Illustration: Maya E Shakur for FREDERICK & SOPHIE
Location: Hong Kong
Here’s what our absolutely awesome friend Mei told us. In the night of the 15th day of the eighth month in the lunar calendar, the moon is at its fullest and brightest! That’s when it’s Mid-Autumn Moon (cake) Festival! Mei invited us to celebrate family, friends, and a good harvest and to say hello and thank you very much to a beautiful moon!
While we make our Mid-Autumn paper lanterns, Mei’s grandma makes her absolutely delicious dumplings for lunch. She also tells us, Mei, Wally, and our manny George the legend of Chang’e and the Jade Rabbit.
Long ago, the Earth had 10 suns. Their heat burned all plants on Earth and gave it a terrible drought. The Emperor of Heaven asked the great archer Hou Yi to shoot down nine of the suns. When Hou Yi did so, all the people on Earth were saved! As a reward, Hou Yi was given the elixir of immortality, which he hid in his home. He planned to share it with his beautiful wife, Chang’e. But while Hou Yi was away hunting, his wicked apprentice, Peng Meng, came to his home to steal the elixir. Chang’e wanted to keep it out of Peng’s hands. She drank the potion and floated up to the heavens, where she took the moon as her home. When Hou Yi came back home, he was very sad, but when he looked up at the moon it was bright, and he could see Chang’e looking down at him. He asked his servants to set a table in his garden with his wife’s favorite snacks and fruits on it. This way, they still could feel together even though they were miles and miles apart.
George asks Mei’s grandma how Chang’e met the Jade Rabbit. George absolutely loves great stories. Just like us. George also asks for one more dumpling. He actually means twelve.
Mei’s grandma smiles and tells us all about the Jade Rabbit. Once upon a time three sages transformed themselves into pitiful old men. When they met a fox, a monkey and a rabbit, they begged them for food. The fox and the monkey shared their food with the old men, but the rabbit, with nothing to share, jumped into a blazing fire to offer his own flesh instead. The sages were so touched by the rabbit’s kindness that they sent it to live in the Moon Palace, where it became the Jade Rabbit. Chang’e, who lived alone on the moon, immediately liked the Jade Rabbit. As time went on, Chang’e and the Jade Rabbit became best friends. When the Jade Rabbit heard about the story of Chang’e and Hou Yi, the Jade Rabbit wanted to help them and decided to make a special heavenly medicine. This could help Chang’e return to Earth. After thousands of years, the Jade Rabbit has still not been able to make it. On the night of the Mid-Autumn Festival, when the moon is bright, you can see the Jade Rabbit making his heavenly medicine.
Mei lives in Hong Kong. Here, you can see the Tai Hang Fire Dragon Dance! That’s when up to 300 people parade a 67-meter-long dragon lined with sticks of incense from head to tail. Mei’s grandma says that the Tai Hang Fire Dragon tradition started when the village was ravaged by a typhoon and a plague on the eve of the Mid-Autumn festival. According to the legend, the fortune tellers warned that to get rid of the village’s bad fortune, a fire dance had to be staged for three days and three nights during the upcoming full Moon. And so, a fire dragon was built from straw and covered with joss sticks which were lit at night. The fire dragon paraded through the streets of Tai Hang for three days and three nights, and the plague was gone. Here’s what we think. That’s one majestic good luck beast!
In Chinese culture, the full moon is a symbol of family reunion. That’s why families and friends have dinner together on the evening of the Mid-Autumn Mooncake Festival. They usually set a table outside their houses and sit together to admire the full moon while enjoying tasty mooncakes. Mooncakes are pastry made of lotus seed paste and salted duck egg yolk.We must absolutely eat a mooncake or three! Historians say that that mooncakes first appeared during the Tang dynasty (618–907). Here’s what we think. That’s a long time ago. One legend has it that during the Yuan dynasty (1271–1368), Han revolutionaries smuggled messages inside mooncakes to orchestrate an uprising against Mongolian rule! You can also make play-dough mooncakes and hide secret messages inside of them!
When we eat a mooncake, we look up at the moon and say the words written by Song Dynasty poet Su Shi on the Mid-Autumn festival of 1076: “May we live long and share the beauty of the moon together, even if we are hundreds of miles apart.”
And Mei also says: 中秋節快樂！中秋节快乐！Zhōngqiū jié kuàilè! Happy Mid-Autumn Festival!
Frederick & Sophie
P.S. Here are some absolutely awesome books about the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival!