This is part of our Chinese Mid Autumn Festival series. Previous post of the Chinese Mid Autumn Festival Series, we learned of the tragic love story of Chang Er, the Chinese Moon Goddess and Hou Yi, the God of Archery with the 10 suns. If you look at Chinese Mid Autumn Festival posters and decorations, you often see a white rabbit on the moon. He’s called the Moon Rabbit (月兔) or the Jade Rabbit (玉兔) in Chinese. So why is there a rabbit up on the moon with Chang Er, the Goddess of the Moon?
THE LEGEND OF THE MOON RABBIT (月兔/玉兔)
The story once again began long long time ago (because that’s how all stories have to start, right?)… The Jade Emperor asked 3 immortals from the Heavens to come down to Earth. He wanted to test the virtues of the people and animals on Earth.
So the 3 immortals went in disguise; they walked into the forest looking weak and frail and asked the animals for food and money… 3 animals came forward: the fox, the monkey and the rabbit.
The fox and monkey were able to give the immortals money and food.
However, the rabbit had none of these things. Instead, the rabbit asked the fox and monkey to help assemble and start a fire. Once the fire was ablaze, the rabbit told the immortals that he didn’t have money or food to offer them; however, they could eat him instead. Like finger lickin’ good KFR. And with those famous last words, the selfless rabbit hopped in.
The immortals were so touched by the rabbit’s sacrifice that they turned his fur bedazzling white, named him the Moon Rabbit, made him immortal and brought him back to the Heavens. The Moon Rabbit now holds the mortar and pestle on the moon, which is used to make the Elixir of Life.
It is said that on the day of the Chinese Mid Autumn Festival, you can see Chang Er looking down at the Earth for Hou Yi and the Moon Rabbit is pounding away with his mortar and pestle. Like below, but with the mortar and pestle visible.
Oh but wait. It should actually look like this instead.
So how come Chang Er and the Moon Rabbit has company on the moon? Who’s that guy with the tree? That’s Wu Gang. Next story time =) Make sure you check out all the other posts from this Chinese Mid Autumn Festival series so you’re all caught up and ready to go for Chinese Mid Autumn Festival! Have you made yourself a snazzy pomelo lantern yet? Check out how to make one here!
AUTHOR’S NOTE: My parents, Hong Kong locals who moved to Vancouver in the 70’s, somehow and somewhere between those two cities also lost their enthusiasm for celebrating holidays, the Chinese or Western variety. Canada celebrated Chinese Mid Autumn Festival (& all other varieties of that) but obviously no where to the same degree of intensity as they do in Hong Kong, so I would say our household celebrated Mid Autumn Festival with tepid enthusiasm. My mom would buy a pomelo and maybe ONE mooncake that was shared amongst the whole entire household. I think my mom maybe bought me a lantern once to worship the moon, so that being said, I knew certain things about the Chinese Mid Autumn Festival, but there was also a whole lot that I didn’t know. This Chinese Mid Autumn Festival series of posts is to help others learn more about Chinese Mid Autumn Festival, so I hope you enjoy it and to check out all the other posts in the series.
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