Classical Chinese Garden
NW 3rd and Everett, Portland, OR, 97208, 503-228-8131
The Portland Classical Chinese Garden is an authentic Suzhou-style garden located in the heart of Portland's China Town/Old Town district.

About the Garden

The History of the Mid-Autumn Festival

Amongst the myriad of fascinating Asian holidays lies the upcoming Mid-Autumn Festival, the second largest festival in Asia next to the Lunar New Year. A celebration of the harvest falling on the 15th day of the 8th lunar month, families and friends gather together to gaze at the full harvest moon and eat "moon cakes". Perfectly round, the moon forms the ideal symbol of familial harmony and unity.

According to Chinese mythology, the moon is the dwelling place for the immortals. When families gather during the Mid-Autumn Festival to enjoy their outdoor moon cake picnics, they often tell folk tales and stories of these immortals. All of these stories associated with the moon relate to longevity.

Perhaps the most endearing moon-tale tells of a short-tailed rabbit and his extreme reverence to Buddha. According to this ancient tale, once upon a time, Buddha himself appeared to all the forest animals and asked them to nourish him with their own food and water. Each creature ran hurriedly to and fro to bring the great Buddha the best food they could find. Our friend rabbit returned with a meager collection of herbs and grasses and was overcome with embarrassment. How could his diet ever compare with that of the fox or the tiger? What would Buddha think?

When he approached the flames to throw his offering in, suddenly he clutched his herbs and grasses tight, and leapt into the fire himself! In the end, the rabbit offered Buddha the best gift and the largest sacrifice of all the forest animals: himself. Buddha rewarded the rabbit by giving him the prestigious job of eternally grounding his elixir of immortality underneath a grove of Cassia trees. The most reverent of all, our friend rabbit was rewarded by holy Buddha and lives himself in the eternal Moon Palace.

Another story, and perhaps the most popular, tells the tale of the goddess Chang E, who rules over the lunar "Palace of Great Cold." Once upon a time the goddess Chang E was a happy woman living with her husband Hou Yi, master archer of the skies. One day there were ten suns burning in the sky! They were burning so brightly that everything on earth was being scorched and burned to cinders! Taking his mighty bow in hand and aiming towards the heavens, Hou Yi shot down nine of the ten suns saving all the living beings on earth that were being threatened by the heat. As a reward, the Queen Mother of the West gave Hou Yi the elixir of life, which would bring him immortality.

In order to show his sincerity in cultivating immortality, Hou Yi decided to fast for one whole year before taking the elixir. One day while Hou Yi was fasting, Chang E came upon her husband's elixir of life. Not knowing what it was, she swallowed it! Immediately, her body began to rise and she was lifted by the elixir all the way to the moon, the very embodiment of immortality itself. From that day forth, Chang E ruled over the lunar kingdom while her husband remained to govern the solar realm. The two are said only to meet once a month on the 15th day when the moon is full.

These are only two of the many stories about the moon and its many inhabitants. It is said that when you gaze at the full harvest moon, you can see the rabbit, Chang E and their fellow immortals living on its face. Truly a time to celebrate the beauty of the full moon and the friends and family we have to share it with, take a moment and look for Chang E and our friend rabbit yourself the next time you look. You might be surprised what you will find.

Learn more about the history of the Garden.

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