So from where we left off from the previous post, Chinese Mid Autumn Festival’s Moon Rabbit, we realized that besides the Chinese Moon Goddess, Chang Er and the Moon Rabbit, there is someone else on the moon… This person is called, Wu Gang (吳剛), and he is a woodcutter. Actually, to be exact, that’s what he does 24/7. Once again, there are several variations of the story, but centre around a similar premise, so I picked the one that made most sense.
So what’s the story with Wu Gang, the woodcutter?
THE STORY OF WU GANG (吳剛), THE WOODCUTTER
So the story begins like this. Long long time ago (because we have to begin stories this way)… There was a guy who oh-so-desperately wanted to be immortal. This guy was named Wu Gang. He cut trees for a living. Meet Wu Gang.
The Jade Emperor did not like Wu Gang due to his lousy attitude and Wu Gang had a condition called chronic laziness. So the Jade Emperor set about giving Wu Gang the lesson of a lifetime. It was such a hard lesson that it indeed lasted a lifetime. The Jade Emperor planted an osmanthus flower tree on the moon (some others say it was a cherry bay tree…)
The Jade Emperor then told Wu Gang that he would become immortal once he finished hacking down the tree. The Jade Emperor just left out one teeny tiny detail. This was a magical tree, and it regenerates back, like those prank birthday candles that can’t be blown out.
So it’s been said that on Chinese Mid Autumn Festival, when you worship the moon, you can still see and if you listen extra carefully, hear Wu Gang hacking down the tree. Unfortunately for him though, the tree regrows back before Wu Gang can complete the task. Lesson of a lifetime indeed.
That’s it. These are the people you’ll see on the moon on the day of the Chinese Mid Autumn Festival – Chang Er, the Chinese Moon Goddess, the Moon Rabbit and Wu Gang, the wood cutter. And perhaps a glimpse of Neil Armstrong’s footprint?
Which of the three main folklore tales of the Chinese Mid Autumn Festival did you enjoy the most? Have you caught up with the entire Mid Autumn Festival? Read the first post of the series, Mid Autumn Festival and everything you need to know 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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