The interviewer’s initials are denoted through the initials BD, while the informant’s responses are marked as MW.
MW: My mom told me not to point at the moon. I don’t know why, but she said that if you point at the moon with your hand, your ear will get cut off.
BD:Where did your mom get this belief?
MW: Her mom told her, like my grandma.
BD: Your mom’s from Taiwan, right?
MW: But my grandma is from China.
BD: Is this belief common? Like, do other people believe in it?
MW: I think it’s common, in Taiwan.
Upon researching this piece of folklore further, I found that there is a story that accompanies this belief. The goddess of the moon is angered when she is pointed at, because that is disrespectful to her. As a punishment, she will cut off the pointer’s ear in their sleep. A Taiwanese publication includes this belief in list of some more surprising superstitions: http://focustaiwan.tw/news/afav/201603200005.aspx.
The interviewer’s initials are denoted through the initials BD, while the informant’s responses are marked as JL.
BD: So tell me about this legend.
JL: Okay, so there’s a legend about this woman who lives in the moon. She is the goddess of the moon, and what happened is there was this guy, a warrior—I guess the equivalent would be like Apollo, because he’s an archer. And he shoots down the suns. There’s like ten suns, back then, eons ago. And he shoots down nine of them because having ten was just way too much. The earth was just way too hot, and the people couldn’t do anything like grow crops and stuff because it was just too hot. So this guy comes along and shoots down nine of the suns—he has to keep one, otherwise there would be no daytime, but it’s a perfect balance where it’s not too hot. Because of his feat, he was granted a potion of immortality, but he didn’t drink it. He was a sweet guy, and didn’t want to leave his wife behind. He didn’t want to watch her grow old while he was immortal forever. So he stored it in his house. But then his apprentice broke into his house and tried to steal the potion, and the warrior’s wife instead drinks it herself. I guess, so it wouldn’t fall into the wrong hands—his apprentice was not a cool dude. So her spirit went to the moon and she lives there immortal forever.
BD: Why the moon?
JL: I have no idea.
BD: Do most people know this story?
JL: Yes, it’s one of the better known myths in China. Like how everyone know the Greek gods, the moon lady is one of the better known stories.
There are many variations of this legend, likely in part because of how common it is in Chinese folklore. This is not the first time I’ve heard of the moon goddess, but this is the first time I have heard of her origins. Another version of this legend can be found at: http://www.moonfestival.org/the-legend-of-chang-e.html. The moon goddess is named as Chang’e. This legend is very interesting, because from it stems a lot of folklore regarding the moon. Superstitions such as pointing at the moon will cause the moon goddess to cut off your ear are related to this legend. A lot of Chinese cultural values also present themselves in this legend. The importance of family, and not leaving anyone behind is a very apparent one. Another is the importance of sacrificing for your family, which the goddess does—she does not want to live without her husband either, but she must in order to prevent his apprentice from obtaining the potion.