Friday, September 12, 2008

Lantern Festival

News taken from the star...just a brief story ...

IT was a Sunday night like no other. With the weather cooperating, although the haze somewhat compromised the view, many Malaysians took the opportunity to look up into the heavens and watch a magnificent phenomenon unfold. The moon was slowly disappearing and at 9.02pm, it totally disappeared from the sky over the peninsular. And the total eclipse only ended at 10.49. And those watching that night will not be around when it next happens, which is 1,000 years from now.

On such a historic night, what were we thinking of? Neil Armstrong, the first man on the moon? Or Wu Gang the woodcutter? Or perhaps Chang-Er. Maybe some were thinking of a Werewolf in London.

The moon definitely spins countless legends throughout the ages. And here in Malaysia, and elsewhere in the world where there is a Chinese population, we celebrate the Mooncake Festival. Never mind the scientific and astronomical and astrological stuff, for come the 15th day of the Eight Lunar Month in the Chinese calendar, children still come out to play with lanterns and mooncakes are devoured and exchanged. Much of the cultural significance has disappeared but it is still a day to be remembered.

thestar.com.my celebrates the Mooncake Festival by bringing you a special feature, "Once upon a Moon." filled with interesting facts and articles about the Festival and the moon in general. Check back every week for new articles, photo essays and promotions moon-wise.

WHILE its origin is based on a historical event, the annual Mooncake Festival is also associated with fascinating lunar legends and myths. MAJORIE CHIEW finds that though man has long conquered the moon, old traditions die hard.

THE Mooncake Festival, also known as Mid-Autumn Festival, falls on the 15th day of the eighth lunar month which is Sept 24 this year. Historically, it was a harvest festival for farmers but traditionally, womenfolk worshipped Chang-Er, the moon goddess.

Mooncakes are also known as "reunion cakes" as family members gather to partake of the sweet confectionery.Mooncakes are eaten throughout the month before the actual festival day. They make meaningful gifts for kith and kin.

In the evenings, children gleefully carry lanterns of all shapes and sizes. The bearing of lanterns and the origin of mooncakes date back to a 14th century revolt by the Chinese against the Mongols.

In 1376, the Chinese overthrew the Yuan (Mongol) dynasty (1280-1376) in an uprising brilliantly hatched by lantern-bearing messengers who delivered mooncakes with hidden messages.

Legend has it that the time and place of the revolution were concealed in the mooncakes sent to friends and relatives. The midnight massacre of the Mongols was led by Liu Bowen.
Today, altars are set up outside the house facing the full moon on the night of the festival. The "harvest moon" is at its brightest and roundest this time of the year.

Offerings of mooncakes, mini yams and water caltrops are laid out for Chang-Er, also known as the Moon Lady. Round fruits are offered as the shape symbolises the fullness of the moon and family harmony.

Some women peel pomelos and mini yams in the belief that they will have a flawless complexion. Others pray to the moon goddess hoping to be blessed with good husbands.
The classic tale of Chang-Er, the beautiful moon goddess, is associated with the Mooncake Festival. Pictures of her in a flowy gown floating to the moon commonly adorn mooncake boxes.

Folklore has it that she was married to the divine archer Hou Yi, who shot nine out of 10 suns that were causing havoc. For his deed, the Queen Mother of the West gave him the elixir of life. Chang-Er stole her husband's potion of immortality, drank it and found herself floating to the moon. There she lives out her days in the cold lonely moon palace with a furry rabbit for companion.

A slightly different version says that Hou Yi was a tyrannical ruler. Chang-Er drank the magic potion to prevent him from becoming immortal.

Another myth tells of woodcutter Wu Gang who was banished to the moon and became Chang-Er's friend and servant. The Jade Emperor punished Wu Gang by ordering him to cut down a cassia tree. It was a task that could never be completed as the tree is immortal and would grow back each time it is felled.

Moon worship has its roots in China's Sung (960-1127), Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties, when commoners and emperors alike observed the practice.
Imperial chefs made mooncakes over a metre in diameter with designs of the moon goddess, the moon palace and cassia tree. Ordinary mooncakes were several centimetres in diameter.

During the Qing dynasty, mooncakes were renamed "moonflowers". In Mandarin, the word yuebing for mooncakes sounds like "monthly sickness" (or menstruation). The Empress Dowager Ci Xi staged rituals for an elaborate moon festival lasting from the 13th through the 17th day of the eighth lunar month.

Some Chinese families today still stay up late to observe the occasion eating mooncakes, sipping tea and gazing at the beautiful moon. It is regarded the perfect moment if someone catches the moon's reflection in the centre of his or her teacup.


I have made this lantern for the event after being inspired by Michell aka Chow Chow...such a lovely project



3 comments:

Chowchow said...

Nadhrah - this is such a beautiful lantern. I love it!!! Well done my dear...

teacher jessy said...

Wow, Nadrah I love how you placed the small flowers!! So beautiful!!

Scrappingglitz said...

Thanks ladies...lets celebrate together!