Mid Autumn Festival 中秋节
Every year, millions of Chinese people celebrate the traditional Chinese Mid Autumn Festival 中秋节 zhōngqiūjié on the 15th day of every 8th lunar month (Please note that lunar calendar changes every year). 中秋节 dates back thousands of years. In the past, people used to celebrate a good autumn harvest on this day. Today, most people enjoy eating moon cakes (these can be purchased at Chinese supermarkets or bakeries) and lighting up lanterns. The food served on this day has a round shape. For example: moon cakes are in the shape of the moon, which reflects people’s pursuit of a round and perfect life. The history of moon cakes is dates back to the end of the Sung Dynasty and the beginning of the Ming Dynasty, about 700- 800 years ago. Watching the moon, while eating these cakes, is a custom, which is meant to encourage people to seek the brightness of the moon in their journey through life.
Different types of mooncakes
中秋节 is also known as the People’s Festival. According to custom, those who work or study outside of their hometowns are supposed to return home to have a family reunion. Therefore, the festival is also called the Reunion Festival. There are many legends about the moon. Every year, I introduce American students to two popular folktales surrounding this holiday, Goddess Chang’e 嫦娥奔月 and Monkeys Fishing for the Moon 猴子捞月. Here I will share two versions of the stories.
Goddess Chang’e 嫦娥奔月 chángébēnyuè
Read the interactive story of Goddess Chang’e below in traditional Chinese.
According to legend, Chang’e and her husband Houyi were immortals living in heaven. One day, the ten sons of the Jade Emperor transformed into ten suns, causing the earth to scorch. Having failed to order his sons to stop ruining the earth, the Jade Emperor summoned Houyi for help. Houyi, using his legendary archery skills, shot down nine of the sons, but spared one son to be the sun. The Jade Emperor was obviously not pleased with Houyi’s solution to save the earth: nine of his sons were dead. As punishment, the Jade Emperor banished Houyi and Chang’e to live as mere mortals on earth. Seeing that Chang’e felt extremely miserable over her loss of immortality, Houyi decided to journey on a long, perilous quest to find the pill of immortality so that the couple could be immortals again. At the end of his quest he met the Queen Mother of the West who agreed to give him the pill, but warned him that each person would only need half of the pill to become immortal. Houyi brought the pill home and stored it in a case. He warned Chang’e not to open the case and then left home for a while. Like Pandora in Greek mythology, Chang’e became too curious: she opened up the case and found the pill just as Houyi was returning home. Nervous that Houyi would catch her discovering the contents of the case, she accidentally swallowed the entire pill. She started to float into the sky because of the overdose. Although Houyi wanted to shoot her in order to prevent her from floating further, he could not bear to aim the arrow at her. Chang’e kept on floating until she landed on the moon. While she became lonely on the moon without her husband, she did have company. A jade rabbit, who manufactured elixirs, also lived on the moon. The mythologies of Japan and Korea also feature references about rabbits living on the moon.
I am sharing two different versions of this favorite fairy tale from China. Enjoy!
Monkeys Fishing for the Moon 猴子捞月 hóuzilāoyuè
Monkeys Fishing for the Moon
One day,a little monkey is playing by the well.
He looks in the well and shouts :
“Oh no! The moon has fallen into the well!”
An older monkeys runs over, takes a look,and says,
“Goodness me! The moon is really in the water!”
The elderly monkey runs over.
He is very surprised as well and cries out:
“The moon is in the well!”
A group of monkeys run over to the well .
They look at the moon in the well and shout:
“The moon did fall into the well! Come on! We have to get it out!”
The oldest monkey positions himself up side down by grabbing onto the tree branch with his feet.
Next, he pulls another monkey’s feet with his hands.
All the other monkeys follow his suit,
They join each other one by one down to the moon in the well.
Just before they reach the moon, the oldest monkey raises his head and happens to see the moon in the sky,
He yells excitedly, “We are so foolish! The moon is still in the sky!”
What do I want my students to learn?
The main point that I want to teach my students is how the round shape like the moon represents togetherness of a family. The moon will always be in the sky and it represents the everlasting love which family members share with each other. In the famous poem, Shui Diao Ge Tou, by the Northern Song Dynasty poet Su Dongpo. The poet lamented by writing “Men have sorrow and joy, they part or meet again; the moon may be bright or dim, she may wax or wane. There has been nothing perfect since the olden days”, he also expressed his wishes by writing “So let us wish that man will live long as he can; though miles apart, we’ll share the beauty she displays.”, reflecting how much those far away from home would like to reunite with their families and how deeply they missed their hometowns.
This is a picture of my Kindergarten Mid Autumn Festival board before student work was up.
This is what the tree looks like where Bono (our class mascot) likes to hang out!
This is my finished bulletin board for Mid Autumn Festival. Each student became a monkey and are working together to fish for the moon.