By Rev. Norman Fong

September 20, 2018

norman fong

Over 1.3 billion Chinese in China (as well millions of ethnic Chinese and Vietnamese around the world) will be looking at the moon on September 24 during the evening. The old will think of old times, old places, old traditions and ancestors. The young will enjoy the sweets, moon cakes and lanterns (only in Southern China are lanterns featured). These shared experiences connect the Chinese world-wide and it is these festivals, rituals, foods and shared experiences that makes us Chinese.

Today (9/16/2018), we are celebrating the Moon Festival here in San Francisco’s Chinatown through our annual Mid-Autumn Moon Festival Street Fair on Grant Avenue (sponsored by the Chinatown Merchants’ Association) and lots of people are shopping for mooncakes, fruits and lanterns to celebrate this great Chinese Festival. As a little kid, I remember our family tasting all the different Mooncakes and trying to guess which one is best. Some kids liked the egg center while others did not.

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autumn moon festival


I also remember these cool stories about how a skilled Archer named Hou Yi saved the world because there were 10 Suns! He shot nine suns out of the sky because the earth was getting too hot and the harvest was drying up. One Sun is enough! He became a hero and encountered the Mother Goddess of Heaven who gave him the elixir of immortality so that he could be with his wife Chang E forever. However, a bad guy wanted to steal the elixir when Hou Yi was gone and in order to save the world from the evil guy, she drank the elixir and flew to the moon. For a few thousand years, to this day, on the 15th day of the eighth lunar month, (September 24th in 2018), we celebrate the full moon and it’s food offerings of moon cakes, apples, pears, peaches, grapes, pomegranates, watermelons, oranges… which Chang E liked (Hou Yi’s wife).

The other Moon Festival story I remember is about the mooncakes. During the end of the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368), the general populace were totally upset with the unbelievably cruel government at the time. It is said that Zhu Yuanzhang, the first emperor of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) , set out to organize an uprising and his general came up with the idea of putting messages in Mooncakes to let everyone know when to revolt against the government. So even the mooncakes we eat are symbolic of uniting together for the good of the people! Wow! Isn’t that a great story?

The moon festival is sometimes referred to as “The Festival of Reunion” when we all come together and are all united. These stories also inspire some of us to remember to appreciate our culture, our stories of heroism and our oneness in the world. From a Chinatown point of view, I wish we could all be united more. Sometimes we divide ourselves over politics or issues, rather than celebrate and appreciate just how much we can accomplish together. Everybody, look up at the moon on September 24, and appreciate our unity around the world and the stories and legends that inspire us to overcome 9 suns to a corrupt government… We are all brothers and sisters “under the moon”.

Originally published in Sing Tao Daily on September 16, 2018

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