29 Sep, 2017
10 : 00
At Yew Chung International School of Beijing (YCIS Beijing), students learn to appreciate and embrace both Eastern and Western cultures and traditions. Reinforced though daily language lessons, a unique co-teaching and co-leadership structure, and through school activities originating from both cultures, students begin to self-identify as global citizens rather than simply with that of their home country.
This week at YCIS Beijing, students celebrated the lunar Mid-Autumn Festival. The first major Eastern or Western holiday of the school year, it provided a wonderful opportunity for the entire student body to celebrate and share in the ancient holiday’s rich traditions and history. The day’s activities included making mooncakes, lanterns and laurels, as well as classical poem recitals and a traditional Chinese customs show.
But as with major holidays in every culture, there is a colourful story to the holiday’s origin. In fact, the Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival has three origin stories! This week, students were introduced to each version – tales of moon goddesses, cherry trees and jade rabbits – from which they chose their favourite.
Chang’e Flying to the Moon
Once upon a time, there were 10 suns in the sky. The strength of their bright rays together scorched the planet and led to many hardships for the people on Earth below.
To alleviate the suffering around him, the skilled archer Hou Yi used his bow to shoot down 9 of the 10 suns. As appreciation for saving the Earth from ruin, Hou Yi was given a bottle of immortal elixir by the Western Queen Mother.
Hou Yi did want to become immortal, but he couldn’t bear to live forever without his beautiful wife, Chang’e. Instead of drinking the elixir, he kept it hidden at home.
One day, one of Hou Yi’s archery students, Pang Meng, tried to steal the elixir when Hou Yi wasn’t home. So that Pang Meng couldn’t drink it, Chang’e drank the elixir herself instead. She then flew upwards into the heavens, where she chose the moon as her eternal residence.
In honour of Chang’e, Hou Yi and the people on Earth began to worship the moon with many offerings. And even to this day, children are told that Chang’e still lives on the moon.
Wu Gang Chopping the Cherry Bay
Long, long ago, there lived a woodsman by the name of Wu Gang. One day, Wu Gang decided that he wanted to live forever by becoming a Taoist immortal, but he was lazy and didn’t try hard enough to learn the magic needed to achieve immortality.
Furious with Wu Gang for his laziness, the Jade Emperor decided to punish him. He created a cherry bay tree on the moon and told Wu Gang that if he could cut it down, he would become immortal.
Wu Gang enthusiastically began chopping the tree, excited that he could use his talents as a woodsman to become immortal. But what Wu Gang didn’t know was that the Jade Emperor had tricked him – with each strike of the axe, the cherry bay tree would heal itself anew.
People today still believe that you if you look hard enough, you can see the cherry bay tree in one of the moon’s shadows. And if you stare long enough, you can see Wu Gang, still chopping away for eternity.
The Jade Rabbit
Once upon a time, three animals lived together in the forest: a monkey, a fox, and a rabbit. Together one evening sitting by a fire, they were met by a group of three immortals who were pretending to be beggars asking for food.
At once, the fox and monkey offered food to the immortals. The rabbit was ashamed, however, because she didn’t have anything to offer. Due to her guilt, the rabbit suddenly announced that she’d offer herself as food, and she jumped into the fire.
So touched by the rabbit’s sacrifice, the immortals decided to make her an immortal as well and sent her to live in the Moon Palace.
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