Moon Woman: The Legend Surrounding Moon Festival

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Please Note:  This legend is very popular in Taiwan that clips of the story are usually turned into art which can seen in at lantern festivals and flower festivals (mostly referencing the ‘moon rabbit.’  The pictures included in this blog are examples of some that I have seen over the last few years and were not taken during the Moon Festival.

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The origin of Moon Festival (or Mid-Autumn Festival) is deeply rooted in acient Chinese mythology and beliefs.  There is one particular legend, with several variations, closely linked and associated with this holiday and is still readily known and told in Taiwan today.

The most notorius legend surrounding Moon Festival involves the trumphiant success of skillful archer, HouYi.

According to ancient Chinese legend, the Earth was once very hot due to the presence of ten suns. Life on Earth was very dry and extremely unbrearable.  The Jade Emperor enlisted the skills and expertise of HouYi, a famous archer, to find a solution to the problem.  (In other versions, he took it upon himself to solve the problem.)

HouYi used his bow and arrow and successfully targeted and eliminated nine of the ten suns. (In other versions, he threaten to shoot them down and thus, scared them away.)  Because of his successful effort, the Earth was once again a comfortable and more enjoyable place to live.

The Jade Emperor was so impressed by HouYi’s success that he rewarded him an immortality potion (in other versions, it was a pill) as a token of his gratitude and appreciation. 

HouYi didn’t drink the potion right away which proved to be a costly mistake.  His wife, ChangEr, drank the potion (in some versions, she only drank half), became immortal, and realized that she could fly.

Upon realization that his wife had taken the pill, HouYi became very upset.  ChangEr flew to the moon to escape her husband where she still lives today.

It is said that ChangEr looks the most beautiful against the full moon on Mid-Autumn Festival. Also, according to legend, if you look very closely at the moon on that day, you can see her dancing and swaying shadow in the light of the moon.

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In other versions, it is said that ChangEr only drank half the potion (or coughed up half of the pill) and is now a Jade rabbit on the moon that is constantly pounding herbs to restore herself to her former glory.

I have heard several variations of the story but the one I shared is the first one told to me.  I heard this version of the story during my first Moon Festival holiday in Taiwan and I thought I would share the story I am the most familiar with. 

Have you ever heard this anicent Chinese legend?  If so, what version of the story are you familiar with?

~~~~There are several traditions and customs directly linked to this festival.  Come back later this week to learn more about this holiday!~~~~~

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25th Blog post!!  🙂

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7 thoughts on “Moon Woman: The Legend Surrounding Moon Festival

  1. My husband and I celebrated moon festival last year (and we’re doing it again this year). Although, in his version, I don’t think the wife ran away, but rather they took on a duty for the world. He’ll refresh my memory this year. =)

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