Mid-autumn Festival Tale- Hou Yi and Chang Er

Mid-autumn festival is celebrated on the 15th day of the eighth month of the lunar calendar. It’s also known as Mooncake Festival because a special kind of sweet cake prepared in the shape of the moon and filled with sesame seeds, ground lotus seeds and duck eggs is served as a traditional Mid-autumn festival delicacy.

Nobody actually knows when the custom of eating moon cake to celebrate the mid-autumn festival began, but there are traces of it back in 14th century. At that time, China was in revolt against the Mongols. Chu Yuen-chang, and his senior deputy, Liu Po-wen, discussed battle plan and develops a secret mooncake strategy to take a certain walled city held by the Mongol enemy. Liu dressed up as a Taoist priest and entered the besieged city bearing mooncake.

He distributed these to the city’s populace. When the time for the year’s mid-autumn festival arrived, people opened their cakes and found hidden messages advising them to coordinate their uprising with the troops outside. Thus, the emperor-to-be ingeniously took the city and his throne.

Mooncake of course, became even more famous. And so, every year people eat moon cake and enjoy the harvest moon with their family to celebrate the victory over the Mongols. This is one of the story on mid-autumn festival that I’m familiar with but my favourite tale on how Mid-Autumn festival originates have to be the tale between Hou Yi and Chang Er.

This tale on Hou Yi and Chang Er may differ from the ones you have heard, as they are so many versions told from one generation to another.

The one I’m more familiar with is this one. Once upon a time, there live two immortals in the Heaven, they are Hou Yi and Chang Er. Hou yi and Chang Er were lovers who goes through great obstacle before their love is approved by the Heaven.

The Heaven was ruled by the Jade Emperor and his Empress. One day, ten sons of Jade emperor accidentally transformed into the sun, and revolves around the earth playfully, causing great drought and suffering to the mortals below.

Worried and concern for the mortals, the Jade emperor summons the imperial archer, Hou Yi to help him solve the problem. Hou Yi then went to Earth and shot down nine of the Jade Emperor’s sons. The emperor had thought that Hou Yi would not harm any of his sons. Now that his sons are dead, the emperor was very furious. In anger, the emperor took away Hou Yi and his wife’s immortality and condemn them to live on Earth forever.

Chang Er was grief stricken with her loss of immortality. Hou Yi could not bear to see his saddened wife, and so, he decided to steal the immortality pill from the heavenly medicine manufacturer so that both of their immortality could be restored. He manage to steal the pill from heaven, and brought it to Chang Er. He told her that they only need to take half of the pills to regain immortality.

In the meantime, the Jade Emperor found out about the stolen immortality pill, and command an imperial guard to retrieve the pills and catch both Hou Yi and Chang Er so that he could punish them for their misdeed.

And so, the imperial guard went down to earth in pursuit of the couple and the pill of immortality. But the guard himself was tempted by the idea of immortality. So he waited until Hou Yi is not at home, and attacked Chang Er who is defenseless at home. He demanded for the pill but Chang Er refused to hand it to him. Hou Yi, who seems to forget his arrows went back home to get it and discovered that his wife is in danger. He fought the imperial guard courageously.

Unfortunately, Hou Yi is an archer, not a fighter. He was stabbed right in his heart in front of Chang Er. Chang Er was grief stricken, and wishes to die with her husband too. However, Hou Yi’s dying wish was for Chang Er to regain her immortality and live happily for all eternity.

So, Chang Er took out the pill from her sleeves and swallowed the whole pill so that the guard would not be able to get it and obtain immortality. Right after swallowing the pill, Chang Er started to float towards the sky, and after flying for some time, she landed on the moon. She cried and grieve for her husband’s death.

Her cries was heard by a group of Jade Bunnies that lives on the moon. They went to her and listened to her story. These Jade Bunnies were captivated by Chang Er’s beauty and kindness towards them, so they built a palace for her to stay, knowing that she could never return to Heaven or Earth. They hailed her as their goddess and pledge allegiance to her. These bunnies can be seen pounding on the face of the moon on some cooking utensil.

It is believed that these Jade Bunnies are trying to make resurrection pills so that they could revive their Goddess’s love. It’s said that the resurrection pills is shaped like a mooncake. But it’s not dictate anywhere on whether Hou Yi was revived or not, but in many folklore, it’s told that Chang Er would bestow blessing of love and happiness to lovers who pray hard and sincere enough to the moon during mid-autumn.

According to my husband, however, there’s only one Jade Bunny on the moon, and it’s actually the reincarnation of Chang Er’s husband. He told me that the Jade Empress took pity on the couple, and so reincarnate Hou Yi as a Jade Bunny so that Chang Er will not be lonely on the moon. That explains why Chang Er can always be seen with a bunny everywhere she goes on the moon.

