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Az ősz közepének ünnepén, azaz a nyolcadik holdhónap 15. napján ünneplik Kínában a betakarítási időszak végét. A hold, amely ilyenkor különösen nagy, a legfontosabb szimbóluma az ünnephez kapcsolódó szokásoknak. A családok és barátok a holdfényben ülve, együtt töltik az estét, közben "holdsütemény"-t, majszolnak, és felidézik a holdbéli kínai asszony, Change istennő legendáját.
A Holdhoz a női, yin princípiumot társítják. A Napot és a Holdat mindig párként képzelték el, a yin-yang erőkről alkotott fogalmaknak megfelelően. A kínai császárok régtől fogva végeztek szertartásokat a Nap és a Hold tiszteletére. Az utolsó dinasztia idején Pekingben külön templomok szolgáltak a Nap és a Hold tiszteletére. Kétévenként egyszer (a páros illetve a páratlan években) a császár személyesen mutatott be áldozatot a két templomban. A taoista vallás elterjedése óta a Napot és a Holdat antropomorf istenségként is ábrázolták Taiyang illetve Taiyin néven. A népi nyomatokon szép külsejű emberpár jeleníti meg a Nap és a Hold szellemét. Néha más istenségeket használtak fel a megjelenítésükre. A Hold istennőjeként tisztelték a hős íjász, Yi feleségét, Change-t. A legenda szerint Yi megszerezte Xiwangmu istennőtől a halhatatlanság italát, felesége, Change azonban ellopta tőle, majd miután megitta ezt a varázsitalt és halhatatlanná vált, felszállt a Holdba, s örökre ottmaradt. A Holddal kapcsolatban felbukkan egy csodálatos nyúl alakja is. A legenda szerint a jádenyúl a Holdon növő fahéjfa alatt él, és egy mozsárban töri a halhatatlanság elixírjét. Change holdbéli palotájának neve: Guanghan gong, a "Széles hideg palota". Ezen a csodás helyen a későbbi hagyomány szerint páratlan szépségű leányok élnek, és nő a fahéjfa is. A Hold a kínai ünnepek alkalmával is jelentős szerephez jut. A hagyományos kínai naptár is a Hold ciklusait követi. A telihold mindig lenyűgözte a kínaiakat, ilyenkor szokás volt a szabadban sétálgatva gyönyörködni a fényes Holdban, különösen a 8. holdhónap 15. napján, ami a Holdünnep. Ilyenkor általánosan elterjedt szokás a jellegzetes holdsütemény fogyasztása. A piktúrában, a tájképeken szintén gyakorta megjelenik a telihold, de a költők is előszeretettel szerepeltették verseikben. A telihold egyik legnagyobb szerelmesének a 8. században élt költőfejedelmet, Li Bai-t tartják.
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Moon Cake Molds
Since moon cakes are usually only available for one month of the year, they are often very expensive and hard-to-find. With these beautiful hand-carved hardwood molds, you can make your own moon cakes at home for friends and family. Furthermore, the detail on these molds is so exquisite that they also make excellent butter molds, and when not in use, beautiful decorations for the walls of your kitchen.
During the Yuan dynasty (A.D.1280-1368) China was ruled by the Mongolian people. Leaders from the preceding Sung dynasty (A.D.960-1280) were unhappy at submitting to foreign rule, and set how to coordinate the rebellion without it being discovered. The leaders of the rebellion, knowing that the Moon Festival was drawing near, ordered the making of special cakes. Backed into each moon cake was a message with the outline of the attack. On the night of the Moon Festival, the rebels successfully attacked and overthrew the government. What followed was the establishment of the Ming dynasty (A.D. 1368-1644). Today, moon cakes are eaten to commemorate this legend.
Moon Cake Festival: A Mid-Autumn Festival (Chung Chiu), the third major festival of the Chinese calendar, is celebrated on the 15th day of the eighth month. This festival corresponds to harvest festival s observed by Western cultures (in Hong Kong, it is held in conjunction with the annual Lantern Festival).
Contrary to what most people believe, this festival probably has less to do with harvest festivities than with the philosophically minded chinese of old. The union of man's spirit with nature in order to achieve perfect harmony was the fundamental canon of Taoism, so much so that contemplation of nature was a way of life.
