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The Mid-Autumn Festival

2017-12-08 16:16:21 作者:Tian Qian,Luan Wei 信息来源:中外节庆网



The Mid-Autumn Festival


Authors /Tian Qian , Luan Wei

Translator/ Wang Shirong, Pan Jie, etc

Publish/Anhui People’s Publishing House



A silver moon hangs by the balustrade, I fancy moonlight as frost on the ground. Gazing up of the bright moon Im looking, lowering my head of my native land Im missing.The Homesick at a Still Night written by Li Bai (the great poet in Tang Dynasty) is a household poem in China. This poem describes an important Chinese traditional festival in the autumn the Mid-Autumn Festival which is listed as one of the four famous traditional festivals as well as the Spring Festival, the Tomb-Sweeping day, and the Dragon-Boat festival. The Mid-Autumn Festival is on the August 15th of the lunar calendar, in the second month of autumn. As one of the most important traditional festivals of the Chinese nation, the Mid-Autumn Festival with rich symbolic significance is combined with a variety of traditional cultural significance. And as time goes by, it is finally established as an important Chinese traditional festival represented by the activities of moon-viewing and worship.

2)Moon Worship

The 8th month is the 2nd month in autumn, while the full moon comes on the 15th day of a month. The moon is at its biggest and roundest, shining as brightly and clearly as a silver plate on the 15th day of the 8th lunar month. The beautiful full moon makes the night of Mid-Autumn Festival become the most charming one in a year. Therefore, the festival also called the Moon Festival.

Chinese people especially love the moon, for which they are keen to sing to it. The moon and the sun are important objects of worship for primitive people, both of which can bring lights to banish the darkness, helping people overcome fear and terror. Compared with the sunlight, the bright and clear moonlight is less dazzling and scorching. It brings gentle lights on the pitch-dark nights in the era without fire.

The sun and the moon, named “yin” and “yang” by Chinese, are regarded as two poles and the normal movement of them is a guarantee of living in the world. The rising of sun and setting of moon mean the beginning of a day, while the converse marks the coming of a night. The history of moon worship is as ancient as that of cultures in other regions around the world, because the fetes of moon have been recorded since Shang periods. The calendar is made by observing phases of the moon in ancient time, which is also called lunar calendar or Xia calendar for it dates back to Xia Dynasty. They found that moon had the mystical power to control and influence the tide of rivers on the ground due to the daily empirical test. When the moon is at its biggest and roundest, the rising tide will be the largest and the most forceful, while the moon is at its smallest and thinnest, the tide will be the lowest and weakest. Therefore, Chinese primitive thought that the moon was the divinity and the spirit of water,they created lots of myths about the moon.

There is a myth saying that Chang Xi, the moon’s mother and Xi He, Chang Xi’s sister are the deity Emperor Jun’s wives. Xi He gave birth to ten suns who need to be on duty in the sky every day in turn and Chang Xi born twelve moons who take turns monthly on duty in the sky. “Chang Xi”, with the phonetic change in the language, gradually turned into “Chang Yi”, then “Shang Yi”, “Shang He” during the spread of this legend. Lastly, the story about twelve moons has evolved into a legend of “Chang’e Flying to the Moon”.

The famous archer Hou Yi hunting for a livelihood lived in the human world with his beautiful wife Chang'e. At first, a sun was on duty in the sky every day starting from the east of the hibiscus tree (Solar Holy Tree in Chinese myths) and ending a day’s work in Yu yuan (Chinese name of a pool), riding the sun carriage pulled by six dragons from the east side to the west side of the sun. Every time there was only one sun on duty so that the sun felt very lonely. One day, all ten suns decided to go on duty together in case of loneliness. Ten suns appeared in the sky in the same day, scorching the earth, drying the river and killing plants, animals and human beings. Hou Yi was sympathetic with people's torture and then he decided to save them. He bowed his bow with enough strength and shot down nine of the ten suns one by one, leaving a sun in the sky rising from the east and setting in the west every day. In order to reward Yi's merits of saving mankind, the Heavenly Queen Mother gave Yi the elixir of immortality that was said to be very powerful and people who took it can fly to the heaven and became an immortal immediately. He brought the drug home and told Chang'e, “You take good care of this drug package. We'll find a good day to eat it together and then we can live forever and never be separated.” He went hunting every day, and sometimes he didn't come back for a long time. Finally one day, Chang'e couldn't help herself opening the drug package and then swallowing the elixir slinkingly. As soon as she took it, her body became as light as the feathers and she flew from her house toward the heaven. The sky is boundless, and Chang'e didn't know where to go. But when she saw the bright moon hanging in the sky, she thought she might be able to see her relatives in the moon. Therefore she came to the Moon Palace (the mythical palace in the moon) and lived there. When Yi returned home, he found that the drug package was opened and Chang'e was gone. And he chased out of the door immediately, but it was too late. When Chang'e landed on the moon, she turned into an ugly toad at that moment.

