I’m thankful for long breaks and holidays. Tomorrow marks the start of an 8 day vacation in China because it’s like the Mooncake Festival or something abstract and cool, but I’m a little too uncouth to really explain it fully, so instead of trying, I’ll just tell a story from my youth.
Once upon a time, there were ten suns in the sky, which caused the crops to shrivel and the people to starve. But a hero appeared. His name was Hou Yi and he shot down nine of the suns with his red bow and white arrows, and ordered the one remaining sun to rise and set on a predictable schedule. The earth cooled, the rains came, and the people survived.
Now our Hero was a former immortal, who had been banished from heaven, along with his beautiful wife, Chang’e. Hou Yi had inadvertantly killed one of the Emperor’s sons, and upon his demotion, was sentenced to many difficult tasks, similar to the Greek myths of Hercules, one of which was the killing of the extra suns.
While he was greatly honored by the mortals he had saved, he still missed his heavenly home and as the couple grew older, the thought of their certain death began to consume them, so Hou Yi engaged in a constant search for the fabled Elixir of Life.
When he finally procured one magic pill as a gift from Xiwangmu, the Queen Mother of the West who lived on Mount Kunlun, Hou Yi hurried home with it and gave it to his wife for safekeeping, knowing that when mortal life became too much for them, they could split the pill and live on forever.
But there came a night when the moon was full, when Hou Yi was off hunting, that Chang’e was visited by Pengmeng, a lieutenant in Hou Yi’s service who had a habit of eavesdropping and had discovered the couple’s secret. Knowing that Cheng’e kept the pill in her jewelry box, he tried to force past her to take it for himself. Not knowing what else to do, Cheng’e put the pill into her mouth to protect it, but in the ensuing struggle, she swallowed it by mistake.
The sudden effect of the pill caused Cheng’e to soar out of Pengmeng’s grasp, out of her window and up into the sky, just as Hou Yi was returning home. Her husband tried in vain to shoot her down, but his arrows could not reach her. Cheng’e flew ever higher and higher, until she came to rest upon the moon. Hou Yi was heartbroken and wept for days. There was nothing to be done to cheer him up.
The gods saw this from Heaven and they took pity on him. Hou Yi had served the gods well and always did whatever they asked faithfully. Furthermore, he saved the Earth from droughts and monsters when the gods couldn’t be bothered to. Therefore, they decided to grant Hou Yi the right to ascend to the moon once a year to be with his wife.
On that one night, the moon is always the fullest and the brightest, reflecting Hou Yi’s love for Chang’E.
Pretty cool, huh?
Today, I’m mostly just happy that it’s Friday. I have a long, long weekend to look forward to and I’m really, really excited to just go home and sleep in.