In preparation for the upcoming Mid-Autumn Festival, Hao Language Centre organised a traditional lantern making session for our students to carry during the festival’s celebrations, especially since the sense of accomplishment when you proudly carry your own hand-made lantern around is unrivalled!
Mid-Autumn Festival is sometimes wrongly known as mooncake festival or lantern festival. Mooncakes are traditionally eaten as they symbolise family reunion. Unfortunately, they were unsuccessful in stealing the show and the festival was not named after them. Moreover, do you know that the (Spring) Lantern Festival is actually celebrated on the 15th day of Lunar New Year? On the other hand, we celebrate Mid-Autumn Festival on the 15th day of the 8th month of the Lunar calendar, in the middle of autumn, when the moon is at its roundest and brightest. The ancient Chinese believed that the moon was to be thanked for the changes in seasons and good agricultural production and hence, expressed their gratitude to the moon and celebrate their harvest during this festival.
The carrying of lanterns during Mid-Autumn Festival has many different origins. One of which was due to their symbolisation of fertility. Others claim that placing lanterns on rivers were for guiding the spirits of the drowned as practiced during the Ghost Festival, which is observed a month before. But the most famous reason was linked to the legend of Chang’e. According to the legend, a hero named Hou Yi, who was excellent at archery, was the husband of Chang’e. One year, ten suns rose in the sky together, causing great disaster to the people. Hou Yi shot down nine of the suns and left only one to provide light, earning the admiration of an immortal, who then sent him the elixir of immortality. Hou Yi did not want to leave Chang'e and be an immortal without her, so he let Chang'e keep the elixir. Unfortunately, one of Huo Yi’s apprentices, Peng Meng, found out about this secret. So, on the fifteenth of August in the lunar calendar, when Yi went hunting, Peng Meng broke into Yi's house and forced Chang'e to give up the elixir. Chang'e refused to do so and instead, swallowed it, flying into the sky. Since she loved her husband and hoped to live in close proximity, she chose to live on the moon. When Yi came back and learned about what had happened, he despaired and displayed the fruits and cakes Chang'e liked in the yard as sacrifices to his wife. People soon learned about these activities, and since they also were sympathetic to Chang'e they participated in these sacrifices with Yi. Eventually, people added the carrying of lanterns to light the way for Chang’e to the moon. Isn’t this the most interesting reason? Nonetheless, lantern carrying has become so ingrained in our culture that it is hard to find children without them during Mid-Autumn Festival!
And to say the least, our students at Hao Language Centre most certainly had a whale of a time making their own lanterns during this cultural learning session! They loved this hands-on activity while listening to the wildly fascinating legends surrounding Mid-Autumn Festival, which also includes the likes of the jade rabbit, Li Longji and many more! We hope that this session piqued the interest of our students towards the Chinese culture and as a result, increased their motivation for learning Chinese. We can’t wait to see them strutting around with their own handmade lanterns soon!
Wising everyone a fruitful Mid-Autumn Festival!