There's another version of this legend. Since Chang'e is the daughter of the god Emperor Ku, she also named as Ku E and known as Hou Yi’s beautiful wife. Yi was demoted to secular world companied by Chang’e for he was convicted of arrowing down nine sons (suns) of the Emperor of heaven and the couple became mortal with illness and death, and Chang'e become older over time. Therefore, Chang'e complained about Yi who felt particularly sorry for his wife, and wanted to find a way of immortality. So he traveled far and wide for several years, and finally learned that the Queen Mother of the West on the Kunlun Mountains had the immortal medicine. Yi crossed the hot Yan Mountain and Ruoshui River, and climbed about 13113 cun (1/3 decimetre) to visit the Queen Mother of the West in the palace on the Kunlun Mountains With strong will and extraordinary power. The Queen Mother of the West admired the courage of Yi, and felt sympathy for Yi, so she gave the immortal medicine to Yi. One day, when Hou Yi was out, Chang'e swallowed the potion secretly hoping that she would become immortal and beautiful forever. The result was quite unexpected: she felt herself becoming lighter and lighter and started to fly to the heaven, drifting and floating in the air, and then she thought: Where to go? I betrayed my husband, so the gods in the heaven will blame me and laugh at me. It seems I can only stay in the Moon Palace. She found the Moon Palace was quite chilly and felt lonely and regret.

The legend of “Chang’e (the goddess of the moon) Flying to the Moon” is one of the Four Great Chinese myths, which are most widespread and affected. With the spread of the myth, generations of people gradually add more abundant plots and vivid character stories to it.

First, there is the story of the “heavenly dog swallowing the moon”. Hou Yi, a skilled archer had a loyal black hound, named Black Ear. One day, Black Ear shouted into the house after finding Chang’e (Hou Yi’s wife) stole the elixir, leaving her husband behind to fly to the heaven and he wanted to stop her by licking the rest of the elixir, and chased after her to the heaven. Chang’e broke into the moon palace in a panic and hid after hearing the barking. Black Ear shook his hair and darted up to swallow her and the moon with his growing body. The bright night suddenly became dark. The king and the queen of the heaven quickly sent the night owl(the legendary god on patrol at night) to check on it. The night owl found a big black dog had devoured the moon. The divine troops descending from heaven armed with weapons rolled drums and came to arrest Black Ear. However, the king released him for mercy’s sake after knowing Black Ear was owned by Hou Yi, and sealed him as “heavenly dog”, ordering him to guard the South Gate of the Heaven. So Black Ear spit the moon out.

The second story is about the moon and rabbits. Long time ago, a pair of rabbits, living at Yun Feng Ling in Shan Tang country became immortal after thousands years of discipline, and they had four lovely daughters who were all skin white and clever. One day, the father rabbit was announced to report to the Emperor of Heaven on his work and he saw celestial soldiers and generals sending Chang’e under guard when he arrived at the Heavenly Southern Gate. The father rabbit asked a soldier as he didn’t know what happened with Chang’e. The soldier told him that she secretly got married to Yi who killed nine sons (nine suns) of God by bow and arrow, so she would be banished to the Moon Palace where she was confined permanently. The rabbit wanted to help Chang’e for he believed she was innocent. However, he worried that he was too weak to offer a help. Suddenly it occurred to the rabbit that it would be much better if someone accompanied her since Chang’e must be very lonely in the Moon Palace. Then he hurriedly came back home and didn’t visit the God. Each of his daughters scrambled to live with Chang’e after they knew what she had suffered. One of them, Tu Yu, the youngest was chosen in the end as she was more prudent than her sister and sang best .So Tu Yu left her parents and sisters for the Moon to stay with Chang’e. This is a legend of “Yu Tu entering the Moon”. Unfortunately, the father rabbit was put into prison as he didn’t visit the God on time, ignoring the God’s command, and sent his daughter into the Moon. As for his wife and daughters, they were punished with becoming stones silently standing on the top of Yun Feng Ling forever.

