Mid-Autumn Festival, Mooncake!

It is mooncake holiday again! Taken From Travel in Taiwan Festivals, the following “Legends of the Moon”:

Hhou Yi was a great archer and architect, who shot down nine extra suns that had suddenly appeared in the sky and thus kept the earth from being scorched. He also built a palace of jade for the goddess of the western heaven. For this, he was rewarded with a pill containing the elixir of immortality, but with strings attached –he must fast and pray for a year before taking it. His wife, Chang O, whose beauty was surpassed only by her curiosity, discovered and swallowed the pill and in no time soared to the moon and became a permanent resident there. upon reaching the moon, Chang O, in dismay, coughed up the pill, which turned into a jade rabbit that, day and night, pounds out a celestial elixir for the immortals.

Another permanent lunar resident of chinese origin is Wu Kang, a shiftless fellow who changed apprenticeships all the time before disappointing his last master, who was an immortal. From him Wu learned to be immortal himself, but he was punished by being required to chop down a cassia tree in the moon, an impossible mission. The cut in the tree heals completely the same day, so wu kang is still chopping away for eternity. Some chinese crave to drink his cassia blossom wine.

The chinese believe that the moon is at its largest and brightest, and Chang O at her most beautiful, on the 15th night of the eighth lunar month. They are at least half-right, for at that time most of China is in the dry season and the moon looms brightest. It’s also cool then, a perfect time to celebrate the harvest which has just concluded; hence, the mid-autumn festival is also called the harvest festival. The festival is a time for family reunions to appreciate the moon (shangyue) and eat moon cakes together. Bathed in bright moonshine and with the company of chrysanthemum and cassia blossoms, poets eat crab meat and moon cake, drink tea and wine, and versify the night away.

The moon cake is traditionally made in the shape of a full moon, symbolizing union and perfection and, did I also say that they are delicious?