Chinese Autumn Story

Main Piece: “ So there’s a story that’s called the Chinese Autumn Story. Basically, a really long time ago in China there were about ten suns in the sky. So, obviously because there were ten suns it was pretty hot and there was a drought. People were running out of water to drink and the crops in the rice fields were withering and in China rice is pretty important. But, a famous archer, his name was Hòu yì, was asked to shoot down 9 of the suns in the sky.  He did it successfully and was rewarded a “pill of the immortality.” Hòu yì went home and gave this pill to his wife, Cháng’é to keep safe. But, a visitor of the archer’s heard about this pill and wanted to steal it from his wife. As the visitor was about to steal the pill from her, the archer’s wife Cháng é swallowed it. After she took the pill she felt super light. Then she started to float and she flew all the way to the moon. When Cháng é got to the moon she coughed up the pill and the pill became a rabbit.  The rabbit was the only companion Cháng é (the Moon Fairy) had on the moon and is named the “Jade Rabbit.””

Background Information: The informant learned this story from his parents who were born and raised in Hong Kong, China. This story talks about how the Autumn festival is what it is today. The festival is time to enjoy rice and wheat with food offerings made in honor of the moon. It is still an occasion for outdoor reunions among friends and relatives to eat mooncakes and watch the moon, a symbol of harmony and unity. The informant describes the event as a massive gathering of friends and family.

Context: In a coffee shop in Los Angeles

Thoughts: The moon in this story seems to be symbolic for women as well. Moons are usually telling in that they correlate with a menstration cycle, so this moon story/goddess might be symbolic of that. It is also interesting that during the festival people eat mooncakes, which again is related to the idea of the moon and how this is important for females. In this story, the wife does not get punished for swallowing the pill which is different from other stories like Adam and Eve where Eve gets into a lot of trouble for trying the apple. This might suggest a difference in culture and also more high regards for women in Chinese culture.

For another version of this story see the book “Mooncakes” by Loretta Seto