The legend of “Wu Gang Chopping the Cassia Tree”. Wu Gang (Woodcutter), also named as Wu Quan, was an idle loafer who lived in Hexi in the Han Dynasty. One day, he came back from the outside, and had no appetite for food and drinks, sitting for a long time. His wife, Yuan, told him to eat, but he said he want to cultivate himself to become on immortalslapping the thigh. Wu Gang left home with simple baggage and a small amount of money the next day, and learned magic arts from masters everywhere. However, Wu Gang achieved nothing after a few years and returned home frustrated with disheveled hair and a dirty face in rags after making a long and difficult journey. His wife who waited for him for many years, and gradually lost hope, married another man named Bo Ling, and then gave birth to three children, living a happy life. Wu Gang saw three children playing in the yard, his wife weaving in front of the loom, and a strange man chopping up sticks when he opened the door. Wu Gang was shocked, and felt humiliated and angry, so he took the ax in the hands of Bo Ling, and kicked him down, cutting off his neck with the ax. Wu Gang was convicted and banished to the palace of the moon, because he didn’t know that Bo Ling was the grandson of the God of Yan. The immortal Xin who supervised Wu Gang gave him an ax, and ordered him to cut down a huge cassia tree of five hundred zhang, (a unit of length, 10/3 meters) before he could return to the earth. Though Wu Gang chopped day and night, the magical tree restored itself ceaselessly, and thus he couldn’t stop chopping. The magical tree is still vibrant for eons and it is fragrant on every full moon night. His wife named three children Gu (The drum), Yan and Shu (An ancient weapon made of bamboo) because of her guilt. They also flew to the palace of the moon, accompanying Wu Gang. One of them became a toad, and the other became a rabbit. The "Shu" started to make arrow targets, "Gu" and “Yan” started to make bells, chime stones to develop ways of making music. Since then, the fair-sounding music could be heard from the palace of the moon.

It was said that Li Longji, the Emperor Xuanzong, had roamed the palace of the moon, and recorded these beautiful music in the Tang Dynasty. He created the Melody of White Feathers Garment when he returned to the world.


3)Brief Introduction to the Authors


Prof. TIAN Qian, PhD in anthropology, PhD supervisor and post-doc in management, is the dean of Department of Anthropology and Ethnology of Southwest University, the director of Research Center of Coordinative Development and Planning of Urban and Rural Area of Southwest University, and the head of Intangible Cultural Heritage Institute of Chinese Culture Academy of Chongqing.

TIAN Qian has received a number of awards and titles. He was selected as the first cohort of excellent young and middle-aged experts on ethnic issues of the State Ethnic Affairs Commission and was sponsored by the New Century Talents Program of the Ministry of Education in 2012. He is also a member of Expert Committee on Ethnic Education of the Ministry of Education, and serves as the Deputy Secretary General of China Union of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences. Prof. Tian is an outstanding research fellow of Immigration and Ethnicity Research Center in Sun Yat-Sen University, and serves in the Research Center of Ethnic Minorities in the Southwest Border of Yunnan University, and the Research Center of Anthropology of Xiamen University, as well as the Research Center of Urban and Rural Coordinative Education Development of Southwest University. He has been rewarded as a distinguished professor in Faculty of China Rural Construction of Southwest University.



LUAN Wei, born in Harbin, Heilongjiang Province, in August 1980, is a member of Jiusan Society. She got the bachelor’s degree of Chinese language and literature in 2003, and the master’s degree of Chinese ancient literature in 2006, both in Harbin Normal University, where she studied with Professor Fu Daobin.

Currently she is a Ph.D. of Humanities School in Shanghai JiaoTong University, and a Lecturer of Heilongjiang International University, mainly researches in the area of Chinese ancient literature, comparative literature and cultural theory.



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