The Moon Festival in Taiwan

By Charles Wetzel

The Moon on October 3, 2009

My boss at Amigo School, Cindy, invited me (graciously) to spend the Moon Festival with her family. I made sure to bring a camera, take notes, and ask questions so as to learn from the experience.

The Moon Festival occurs on a full moon. There are two stories about who we're watching when we look at the moon (both told to me by Ruyi, my boss' 13-year-old daughter):

The Story of Chang-e

There was once a woman named Chang-e who had a husband named Houyi. Houyi was a great archer, but was also a very evil man (or at least he turned evil at the time of this story).

He sought to rule the world by shooting down all the suns in the sky (at that time, there were apparently nine suns). He also obtained an elixir of eternal life from the gods and intended to drink it and have some kind of a twisted reign of darkness and live forever.

However, Chang-e decided that she could not allow Houyi, her evil husband, to go through with his plot. After Houyi had shot down eight of the nine suns, Chang-e drank all the elixir herself. This caused her to fly into space, landing on the moon, and more importantly, it meant that Chang-e couldn't live forever.

Thanks to Chang-e, we are spared the tyranny of Houyi. Every Moon Festival, we can observe the moon and know that Chang-e is up there.

The Story of the Bunny

There were a bunch of animals that were making sacrifices of food to the gods. The bunny didn't have anything to sacrifice. So he cooked himself. To reward him, the gods made him into the moon.

As for the actual event itself, it was cool. I brought sun cakes (the Sanhe shop was out of moon cakes). They provided us with tons of grilled meat. We went through quite an ordeal to get the charcoal smoldering. Finally, I went into their yard and gathered up a bunch of brush, compacted it, used it as tinder, and just kept throwing more and more on top of the charcoal until they started smoldering. We cooked Taiwanese sausage, odeng, beef, etc.

The neighbors were shooting off tons of fireworks. By Cindy's family's estimate, it had to have been at least 5,000 NTD (well over $100 US) worth of fireworks. I didn't get any pictures of them, but I did get a picture of some Moon Festival fireworks as I pulled into Cijin Harbor on a boat.

Hmm, what else is there to mention? Well, on the Friday prior to the Moon Festival, one of my teams of students tried to name themselves "Team Keep on Eating Meat Until You Poo-Poo" because of the amount of grilled meat Taiwanese people eat on the Moon Festival (Taiwanese kids love the word "poo-poo"). I didn't allow that name, because I'm trying to keep my job. Instead, we had one team named "Team Pork" and one named "Team Beef."

Taiwanese Moon Festival Fast Facts:

  • When invited to a Moon Festival celebration, you should bring something. Moon cakes are preferable, but if sold out (likely), bring sun cakes.
  • One story for who is on the moon is the story of Chang-e, a story about a woman who prevented her evil husband from shooting down all the suns, drank his eternal life elixir, and was whisked into the heavens where she became the moon.
  • Another story for who is on the moon is the story of THE BUNNY. THE BUNNY sacrificed himself to the gods because he didn't have any food to give, and was commemorated by having his image on the moon.
  • Taiwanese people grill copious amounts of beef, pork, Taiwanese sausage, etc. on this day.
  • They celebrate outside so they can observe the moon, shoot of fireworks, and do their grilling.

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