Friday, September 13, 2013

Mandarin Chinese-- Lesson 33 (Mid-Autumn Festival in Chinese)

Chinese Language Learning Program

Lesson 33 – Mid-Autumn Festival in Chinese 

Hello, everyone. It is so nice to see you again today. This is Baixues Chinese Language Learning Program. Last time, we talked about documents information in Chinese. September 19, 2013 (Chinese lunar year: August 15th, Thursday) will be the ----Mid-Autumn Festival in China. We will celebrate this traditional harvest festival. Do you want to know about this festival? Ok, today, we are going to talk about the Mid-Autumn Festival in Chinese.

zhōng qīu jiē                                                    yuè bǐng       
       (Mid-Autumn Festival)                  (moon cake)

yuè liàng                               cháng  é  
     (moon)                             (change-----a faerie of the moon)

Ok, let see the history of the Mid-Autumn Festival and the faerie of the moon.

Mid-Autumn Festival is the second largest festival (the Spring Festival is the largest one) in China. Every year, the 15th day of the 8th lunar month is the traditional Mid-Autumn Festival. This time is in the middle of the autumn season and at that time of the year the moon is the roundest and brightest. So the 15th day of the 8th lunar month is called mid-Autumn and is also known as the moon festival.

·         History of the Mid-Autumn Festival

Mid-Autumn Festival, also known as the Chinese moon festival, like other Chinese traditional festivals, has a long history.In ancient times, Chinese people already had some "autumn twilight eve" customs---to worship the Moon god. Because they noticed that the movement and shape changing of the moon had a very close relationship with the different seasons and their agricultural harvest. They thought the moon was a very kind of god to take care of them. To express their thanks to the moon god and celebrate their harvest, they offered some sacrifice to the moon god on the mid-autumn day.

According to the records, "Mid-Autumn" first appeared in the book-"Rites". In the Zhou dynasty (1046 - 256 BC), during the Mid-Autumn Festival, people would have the ceremonies to offer some sacrifice to the moon god and welcome the coming of the cold. They would set up a big table, and put the moon cake, watermelon, apples, dates, plums, grapes and other offerings on the table. In these offerings, the moon cake and watermelon were definitely included and the watermelon also had to be cut into lotus-shaped. Then they had to put the moon god statue in the moon direction and lit the candles and do the memorial ceremony with the whole family. After the ceremony, the whole family would eat the moon cakes. These activities were mainly held by the royal class at that time.

But in the Sui (581 - 618 AD) and Tang Dynasty (618 - 907 AD), the Mid-Autumn Festival was more popular in the whole society. At that time, all the people would have to wear adult clothes and pray to the moon god for bless. And in Southern Song Dynasty, moon cake was considered as a gift which takes the meaning of reunion. Some places might have grass dragon dance performances, etc. In Ming and Qing Dynasties, Mid-Autumn Festival was more prevalent and had already become a wildly celebrated traditional festival.

Today, we do not celebrate our traditional festival as our ancestors did, but we still celebrate this special day with mooncakes, wine and all kinds of fruits with our family or friends on the Mid-Autumn Festival day. We also celebrate the good life and pray for health, wealth, happiness for our family and friends.

Mid-Autumn Festival customs may have many different forms, but all these customs are the hopes of infinite love and better lives people rest on.

·         Legends of the Mid-Autumn Festival

When we talk about the Chinese moon festival, we always can think about the Chang’e lend. Actually, there are many legends and stories about the Mid-Autumn Festival. The most well-known ones include the faerie of the moon-Chang’e, Wu Gang Chopping the Laurel Tree, Jade Rabbit Pounding Medicine, and Zhu Yuanzhang and the Moon Cake Uprising, etc. Today, I will only talk about the legend of the faerie of the moon-Chang’e.

The faerie of the moon-Chang’e

In ancient times, there were then suns in the sky. Thers suns burned the crops and people had a really hard time. Then there was a hero named Hou Yi who is mighty. Hou Yi was sympathized with the suffering people, so he climbed to the top of the Kunlun Mountains and shot down nine suns by using his bow and ordered the last sun to rise in the morning and fall in the evening to benefit the people.

After then, Hou Yi was respected and loved by the people. He married a beautiful and kind wife named Chang’e. Hou Yi spent all the time with his wife except hunting and teaching how to hunt. People were all envious of this loving couple.

Many gentlemen visited Hou Yi for learning his skills of hunting, and this also brought the evil person Peng Meng in.

One day, Hou Yi went to the Kunlun Mountains to visit his friends. On the way to Kunlun Mountains, Hou Yi met the Heavenly Queen who gave him the Elixir of Immortality and told him that he must use it wisely. It is said that people can be instantly immortal after taking this dose of Elixir. But, Hou Yi could not leave his wife alone, he let his wife Chang’e put the Elixir away. Chang’e put the Elixir into her treasure box at her dressing table, but this scene was seen by Peng Meng who wanted to steal the Elixir for his immortal.

Three days later, Hou Yi led his students to go hunting, but Peng Meng claimed a faked illness and stayed at home. After Hou Yi and his students left, Peng Meng broke in to Chang’e’s  room with sword in his hand, and he asked Chang E to hand over the elixir. Chang E did not want to give the Elixir to Peng Meng, so she opened the treasure box and swallowed it. Suddenly, Chang’e floated off the ground and flew out of the window and went towards the sky. She became a fairy. Because Chang’e worried about her husband, she just flied to the moon which is the closet planet to the earth. At evening, Hou Yi returned home, the waitress told him everything that happened after he left. Hou Yi was both frightened and angry, so he wanted to kill Peng Meng but Peng Meng escaped earlier before Hou Yi went back home. Hou Yi was so despaired and he looked up at the night sky calling the name of his beloved wife. At that monment, he was surprised to find that the moon was especially bright, and there was a swaying shadow just like his wife Chang-e. He tried to chase the moon, but no matter how he tried he just could not get it.

Hou Yi missed his wife so much but he could do nothing. So he asked people to set up a table at the garden which was Chang’e favorite and put some fresh fruits which were also his lovely wife’s favorite on the table to express his love and miss to his wife.

People in his village all heard about the story of Chang’e, and they all set up tables under the moon to pray Chang’e for good fortune and peace.
Since then, the Mid-Autumn Festival was spread in the folks.   

Ok, every one. Hope you have a wonderful Chinese Moon Festival!

zhōng qīu jiē kuài le                                               
             乐!(Happy Mid-Autumn Festival !)             

See you next time!

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