Moon Festival

September 22, 2010

The Moon Festival–also called the Mid-Autumn Festival (中秋節)–is celebrated on the 15th day of the eighth month in the Chinese calendar. In the Philippines the Chinese community observes it by eating mooncake or playing the popular dice game.

The tradition has at least two sources. The first is the legend of Chang’e (嫦娥), the Moon Goddess of Immortality, and the second is the folktale concerning the 14th-century Han uprising against the Mongol Rule of the Yuan Dynasty.

Legend has it that Chang’e swallowed a pill of immortality to keep it from being stolen from her husband, Houyi.  As a result, she floated up to the moon and was forced to live there away from the husband she loved.  Once a year, on the fifteenth of the full moon, Houyi would visit her wife; hence, for that one night, the moon transforms into its fullest and loveliest.

According to the folktale, the Mongols in 14th-century China forbade groups from congregating for fear of a rebellion.  The rebel leaders noted that the Mongols did not eat mooncakes, so they concocted a plan to distribute thousands of mooncakes, each of which contained the secret message:  “Kill the Mongols on the 15th day of the 8th month.”  On the night of the Moon Festival, the rebels attacked and overthrew the Yuan regime and paved the way for the establishment of the Ming Dynasty.

These stories about Chang’e and the rebels’ plot against the Mongols are not historical, but they do offer us two important Chinese virtues:  The virtue of unconditional devotion, as exemplified by Chang’e for her husband, and the virtue of ingenuity amidst crisis, as illustrated by the rebels’ overthrow of the Mongolian government.  Perhaps as we celebrate the Moon Festival, we ought to recall these stories and exalt the twin virtues of devotion and ingenuity.

What are your reflections about the Moon Festival?



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