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The August Moon Festival or Mid-Autumn Festival (Chinese characters above) is one of the traditional Chinese holidays. It is held on the 15th day of the 8th lunar month. Chinese legends say that the moon is at its brightest and roundest on this day. Based on the Gregorian calendar, this year's August Moon Festival will be held on September 15.


The August Moon Festival is often called the Women's Festival. The moon (Chinese character on right) symbolizes elegance and beauty. While Westerners worship the sun (yang or male) for its power, people in the Far East admire the moon. The moon is the 'yin' or female principle and it is a trusted friend. Chinese parents often name their daughters after the moon, in hope that they will be as lovely as the moon.


The Moon FairyLady - 'Chang Er'


The story about the lady took place around 2170 B.C. At that time, the earth had ten suns circling it, each taking its turn to illuminate to the earth. But one day all ten suns appeared together, scorching the earth with their heat. The earth was saved by a strong and tyrannical archer named Hou Yi. He succeeded in shooting down nine of the suns. One day, Hou Yi stole the elixir of life from a goddess. However, his beautiful wife Chang E drank the elixir of life in order to save the people from her husband's tyrannical rule. After drinking it, she found herself floating and flew all the way to the moon. Hou Yi loved his divinely beautiful wife so much, he refused to shoot down the moon.


People believed that the lady was a god who lived in the moon that made the moon shine. Girls who wanted to be a beauty and have a handsome husband should worship the moon. And on this magical occasion, children who make wishes to the Lady on the Moon will find their dreams come true.


The wood cutter - Wu Kang


Wu Kang was a shiftless fellow who changed apprenticeships all the time. One day he decided that he wanted to be an immortal, so he went to live in the mountains where he importuned an immortal to teach him. First the immortal taught him about the herbs used to cure sickness, but after three days his characteristic restlessness returned and Wu Kang asked the immortal to teach him something else. So the immortal taught him chess, but after a short while Wu Kang's enthusiasm again waned. Then Wu Kang was given the books of immortality to study. Of course, Wu Kang became bored within a few days, and asked if they could travel to some new and exciting place. Angered with Wu Kang's impatience, the master banished Wu Kang to the Moon Palace telling him that he must cut down a huge cassia tree before he could return to earth. Though Wu Kang chopped day and night, the magical tree restored itself with each blow, and thus he is up there chopping still.


The Hare - Jade Rabbit


In this legend, three fairy sages transformed themselves into pitiful old men and begged for something to eat from a fox, a monkey and a rabbit. The fox and the monkey both had food to give the old men, but the rabbit, empty-handed, offered his own flesh instead by jumping into a blazing fire to cook himself. The sages were so touched by the rabbit's sacrifice that they let him live in the Moon Palace where he became the "Jade Rabbit."


Families get together to eat mooncakes and celebrate the end of the harvest season on this day. Scholars write poems about the moon. This night is also made for romantic rendezvous. Friendships are made and renewed. No wonder the August Moon Festival has a special meaning to all who believe in the mystical powers of the moon.


When did this festival first begin? No exact date can be found in historical documents, but scholars assume that it is related to 2 customs in China.


The first custom concerns farmers. China is an agricultural country, and farming is closely related to the seasons. In ancient times, farmers worshipped the Earth God to pray for a good harvest, when they sowed the seeds in spring. This was known as spring worship. During autumn, farmers also worshipped the Earth God to thank him for giving them a good harvest. This was known as autumn reward. Since the 15'" month of the 8th month is the time when rice paddies are harvested, some people believe that the Mid Autumn Festival came from the autumn reward ritual.


The second custom concerns worship of the moon. According to astronomy, the Mid Autumn Festival occurs at the autumn equinox. At this time, the sunlight shines vertically on the equator, equally dividing the day and night in both the southern and northern hemispheres. The moon appears in the evening with gentle winds and light clouds. This is the best time to watch the moon. People later made this day, the day to worship the moon.