Have you seen the rabbit on the moon?
Many Chinese believe that you can see a hare on the moon, pounding in a pestle the Elixir of Long life for Chang’E, the Moon Goddess of Immortality.
The legend tells us about Chang’e, the faithful wife of Hou Yi the archer that saved humanity by shooting down all but one of the Ten Suns that were scorching the earth.
His brave actions were rewarded by The Queen Mother of the West (Xi Wang Mu) with one dose of the Elixir of Long Life she brewed in her heavenly orchard.
The Elixir would have provided Hou Yin with godlike powers and granted him eternal life as an Immortal. But incapable of leaving his beloved wife, Hou Yi chose to hide the potion away.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t long before apprentice Feng Meng heard about the Elixir and broke into his master’s house while he was away to steal it. Chang’e was left alone to defend it, and as a last resort to prevent vile Feng Meng from becoming Immortal, she drank it herself.
Chang’e soon floated away from Heart to the moon, never to meet her husband again. According to tradition, she is still there today, pounding medicine and elixirs for humankind along with her faithful companion the Hare.
People in China still celebrate Chang’e sacrifice during the Moon Festival by offering mooncakes and telling stories about her life, her husband Hou Yi, and the Moon Rabbit.
Here are some of our favourite children books about the Mid-Autumn Festival and its traditions.
Celebrating the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival: Our Favourite Mid-Autumn Moon Festival Children Books
Lin Yi’s mother has sent him to the local market to buy food for the Moon Festival, but what he really wants is a red rabbit lantern. Will he barter well enough to be able to buy one?
I’m a huge fan of Barefoot Books, so I knew “Lin’Yi Lantern” had to be good. In case the publisher’s reputation wasn’t enough, the charming painting-like illustrations by Benjamin Lacom will surely win you over. The lovely story set in timeless rural China, the visual imagery, there is so much to unpack from this book. Even better, like most of Barefoot Books, it includes cultural insights on the festivity and even instructions for children to create their own paper lantern.
The idea of “roundness” carries a very special meaning in Chinese culture. Anything that is wholesome, positive, and fundamental comes in a round shape for Chinese: the dining table, the rice bowl, the bread buns, and let’s not forget the mighty coins. Ultimately, the Mid-Autumn Festival is an occasion for families to sit together at the round table with bowls full of rice, to tell each other stories and to thank the moon for the generous harvest.
“Mooncakes“ is the lyrical story of a young girl who shares the special celebration of the Chinese Moon Festival with her parents. As they eat mooncakes, drink tea and watch the night sky together, Mama and Baba tell ancient tales of a magical tree that can never be cut down, the Jade Rabbit who came to live on the moon and one brave woman’s journey to eternal life.
“Moonbeams, Dumplings & Dragon Boats” is hands down one of my favourite children books about China, and the one I consider as “The” standard for culture-related non-fiction children’s books.
Bestselling cookbook author Nina Simonds and Leslie Swartz of the Boston Children’s Museum know how to appeal to a younger audience by pairing myths and legends with recipes, crafts and hands-on activities for children to actually try.
On a rainy afternoon, three sisters wish for the rain to stop, wish they could play in the puddles, wish for something, anything, to do. So Ying-ying, their grandmother, tells them a tale from long ago. On the night of the Moon Festival, when Ying-ying was a little girl, she encountered the Moon Lady, who grants the secret wishes of those who ask, and learned from her that the best wishes are those you can make come true yourself.
Being an adaptation from the author’s best-seller “The Joy Luck Club”, “The Moon Lady” has a complexity of themes and subtexts uncommon for children’s literature. However, engaging storytelling and the lavish illustration will surely keep the children engaged.
The fact that two books on this list are from author Grace Lin really goes to show how significant her work is for Sino-American children literature.
A Caldecott Honor-winning picture book, “A Big Mooncake for Little Star” is a simple story filled with memorable elements: a fantastical kitchen in the middle of the night sky, a little girl, a lovely mom, and a huge mooncake.
by Grace Lin
A Chinese American family is preparing to celebrate the mid-Autumn Festival with a moonlight picnic. The family is busy making mooncakes, slicing pomelo, brewing tea, and setting up lanterns.
Together, they will make wishes to the moon and thank her for the peaceful year they had.
With simple and colorful storytelling, author Grace Lin walks us through the rituals of the Moon Festival, focusing on the convivial, thanksgiving aspects of the holiday.
Little Mei wants to know why her family members have all come together this evening. Grandpa tells her the story of Hou Yi who shot down the suns and his wife, Chang’e, who floats to the moon.
Translated to English by Mina Tenison, “Celebrating the Mid-Autumn Festival” includes a mooncake recipe, albeit not as simple as promised. Nonetheless, it’s a very pleasant narration of the myth of Chang’e and Hou Yi, told by a Chinese author with a Chinese audience in mind.
Is the Mid-Autumn festival and two sisters are enjoying their delicious mooncakes. “But do you know who they are for?” Aks Ah-ma.
Do you know about the Shadow in the moon?
How about Hou Yi, the brave archer?
Have you heard of Chang’e bravery and sacrifice?
Fortunately, Ah-ma is here to tell us all about it.
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