“May we live long and share the beauty of the moon together, even though we are hundreds of miles apart.”
This line from a famous Song dynasty poem by Su Shi captures the spirit of the mid-autumn festival. Sometimes called the lantern festival, the celebrations fall on the 15th day of the eighth month in the lunar calendar – the night when the moon is at its fullest and brightest. For thousands of years, it has been an occasion to gather and feast to give thanks for the harvest. The date, which falls on 1 October this year, is regarded as the second-most significant traditional Chinese festival after Lunar New Year.
The central legend associated with the mid autumn festival concerns the goddess Chang’e, and how, long ago, the Earth had 10 suns, the heat of which ravaged the world with a terrible drought.
At the request of the Emperor of Heaven, the great archer Hou Yi shot down nine of the suns, saving life on earth. As a reward for this feat, Hou Yi was given the elixir of immortality, which he hid in his home, planning to share it with his beautiful wife, Chang’e. But while Hou Yi was away hunting, his wicked apprentice, Feng Meng, came to his home to steal the elixir. Chang’e, determined to keep it out of Feng’s hands, drank the potion and ascended to the heavens, where she took the moon as her home. It is said that, to this day, those who look hard enough can see her likeness in the moon.
This mid autumn, I imagine many of us will be gazing at the moon, thinking of family and friends elsewhere and giving thanks for our blessings. I have many happy memories of mid autumns past. Facebook has just reminded me that I spent the festival in 2016 in Gansu Province in China, with the amazing Tien Ching, founder of Educating Girls of Rural China (EGRC). For 13 years, EGRC has empowered young women from rural regions of Western China to escape poverty by providing funds to attend high school and university. EGRC’s goal is to empower these young women, to lead the future, with students boasting a graduation rate of above 99%. Just one of the many success stories is pictured above, an EGRC scholar with her very proud mum!
I will gaze at the same moon as Tien Ching again this year, perhaps eat a mooncake as we did four years ago with new friends, and give thanks for all that we have, and what is still to come.
Happy Mid Autumn Festival!