Moon Palace, also called Guanghan Palace, refers to the Palace on the moon. Legend goes that it is inhabited by the goddess of the moon – Chang’e, the Jade Rabbit and the woodcutter Wu Gang.
As is known to all, Chang’e stole the Pill of Immortality and flew to the moon and then she became the Chinese goddess of the moon.
There were many versions about the background of the goddess’s best friend – the Jade Rabbit. It was widely believed that it was sent to the Palace to alleviate Chang’e's sorrowful solitude. It was busy all day long, pestling medicinal materials in efforts to concoct a pill that could help the goddess return to Earth. However, it never succeeds.
Originally, Wu Gang was a woodman who lived on Earth. It was said that he offended the Almighty and was sent to the Palace. He was told that once he fell the sweet-scented osmanthus tree, he would attain magic powers. Therefore, Day after day, Wu Gang wielded his ax, but the tree had magical power and the cleaving scars disappeared seconds after each stroke. Wu Gang continued his labors day after day. But years after years, the tree still grew verdantly and heavily sheltered the palace beside.
The Moon rabbit in folklore is a rabbit that lives on the moon, based on pareidolia that identifies the markings of the moon as a rabbit. The story exists in many cultures, particularly in East Asian folklore, where it is seen pounding in a mortar and pestle. In Chinese folklore, it is often portrayed as a companion of the moon goddess Chang'e, constantly pounding the elixir of life for her.
An early mention that there is a rabbit on the moon appears in the Chu Ci, a Western Han anthology of Chinese poems from the Warring States period, which notes that along with a toad, there is a rabbit on the moon who constantly pounds herbs for the immortals. This notion is supported by later texts, including the Imperial Readings of the Taiping Era encyclopedia of the Song Dynasty. Han Dynasty poets call the rabbit on the moon the "Jade Rabbit" or the "Gold Rabbit" (金兔), and these phrases were often used in place of the word for the moon. A famous poet of the Tang Dynasty period, Li Bai, relates how: "The rabbit in the moon pounds the medicine in vain" in his poem "The Old Dust."
Chang Er Flying to the Moon
The legend Chang Er Flying to the Moon is a beautiful fable of ancient China. Chang Er was the wife of the legendary hero Hou Yi, a great archer who accomplished great achievements by shooting down nine extra suns. The hero was rewarded with a kind of elixir for his deed, which was then eaten by his wife by stealth. Chang Er rose up to the sky immediately after that and lived on the moon ever since. The moon is also called "Moon Palace" by the Chinese to describe the abode of Chang Er. It is said that she regretted for what she had done soon after she flied to the moon. Many poets in ancient China cited the subject in their poems, in order to deliver Chang Er's loneliness, chillness and solitude in the moon palace.
In China, Chang Er is a synonym for the moon, and the Chinese nation has always had a special emotion towards the moon derived by the associations of fair Chang Er, which has even influenced the nation in all aspects. When getting to know what happened to Chang Er, common people of that time put their incense burner tables under the moon and prayed for luck and safety to the kind lady. Thereby, the custom of worshiping the moon on the Mid-Autumn Festival caught on among folks.
Later, other legends about the moon, such as Wu Gang Chopping the Laurel Tree and Moon Rabbit Grinding Medicine were created, draping the moon with a mysterious veil once more. Moreover, people are also fond of making interesting patterns of these tales on moon cakes.