The Mid-Autumn Festival in Vietnam,
…also known as the Moon Festival, „Tết Trung Thu“, is a popular harvest festival celebrated by Chinese and Vietnamese people, dating back over 3,000 years to moon worship in China’s Shang Dynasty. It was first called Zhongqiu Jie (literally „Mid-Autumn Festival“) in the Zhou Dynasty. In Malaysia, Singapore, and the Philippines, it is also sometimes referred to as the Lantern Festival or Mooncake Festival.
The Mid-Autumn Festival is held on the 15th day of the eighth month in the Chinese calendar, which is usually around late September or early October in the Gregorian calendar. It is a date that parallels the autumnal equinox of the solar calendar, when the moon is supposedly at its fullest and roundest. The traditional food of this festival is the mooncake, of which there are many different varieties.
The Mid-Autumn Festival is one of the few most important holidays in the Vietnamese calendar. Farmers celebrate the end of the summer harvesting season on this date. Traditionally on this day, Vietnamese family members and friends will gather to admire the bright mid-autumn harvest moon, and eat moon cakes and pomelos under the moon together. Accompanying the celebration, there are additional cultural or regional customs.
The tale on Hou Yi and Chang Er.
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.
There’s only one Jade Bunny on the moon, and it’s actually the reincarnation of Chang Er’s husband. 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.
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.
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
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