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The magical myth behind Mid-Autumn Festival

An immortality elixir and goddess who lives in the moon? It could only be the captivating legend behind the Mid-Autumn Festival

Behind New Year, Mid-Autumn Festival is the second most auspicious day in the Chinese calendar. Like any Chinese celebration, it wouldn’t be complete without many-a fascinating myth and legend behind its origins.

Chinese Lanterns

Mid-Autumn Festival is related to all things lunar, in fact, it’s often nicknamed Mooncake Festival based upon the celebration of eating moon cakes and appreciating the spectacular beauty of the fullest and brightest moon. Legend has it, there were once not one, but ten suns in the sky. Their oppressive heat scorched the earth’s plants, wildlife and humans until an expert archer, Hou Yi shot down nine of the suns with his bow and arrow.

Full Moon

After heroically saving the earth, people flocked to Hou Yi to learn his super-human archery skills. He was gifted an elixir of immortality by the queen of heaven, Wangmu but he didn’t want to live forever, he just wanted to live with his wife, Chang E. The elixir remained at home. One of his students, Pang Meng coveted this special potion and went to steal it from Yi’s home. Chang E confronted him and chose to drink it herself – it made her fly to the moon, where she’d remain for eternity.

Hou Yi was so distraught he called his wife’s name out to the heavens and was stunned to see her image in the face of the moon. To venerate her and keep her in people’s memories, Hou Yi and his followers started to worship the moon and make offerings to the now goddess, Chang E. This is how Mid Autumn Day came into being.

Moon Cakes

Read more about the history of the mooncake and where to try them in Chinatown London.

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