This festival is also known as the Moon Cake Festival because a special kind of sweet cake (yueh ping) prepared in the shape of the moon and filled with sesame seeds, ground lotus seeds and duck eggs is served as a traditional Chung Chiu delicacy. Nobody actually knows when the custom of eating moon cake of celebrate the Moon Festival began, but one relief traces its origin to the 14th century. At the time, China was in revolt against the Mongols. Chu Yuen-chang, and his senior deputy, Liu Po-wen, discussed battle plan and developes a secret moon cake strategy to take a certain walled city held by the Mongol enemy. Liu dressed up as a Taoist priest and entered the besieged city bearing moon cake. He distributed these to the city's populace. When the time for the year's Chung Chiu festival arrived, people opened their cakes and found hidden messages advising them to coordinate their uprising with the troops outside. Thus, the emperor-to-be ingeniously took the city and his throne. Moon cake of course, became even more famous. Whether this sweet Chinese version of ancient Europe's "Trojan Horse" story is true, no one really known.
The moon plays a significant part of this festival. In Hong Kong, any open space or mountain top is crowded with people trying to get a glimpse of this season's auspicious full moon.
First lady on the moon: It is generally conceded that Neil Armstrong , the American astronaut, was the first man on moon ( he made that historic landing in 1969). But that's not necessarily the truth to Chinese, who believe that the first people on the moon was a beautiful woman who lived during the Hsia dynasty (2205-1766BC)
This somewhat complicated moon-landing story goes like this: A woman , Chang-O, was married to the great General Hou-Yi of the Imperial Guard. General Hou was a skilled archer. One day, at the behest of the emperor, he shot down eight of nine suns that had mysteriously appeared in the heaven that morning. His marksmanship was richly rewarded by the emperor and he became very famous. However, the people feared that these suns would appear again to torture them and dry up the planet, so they prayed to the Goddess of Heaven (Wang Mu) to make General Hou immortal so that he could always defend the emperor, his progeny and the country. Their wish was granted and General Hou was given a Pill of Immortality.
Another version of this story notes that Chang-O, the wife of the Divine Archer, shot down nine of ten suns plaguing the world and received the Herb of Immortality as a reward.
Whoever the hero was, Chang-O grabbed the pill (or the herb) and fled to the moon. In some versions it is uncertain whether she ever actually got there, because Chinese operas always portray her as still dancing-flying toward the moon.
When Chang-O reached the moon, she found a tree under which there was a friendly hare. Because the air on the moon is cold, she began coughing and the Immortality Pill came out of her throat. She thought it would be good to pound the pill into small pieces and scatter them on Earth so that everyone could be immortal. So she ordered the hare to pound the pill, built a palace for herself and remained on the moon.
This helpful hare is referred to in Chinese mythology as the Jade Hare. Because of his and Chang-O's legendary importance, you will see - stamped on every mooncake, every mooncake box, and every Moon Cake Festival poster - images of Chang-O and sometimes the Jade Hare.
The old man on the moon: There is a saying in Chinese that marriages are made in heaven and prepared on the moon. The man who does the preparing is the old man of the moon (Yueh Lao Yeh). This old man, it is said, keep as a record book with all the names of newborn babies. He is the one heavenly person who knows everyone's future partners, and nobody can fight the decisions written down in his book. He is one reason why the moon is so important in Chinese mythology and especially at the time of the Moon Festival. Everybody including children, hikes up high mountains or hills or onto open beached to view the moon in the hope that he will grant their wishes.
To celebrate this sighting of the moon, red plastic lanterns wrought in traditional styles and embellished with traditional motifs are prepared for the occasion. It is quite a sight to see Victoria Park in Causeway Bay, or Morse Park in Kowloon, alight with thousands of candlelit lanterns. These "Lantern Carnivals" also occur spontaneously on most of the colony's beaches.
The lantern are made in such traditional shapes are rabbits, goldfish, carps, butterflies, lobsters and star-shaped fruits. However, in modern Hong Kong you will also see lantern in the shape of missiles, airplanes, rockets, ships and tanks. In Chinese mythology, the butterfly is the symbols of longevity and the lobster the symbols or mirth. Star-shaped fruit is the seasonal fruit in the autumn, and the crap is an old symbol of the Emperor, personifying strength, courage, wisdow and, of course, power.
1 - The Mongol Rule
In AD 1280, the Mongolians came from northern China and destroyed the Song Dynasty (AD 960 to 1280). They established a dynasty in China called the Yuan Dynasty (AD1280 to 1368) and they treated the Northern Han-Chinese as third class citizens and the Southern Han-Chinese as fourth class citizens. Oppressed, suppressed, mistreated and persecuted, the generally ill-treated Han Chinese were regarded and condemned to slavery. Under the Mongol rule, the Han-Chinese went through much hardship and had enough of the Mongols. Thus, between AD 1348 and 1353, many organized groups of people throughout the country such as Fang Guo Zhen of the Zhejiang province, Liu Fu Tong of the Anhui province, Li Er of the Jiangsu province, Zhu Yuan Zhang and many others started to rebel against the Mongol rule.
