And to think that all these years we thought it was the MAN on the moon…..
Moonfest aka Mid-Autumn Festival is being celebrated in Singapore. I think it’s almost over. I think the full moon is actually tonight which is the pinnacle of Moonfest. This post is full of “I thinks” cause I really have no idea what I’m talking about. But as you’ll read later, there are many versions to the story so mine will just add to it.
Last Saturday night, Tommy, Anna and I went out to Marina Bay, ate at Lao Pa Sat (YUM!) and then on to see what all the hoopla was about at the Esplanade. Kids making lanterns, free traditional and contemporary Chinese concerts, people dressed up as a couple in love and we also saw a monkey and some other unrecognizable animal on stilts, dragon dancing people, mooncakes, mooncakes and mooncakes. We wandered around enjoying the sights and sounds not really having a clue what this Moonfest is all about.
On our taxi ride home we got one of those very entertaining taxi drivers who speak really good English. Almost too good as a matter of fact. We could understand the bad words and all. Poor Anna is used to this now. Unfortunately foul language is very common. He told us things like when his wife or girlfriend, yes… you read correctly, tell him to get them “anything” or “whatever” to drink, there actually is a drink called “Anything” and “Whatever”. This really funny yet immoral and foul-mouthed taxi driver told us ALL about Moonfest. His version anyway.
So his take on it all is that the story is similar to our Romeo and Juliet only the lady doesn’t die. The couple’s love is forbidden but true. Something about that the fair maiden is sent up to the moon in her anguish of unrequited love and because her love is so strong, the moon gods allow her to come down to earth to find her true love once each year. The children light lanterns to help her find her way and offer her mooncakes when she shows up. There you have it. Moonfest.
Haha, well, maybe I don’t remember it all correctly but regardless, the story has a few holes in it. If a billion Chinese kids are lighting lanterns all over Asia and now probably all over the world, the fair maiden has GOT to be confused. Poor girl. At least she can enjoy a mooncake when she comes even if she doesn’t find her love.
Here’s what I found when I did a little research. It almost completely differs from the taxi driver’s story but both are very interesting.
One version of the legend states that Houyi was an immortal and Chang’e was a beautiful young girl, working in the palace of the Jade Emperor (the Emperor of Heaven, 玉帝 pinyin:Yùdì) as an attendant to the Queen Mother of the West (the Jade Emperor’s wife). Houyi aroused the jealousy of the other immortals, who then slandered him before the Jade Emperor. Houyi and his wife, Chang’e, were subsequently banished from heaven. They were forced to live on Earth. Houyi had to hunt to survive and became a skilled and famous archer.
At that time, there were ten suns, in the form of three-legged birds, residing in a mulberry tree in the eastern sea. Each day one of the sun birds would have to travel around the world on a carriage, driven by Xihe, the ‘mother’ of the suns. One day, all ten of the suns circled together, causing the Earth to burn. Emperor Yao, the Emperor of China, commanded Houyi to use his archery skill to shoot down all but one of the suns. Upon completion of his task, the Emperor rewarded Houyi with a pill that granted eternal life. Emperor Yao advised Houyi not to swallow the pill immediately but instead to prepare himself by praying and fasting for a year before taking it. Houyi took the pill home and hid it under a rafter. One day, Houyi was summoned away again by Emperor Yao. During her husband’s absence, Chang’e, noticed a white beam of light beckoning from the rafters, and discovered the pill. Chang’e swallowed it and immediately found that she could fly. Houyi returned home, realizing what had happened he began to reprimand his wife. Chang’e escaped by flying out the window into the sky.
Houyi pursued her halfway across the heavens but was forced to return to Earth because of strong winds. Chang’e reached the moon, where she coughed up part of the pill. Chang’e commanded the hare that lived on the moon to make another pill. Chang’e would then be able to return to Earth and her husband.
The legend states that the hare is still pounding herbs, trying to make the pill. Houyi built himself a palace in the sun, representing “Yang” (the male principle), in contrast to Chang’e's home on the moon which represents “Yin” (the female principle). Once a year, on the fifteenth day of the full moon, Houyi visits his wife. That is the reason why the moon is very full and beautiful on that night.
So, I guess there is a man on the moon and he needs lanterns to light his way there but it’s the LADY that lives on the moon.
As for the mooncakes, I have no idea. Wiki says they are just the traditional food for this festival. Kinda like conversation heart candies at Valentines Day. If I’m reading correctly, they might have originally been used as offerings to the moon goddess during Mid-Autumn Festival and Night Under the Moon. I’m sure someone will correct me if I’m wrong.
It’s all rather interesting, don’t ya’ think? There’s never a dull moment in Singapore as something from the vast array of cultures represented here is always being celebrated.
I’ll post pictures tomorrow. Tommy and I are headed out tonight, weather permitting, and we might find some more interesting things to show you regarding Moonfest and the lady on the moon. We might even buy a mooncake or two. We cheated last year and bought yummy ones, but I don’t think very traditional, at Bread Talk.