On his explanation to me on why the Jade Bunny is depicted as a creature that’s always pounding on the face of the moon, he said that the bunny is actually chopping a tree which is supposed to be indestructible. Only when he manage to chop down the tree, he will turn back into his original form, and only then, he and Chang Er would be forgiven by the heavenly beings and would be allowed to return to Heaven. (OK, OK, fine…my husband’s version is more romantic…geez…I think i finally lost the romantic charm in me! Malaysian politics to be blame!)

The story of Chang Er and Hou Yi touched many hearts, and with time, people started to celebrate mid-autumn festival by gathering their family and enjoy the sight of the harvest moon together over tea and mooncakes along with other delicacies.

People usually bake mooncake and eat it in hope that Chang Er would bless their mooncake and they would lead a happy life with their loved ones. The mid-autumn festival celebration is also a symbol of appreciation and gratefulness on what they have in life.

However in the modern days, mid-autumn festival is pretty much commercialized. Children these days do not really know what is the meaning of mid-autumn festival besides eating mooncake and playing with fancy lanterns. Maybe you guys should tell your children what mid-autumn festivals really supposed to mean, instead of just allowing them to have fun with their lanterns.

I only know two folklore on mid-autumn festival, feel free to share yours with me. This is quite late, but I’d like to wish you guys anyway. Happy mid-autumn festival.

πŸ˜€

I dedicate this song(poem) to all of you lovers out there. And to my loved ones too. It’s Γ€Β½β€ Γ¦β€žΒΏΓ€ΒΊΒΊΓ©β€’ΒΏΓ€ΒΉβ€¦ (Wishing us to last forever)

πŸ˜€

Cleffairy: Immortality is not a gift, but a curse when you are damned to live it all alone, without the ones that you love.

26 comments

  1. KevinP says:

    Yeah… thanks for the “enlightenment” in times of darkness, its nice to read such stories.. maybe we can distribute mooncakes to our frogs to indicate the time to “hippety hop”

  2. Vern says:

    We had a small gathering during the night before and we were all arguing on whose story is right and whose is wrong, and obviously we reached to no conclusion. But it was fun, because a lot of us did not know about the different versions of those tales – especially those ‘ang-mo-sai’ ones like me. Thanks for sharing, hope you had your fair share of chowing down mooncakes. πŸ™‚

  3. ktx says:

    ah jie, hey, hope it;’s not too late, but happy mid autumn fest yeah! this year, most of those egg yolks r placed off centred. must be the foreign workers taking over our chinese kitchen….hehehehe. remember, if u ever go to anson, tahpow some CCF for me ah.

  4. cleffairy says:

    Pete… lol… yeah, moonfairy tales… and it’s as written elsewhere, not my own freaky creation. Hmmm…our politicians are not pretty enough to play Chang Er. LMAO. πŸ˜›

    Kevin *hand over some lantern to you* There you go, a lot of lights. Ahahaha… aiya, katak dun eat mooncakes la… they eat insects…that’s why they went to taiwan and Macau to get some nice plump insect!

    Vern… hahaha, I had arguments with my other half too about on how the mooncake festival originates. =.= apparently his version involves some poor bunnies getting stuck chopping trees for all eternity on the moon. Glad you enjoyed your gathering. Surely it’s a good time for family and friends to bond. πŸ˜›


    ktx
    …of course it’s not too late. Happy mid-autumn festival to you too. What kind of mooncake you bought? Til the eggs are off centered? I have no idea that eggs are off centred this year, cuz I bought those with no eggs inside. LMAO. tapao sure can la…but not sure if it wun be eaten before I manage to pass it to you. I may be skinny, but I sure can chomp down CCF very fast. πŸ˜›

  5. Calvin says:

    got any tales from mills and boons ar?….hehehe πŸ˜›

    i actually was not bothered to know so much detail bout the mooncake festival…..but got so much info today. you’re like my walking encyclopedia…*clapsclaps*. now, when i stuff my big mouth with some mooncakes, i’ll eat it in much reverie……*dreaming* and passion (now i sound kinda gay!!!) :)……..you’ve made my day. cheers….

  6. cleffairy says:

    *cough cough, blush* Actually, I got a few rack of Mills&Boon and those bloody Silhouette novels in my study. But it would be pretty creepy to tell Msian politics ala Mills&Boon. Hahaha.

    LOL… thank you for the compliment, Calvin… still stuffing yourself with mooncake? Dun worry, every now and then everyone is entitled to sound gay…even that macho husband of mine. LMAO. Can’t believe his version is more romantic than mine. *dang* I must be talking and bitching too much on Malaysian politics…

    πŸ˜›

  7. fergie says:

    Wah .. now I know the legend behind the mooncake festival. I am not fond of mooncakes .. love cheese cake tho .. lovely pics too. You don’t sound like a person who hasn’t been sleeping, Clef. Maybe your brain too active la .. need a lot of inspirasi to write. I only know how to read πŸ™‚

  8. fergie says:

    PS. You also know mandarin? I have been trying to learn but half my brain cells are dead, I think, and the intonation is a big stumbling block. I pronounce the words wrongly and no-one seems to understand what I’m trying to say .. I give up. Learnt other languages too but lack of pratice all hilang .. tragic!