The fall of the Mongol rule came when in the beginning Liu Fu Tong was finding a place to convene his meetings with his followers to rebel against the Mongolians, as they had kept the Han-Chinese under very strict surveillance. Gatherings of a group of people were forbidden according to Mongolian laws. Therefore around Mid-Autumn in AD 1351 when the moon was beginning to go very big, round and bright, Liu devised a plan. He went to seek permission from the Mongolian District Officer to allow him to give gifts to friends as a symbolic gesture to bless the longevity of the Mongolian Emperor. The District Officer gladly agreed. Liu then made a lot of sweet round cakes shaped like the full moon and called them "Moon Cakes". Inside each cake, he put a piece of paper with the words, "Kill The Tartars on the night of the 15th of the 8th moon". He gave every household a cake and he also told them that they must eat the cakes only on the night of the 15th of the 8th moon.
When the day finally arrived, the Han-Chinese cut their cakes to eat it. To their surprise, they discovered the messages inside the cakes. On that night, all the Mongolians including the District Officer living in Ying Zhou were killed. Therefore, Liu Fu Tong established this base as a stepping stone for his rebellion. However, it was actually Zhu Yuan Zhang who exterminated the Yuan Dynasty and thus established the Ming Dynasty (AD 1368 to 1644).
Hence, to commemorate and celebrate the victory over the Yuan Dynasty, people started to make and eat the sweet cakes or mooncakes on that night every year.
2 - Lady Moon
The legend or rather myth goes of a beautiful lady in the moon and it was invented by story-tellers of the Tang Dynasty. Chang Er was born into a family of a poor farmer. She grew up as an ordinary and simple village girl. When she was eighteen, a young hunter named Hou Yi came hunting behind the hill of Chang Er's village. He was from another village and was an excellent shooter with his bow and arrow. While passing through Chang Er's village, he saw a beautiful girl attending to the fowls in front of her house. He was attracted to her by her beauty. The next day, he went back to her village, but not to hunt. He hoped to see this beautiful girl whom he had seen the previous day. He waited for a long time to see her and alas, he met Chang Er and they soon became friends. Then a strange and peculiar phenomena occurred.
One day, ten suns instead of one rose in the East. The blazing suns shone so brightly down on earth that the earth became extremely hot. Everything was drying up and many people was dying of dehydration. The people could do nothing but to await their death due to the excruciating heat. Then, an idea struck Hou Yi on how to save the world. He climbed up a very high mountain and with his bow and arrows, he shot down the nine suns. The weather of the earth returned to normal and Hou Yi was hailed as the hero of his people and they made him King because they were so grateful to him for saving their lives. King Hou Yi married Chang Er and they lived happily.
However, over time King Hou Yi began to change. He knew that man could not live forever and he was not satisfied as a mortal King. He became very superstitious and employed many sorcerers to report to him about the activities and whereabouts of any fairy or immortal who was traveling about in the country. In spite of this, one sorcerer stood out as his reports were the most reliable. He told King Hou Yi that he could make an elixir by way of alchemy but in the process of making this elixir, he needed many children for the production. Therefore, King Hou Yi agreed. Chang Er on the other hand was frustrated and was totally against King Hou Yi for being cruel and inhumane to his subjects, but there was nothing she could do as she was just a simple wife. King Hou Yi ordered his army to round up all the children in the land for this project and many families lost their children. The people were very angry, but King Hou Yi did not care. His troops snatched the children away from their families to be sacrificed for the accomplishment of the elixir tablet.
One night, Chang Er sneaked inside the production chamber and she saw the nearly finished product, the elixir tablet inside a big tube. She took it out to look at it but was caught by the sorcerer when he came inside the chamber. Chang Er tried to hide the tablet but found nowhere to hide it. Therefore, she put it into her mouth. When the sorcerer demanded that she return the tablet and forced her to produce it, Chang Er was very frightened and accidentally swallowed it. The sorcerer then raised the alarm and accused Chang Er of swallowing the tablet. King Hou Yi was very furious and angry and demanded that his wife return the tablet. Chang Er refused and the two men chased her around the chamber and eventually she managed to run outside. They would not let her go and they continued to give chase. There was no way she could run away from them. Seeing no way out, she jumped down from the top of the palace. Strangely, she did not fall to the ground. Instead, she kept floating in the air and was drifting skyward. King Hou Yi asked the place guards for his bow and arrows. He shot Chang Er with his arrows but missed every time he aimed at her. The elixir tablet had turned Chang Er into an immortal and she became a fairy. She kept floating into the sky and although King Hou Yi continued to shoot his arrows at her, none of the arrows did any harm to her. Chang Er continued to drift skywards until she arrived on the moon.
Therefore, the next time you visit a Chinese shop and you see a picture of a beautiful girl with the background of a full moon, that is Chang Er.