The idea of a moon rabbit was introduced to China through a Buddhist legend. Once upon a time the Buddha, in the guise of a hungry old man pleaded with the
animaUs of the forest for food. Every creature came forward bringing such food as it could. When it came to the turn of the rabbit, he modestly stepped forward with empty hands:
‘Master, I have grown up in the woods. Herbs and grasses are my food. I have nothing else to offer you but my body’. So saying the hare jumped into the fire
and roasted himself for the starving man. In recognition of such a supreme sacrifice the Buddha transferred the rabbit to the moon to be remembered for all time by posterity.
But the moon rabbit is not the only inhabitant of the moon. Keeping him company is Wu Chang, the Chinese answer to the legend of Sisyphus. Wu Chang was a man
of ancient China who sought immortality. But his ambition angered the Jade Emperor (the supreme deity in Taoist cosmology) who exiled him to the moon from which he was not to return until he had succeeded in felling
a 5,000-foot-tall cassia tree which grew there. He set upon his work with vigour and determination, but each time he struck with his axe, the tree kept closing the cut leaving no dent whatsoever. To this day Wu
Chang is trying to fell the gigantic cassia tree, not daring to return to earth until the task is completed.
Among the Chinese people, perhaps the most popular of all the tales associated with the Mid-Autumn Festival is that of Chang 0 or the ‘Lady on the Moon’.
During the Hsia dynasty (about 2205—1782 B.C.), Chang 0 lived with her husband Hou Yi, who wielded a magic bow and shot magic arrows~ One day ten suns appeared in the sky. People on earth could not stand the heat
and drought. Hou Yi saved the entire population by shooting down nine of the ten suns leaving only one sun in the sky.
But power corrupted Hou Yi and he neglected his duties in his search for an elixir that would give him immortality. When he found it, he hid it in a secret
place, which was later discovered by Chang 0. Intrigued, Chang 0 swallowed the elixir. No sooner had she swallowed it than the law of gravity lost its power over her. She became as light as a feather and lo and
behold she could fly! Soon afterwards she heard her husband approaching and flew in terror out of the window all the way to the moon pursued across half the sky by Hou Yi. To this day Chang 0 has remained on the
moon, an eternal queen reigning over its silent, cold beauty. Hou Yi has built himself a palace on the sun and they see each other on the 15th of every month. ‘Chang 0 and Hou Yi have come to be regarded as
embodying ‘yin’ and ‘yang’, the negative and positive, dark and light, feminine and masculine, the duality which governs the universe.