Since it is believed that Chang O floated to the moon on the fifteenth day of the eighth moon, people offer annual prayer and sacrifices to the moon on that day to commemorate the event.
It is said that Chang O transforms herself into brilliant moonlight and descends to earth to offer good fortune. Thus, couples to swear their mutual love under the full moon and separated lovers to pray to the for reunion under the full moon.

Mooncake and Mid Autumn Festival
According to a widespread folk tale, the Mid-Autumn Festival commemorates an uprising in China against the Mongol rulers of the Yuan Dynasty (1280–1368). As group gatherings were banned, it was impossible to make plans for a rebellion. Noting that the Mongols did not eat mooncakes, Liu Bowen (劉伯溫), advisor to the Chinese rebel leader Zhu Yuanzhang, came up with the idea of timing the rebellion to coincide with the Mid-Autumn Festival. He sought permission to distribute thousands of moon cakes to the Chinese residents in the city to bless the longevity of the Mongol emperor. Inside each cake, however, was inserted a piece of paper with the message: "Kill the Tatars on the 15th day of the Eighth Moon" (八月十五殺韃子). On the night of the Moon Festival, the rebels successfully attacked and overthrew the government. What followed was the establishment of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), under Zhu. Henceforth, the Mid-Autumn Festival was celebrated with moon cakes on a national level.


Anonymous said...

Once a upon a time.

Khiat Han Hwee Adrian said...

In Singapore, the young regards Mid Autumn Festival as Mooncake Festival or Lantern Festival.

They forgotten the meaning of the festivals in Singapore and thats the reason I start writing about Customs and Festivals in my blog.