Praising the moon in 2012

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As I walked into town on the weekend to grab some lunch, the growing number of balloon wielding families moving in the same direction had me thinking that there was some kind of festival in town. Sure enough, the middle of Box Hill was choc-a-block with people, with the usual tent city setup. One of the things that I really like about Box Hill is that in the middle part, there’s always something going on on weekends.

I had initially planned to head into one of the centres and grab one of the amazing Vietnamese bbq pork rolls that I am addicted to, but I couldn’t pass up checking out the various food tents. While they’re often a bit of a rip-off in the price department, the food is often good. After knocking back an absolutely delicious chicken, cucumber and satay roll, followed up by a South Korean potato swirl thing and a can of coke – I was a happy man.

I have mentioned many times on this site that one of the things I like most about Chinese culture, is that there are so many stories and tales associated with practically every part of it. From the obvious things such as mooncake, lantern and dragonboat festivals, to even individual dishes having some pretty amazing stories attached to them.

Recently, and co-incidentally, I was reading a few old stories, and one of them happened to be about the mooncake festival itself. I have re-written it below as it was a bit…confusing…but one thing I have noticed with many Chinese stories is they don’t overly make a lot of sense. I mean, even in a fantastical way, there’s always some snake in the river with magic, or some poor monk whose suddenly become magical by eating blessed rice or what not. Sure, even most English myths and fairy tales have elements of this – and perhaps it’s just lost in translation, but I find many Chinese tales difficult to comprehend in their simplicity. That being said, they also have a terrific otherworldly quality to them. Many invoke fond memories of Monkey.

And without further ado – the possible story behind mooncakes. I say possible as the source isn’t what I’d exactly call textbook:

Many years ago, ten suns suddenly appeared in the sky. They scorched the earth and made the sea evaporate and the farmers could no longer survive. The disaster shocked the hero Houyi the Archer into action. He climbed Mount Kunlun and shot down nine of the suns (leaving what I assume to be our sun left). Houyi was praised as a hero for his actions and gained the respect of the common folk. Many patriots came to him wanting to learn archery, including the tricky Feng Meng (there’s always one tricky guy…eh).

Sometime later, Houyi fell in love with the beautiful and kind-hearted Chang’e. They loved each other immensely and often went hunting together.

One day as Houyi was returning to Mount Kunlun to visit a friend, he passed by the palace of the Queen Mother of the West. The Queen gave him a pill and told him that it could make him immortal. Houyi – being the honourable chap that he is, didn’t want to be immortal by himself (without Chang’e of course) so ask his wife to keep the pill for him.

Naturally somehow Feng Meng learned of this and wanted the pill for himself. He broke into their house, threatening Chang’e in the process. Knowing she was in danger, Chang’e gulped the pill and floated away into the sky.

Chang’e was afraid that her husband would not be able to find her, (and now was supposedly in space), so floated towards the nearest landing point, which happened to be the moon. Chang’e was now also immortal – hence the getting away with living in space thing. When Houyi returned home, he couldn’t find his love and was heart-broken. He looked to the sky, crying loudly and calling his wifes name. To his surprise, he noticed that the moon was lighter than before, and he could see the exact figure of Chang’e swaying within the moon.

Now every year during the lunar Min-Autumn festival when the moon is at its brightest, generations of Chinese eat moonquake’s in memory of Chang’e, and pray to her for good luck and safety.

Happy mooncake festival y’all!

Sweet, sweet satay…

South Korean potato swirl..things

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One Response to “Praising the moon in 2012”

  1. theRands Says:

    Nice story!

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