Harvest Festival in Chinese tradition

Context: My informant is a 26 year-old woman who is of Chinese descent. She grew up in Hong Kong and lived there until she moved to Pasadena at the age of 7. Listed below is an account of a Chinese holiday called “Harvest Festival”. She detailed her experience of the holiday growing up and where the story that surrounds the holiday comes from. She knows and loves these stories from personal experience.


“There’s this thing called the ‘Harvest Festival’ which we celebrate on the harvest moon which is in September and basically there’s this tale behind it where earth had 10 suns, which was too hot, and this soldier would shoot down the 9 suns so there would only be one. The emperor then gave him an elixir that would make the soldier live forever, he said oh great, takes it home and marries the love of his life. He then went off to war and the wife, out of curiosity, drank the elixir and eventually became the moon. This was a curse so she couldn’t be with the love of her life. So now the story goes that he could never be with her since she is so far away but, on the day of the harvest moon, the moon is the closest to the earth so he can be with her. We light lanterns and they guide the way for him to see her. We eat mooncakes and walk around the street with paper lanterns on that day too.”


I found this story beautifully mystical and extremely interesting. I was not familiar with any Chinese lore before talking to the informant about this and I am really excited to learn more. The symbol of the moon being eternal and also feminine is magical and I have always seen the moon in a more feminine light as well. I also find it fascinating that their holiday is centered around the moon. I am curious to know where this connection to the lunar calendar ties in. I would like to know where the lesson of the curse comes in. It might be connected to greed or not following one’s orders as the wife drank the elixir even though her husband said not to. I loved hearing the intricate beauty in this story and am excited to learn more about Chinese culture.

For another reference of this holiday, check here: