6 Most Well-Known Legends about Mid-Autumn Festival

What are the legends of Mid-Autumn Festival? As Mid-Autumn Festival is also the Moon Festival, its legends are usually related to the moon. Here below are some of the most popular ones widely told during the festival days. 

Chang E Flying to the Moon
Chang E Flying to the Moon

Chang E Flying to the Moon is the most widely told Mid-Autumn Festival legend. It is said that in ancient times, ten suns existed in the sky and the extreme heat made people’s lives very difficult. It was the hero Hou Yi, who, using his great strength, shot down nine of the ten suns. Later, Hou Yi married a beautiful and kind-hearted woman named Chang E and lived a happy life.

One day, the Queen of Heaven presented Hou Yi an elixir which, if took, would help him to ascend immediately to heaven and become a god. Hou Yi took it home and asked Chang E to keep it. Unfortunately, a villain named Pengmeng got to know this, broke into their home and demanded Chang E hand over the elixir while Hou Yi was out hunting. In a moment of desperation, Chang E swallowed the elixir. Reluctant to leave his husband, Cheng E tried her best to fly to the moon, the nearest place to the earth in heaven. Houyi missed Chang E a lot, so on the day of the full moon he placed on tables foods that Chang E liked. This custom was later followed by folk people praying to the Goddess Chang E for good luckand gradually formed the Mid-Autumn Festival.

2. Rabbit in the Moon Story 

The Mid-Autumn Festival rabbit story goes about that three immortals reincarnated themselves into three poor old people and begged food from a fox, a monkey and a rabbit. The fox and monkey both gave food to the immortals. However, the rabbit did not have any food. It then said to the immortals: “you can eat me” and jumped into the fire. The immortals were so moved by the rabbit and sent it to the moon to become an immortal jade rabbit. Ever since then, the Chinese jade rabbit stays in the Moon Palace to accompany Chang E and compounds immortal medicine for those living in the heaven. This is “rabbit in the moon legend”, also known as “jade rabbit story”. 

3. Wu Gang Chops the Tree

This is another well-known Mid-Autumn Festival legend happening on the moon. Long time ago, there was a man from Xihe of Han Dynasty (202 BC - 220 AD) named Wu Gang. He once followed the immortals to develop himself and became an immortal, too. However, when in the heaven, he made a mistake and was banished to the moon to chop the laurel tree. This laurel tree growing in front of the Moon Palace was very flourishing and tall. Each time Wu Gang chopped the tree, it grew back immediately. This happened again and again and the tree was never able to be cut down. The endless, arduous hard job was a punishment for Wu Gang. If you look carefully at the moon in clear nights, you can see a black shadow on it, which is said to be Wu Gang.

4. Li Longji Roaming on the Moon Palace 

According to Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival legend, Li Longji, an Emperor of Tang Dynasty (618-907AD), a Taoist master and a Taoist priest were appreciating the moon in the Mid-Autumn Festival. Suddenly, Li Longji raised the thoughts of visiting the Moon Palace, so the three men flew up to the moon by clouds and planned to roam in the Moon Palace. However, there were guards in front of the palace and they were unable to enter. 

But at this moment, Li Longji heard a song sung by the fairies which was pleasant, lovely and moving. Li Longji was good at music, so he remembered the melody deeply. After going back, he recalled the melody and composed a song, which is the famous “Melody of White Feathers Garment” in history.

5. Diaochan Worshiping the Moon

Diaochan was a singer living in Minister Wangyun’s in the late Han Dynasty (202-220 AD). She was extremely beautiful and charming. Seeing the royal court was manipulated by the traitor minister Dong Zhuo, she worshiped the moon and prayed for peace in the midnight. Chang E, the beautiful Goddess living on the moon, felt inferior of her beauty and then hidden behind the cloud. Since then, Diaochan was widely known for his beauty even superior than Goddess Chang E. 

6. Zhu Yuanzhang and Moon Cake Uprising

This is a Mid-Autumn Festival legend really happened. In late Yuan Dynasty (1271 - 1368 AD), people in many parts of the country could not bear the cruel rule of the government and rose in revolt. Zhu Yuanzhang, founder of Ming Dynasty (1368 - 1644 AD), united the different resistance forces and wanted to organize an uprising. However, due to the strict search by government, it was very difficult to pass messages. The counselor Liu Bowen later though out the great idea of hiding notes with “uprise on the night of Mid-Autumn Day” in moon cakes and had them sent to different resistance forces. The uprising turned to be very successful and Zhu was so happy that he awarded his subjects with moon cakes on the following Mid-Autumn Festival. Since then, eating moon cakes has been a custom on Mid-Autumn Festival.

 See also 3,000 Years’ Timeline of Mooncake History, from its Origin 'Taishi Cake'

Further Reading
Mid-Autumn Festival History and Origin since 3,000 Years Ago 

- Last updated on Apr. 14, 2021 -
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