Harvest Moon

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Harvest Moon

In the 14th century, the people of China were about to launch a revolt against the Yuan Dynasty. Legend says they coordinated the start of the revolution by passing messages inside mooncakes — pastries that are part of the celebration of mid-autumn. The messages said the rebellion would begin on the 15th day of the eighth month — the equivalent of the Harvest Moon in the western calendar.

The legend may or may not be true, but the Mid-Autumn Festival is still one of the most important events in the Chinese year — and it’s still tied to the Moon. And it’s getting underway now, because tonight is the night of the Harvest Moon — the full Moon closest to the autumnal equinox.

Many legends are associated with the Mid-Autumn Festival. Most are tied to the Moon goddess Chang’e. In one version, she became immortal by swallowing a pill that was intended for her husband. The angry husband chased her across the sky, but she escaped to the Moon — where she still lives today.

In fact, Chang’e has a bigger role in Chinese life than ever. It’s the name given to China’s lunar exploration program. Five missions have taken place so far — orbiters, landers, and rovers. The series has included the only craft to land on the far side of the Moon — the side we never see. It also includes the first mission to bring back samples of the Moon since the 1970s. The next Chang’e mission is set for launch in 2025.

Script by Damond Benningfield

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