  9. cleffairy says:

    Haha, Fergie… when I was a child, my grandma would tell me the stories of Chang Er when we gather to admire the moon during mid-autumn festival. But as a child, I din pay much attention to her tales…so I’m not sure if this version is a common version. LOL. Like you, I also dun like mooncake too much. Dunno why… too sweet I guess. I LOVE cheesecake! Especially the ones from Secret Recipe… omg, so sinful…. πŸ˜›

    *sigh* I curi curi drink my hubby’s cup of coffee…so I end up couldn’t sleep…coffee have strange effect on me… it makes me like a zombie…can stay awake, but tired like hell! I can only take tea, cuz it have soothing and refreshing effect on me .
    πŸ˜€

  10. cleffairy says:

    Eh? Missed your second comment. LOL. I know abit…here and there…but not enough to save my life. I dun speak mandarin…very cacat-ed! Huhu… I guess, you, me and Kevin is on the same boat…sama- sama banana! Hahah.

  11. Calvin says:

    me too, me too……..we are “siang ciao ren”..errr correct or not ah. but my wife is teaching me bit by bit at nite before bed….hehehe. she bought me a chinese writing book from kindergarten. gotto start somewhere rite?….hahaha. and ive got to tell you this, she has a rotan beside her as well, coz im playful….*whack*…..ermmmm, steam!!! hahahaha

  12. cleffairy says:

    Eh? Correct anot? I also dunno. LMAO.. eh, I used to learn bits and pieces from kindy books… but cannot arr…. I got so confused! LOL… and my hubby… he’s not really a good teacher…err… I dunno… I think I’m better off learning from TV to recognize those characters. Walao… she got rotan beside her… *blink* omg… so ganas! S&M man! My husband wouldn’t dare to use rotan on me *glare*. HE WILL DIE IF HE DOES!

    πŸ˜›

  13. fergie says:

    Wey.. i just had a thought .. “Over a cuppa tea” .. meant to mention earlier but always 4get .. wahhh sounds soooo BRITISH hehehehe. Yummy .. Secret Recipe cheesecake BEST la but so expensive. No news on 916 ah? You better koon kau kau la kim meh .. don’t curi lim kopi πŸ™‚

  14. cleffairy says:

    Garfield… lol… so funny…rabbit from the toilet bowl? πŸ˜›

    Fergie… haha, I grew up in England. But that’s not why my blog’s name is Over A Cuppa Tea… it’s because I can only drink tea, not coffee…coffee have awful effects on me. I practically grew up with earl grays and rose tea.
    πŸ™‚

    Yaya, Secret Recipe’s cheesecake is the best. But really la, very costly… one whole cake is Rm60++ aihh, feel like eating gold bar onli. 916? No news worr…maybe just Pak Anu’s fart? I dunno la, have to wait and see. Aiya, where can koon now arr? In office lerr… lol. Koon liao, boss will give me letter, den really will have to koon kow kow, cuz ntg to do liao.

    πŸ˜›

  15. KevinP says:

    Sigh… you ppl gossip here! About mooncakes… gee… somehow I felt its too commercialized these days.. in the good old days of old, my dad use to buy me the chue-long.. the piece inside a pouch one… rather cute and nice to eat.. these days I find them too sticky and not as desirable.

  16. cleffairy says:

    Hmm… these days, where to find chue-long arh? I haven’t been eating them since… err. wait, lemme see… since I was 7? Hmm…indeed, it’s too commercialized these days…even the mooncakes have blackforest and cheese flavour! WTF!

  17. ahfu says:

    hohoho you know what? i only knew mooncake has so many flavours this yr, pandan,sesame,durian etc… sigh i was way too far from home for the past 6yrs, anyway always like the lotus paste =p happy belated mooncake festival

  18. cleffairy says:

    Pandan, durian was not all, AhFu… LOL…there’s ice cream mooncake oso. πŸ˜›
    I like the traditional lotus paste and red bean ones too…

    Happy mid-autumn festival to you too.

  19. lz says:

    shall i show this post to my friends when they asked me about mooncake festival? πŸ˜‰ it’s so detailed! thx first! πŸ˜‰

  20. cleffairy says:

    Kevin… I have no idea who will be so stupid to go eat jelly mooncake… so weird! I make konyaku jellies so often, maybe I should make it in the shape of mooncake and sell it… I could make a fortune out of it. (Clef is so money minded!)

    Lz… hi, glad to see you here. Sure, go ahead and share it with your friends. It’ll be nice if you can share these tales with your friends. πŸ˜›

  21. Garfield says:

    moon cake nowadays is damn expensive.
    for eat myself, i rather buy those pasar malam moon cake to eat. but too bad, the pasar malam at my place is closed by dbkl due to they said that road which the pasar malam located at (a road that have very few car passed tru) is a “Highway”!

    this year din eat any moon cakes at all….

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