China successfully launched “Chang’e” satellite on Oct. 1, 2010 to study the moon. Its name Chang’e comes from a Chinese legend. In ancient times, there were once ten suns and people could not live in such hot weather. Then a hero called Houyi was courageous and strong enough to shoot down nine suns with his bow and arrow, thus winning the respect of all people. Houyi wanted to better serve his people and appealed to the Supreme God for elixir. The Supreme God was so deeply moved that HE bestowed elixir on the archer. Houyi began recruiting students, among whom an apprentice by the name Fengmeng planned to steal the elixir. Later, Houyi married Chang’e, a beautiful lady. One day Houyi went out to hunt and entrusted the elixir to his wife. Fengmeng spotted this and threatened Chang’e with death if she refused to give him the elixir. Of course, in no circumstances would Chang’e give it to such an evil man, so she hastily swallowed it.
The elixir soon took effect and Chang’e took off into the sky. She landed on the moon, the closest planet to the Earth where her beloved husband lived. Houyi missed Chang’e very much and facing the moon he placed a table with her favorite compotes on it. Hearing this, all people followed suit to show their affection for Chang’e, the savior’s wife, and prayed to her for peace and happiness. Chang’e missed her husband so much that she tried her best to make a kind of elixir with the power to take her back to the Earth. Though she knew all her effort might not pan out, she went on relentlessly with her experiment. She set a good example for us. We can choose to give up, but we should not give up the right to choose. Her pet, a rabbit, the only animal with her when she flew to the sky, volunteered to prepare and grind medicinal herbs for her, day after day, year after year, without any complaint, and thus gained a good reputation. People call it “Jade-Like Rabbit” (jade is a symbol of purity and sanctity).
The “rabbit” is by no means stupid. A Chinese saying goes, “The rabbit will not eat the grass around its burrow”. It did so to protect it, for grassless ground is eye-catching among vast expanse of grassland and could be easily identified by the eagle. The “rabbit” takes the bother of going elsewhere to eat also shows its diligence. The “rabbit” feeds on grass and some other plants and nothing else, yet it’s leading a happy life. Don’t you see it’s always capering? That’s something we could learn from. If we can resist the temptations of worldly fortune and fame, retain a peaceful mind either in favorable circumstances or in adverse situations and remain self-composed in the struggling for a living, then we would be care-free and treasure simply the happiness of existence.
In Mid-Autumn Festival, kids play Tu’r Ye, a kind of personified artistic work of clay rabbit, in memory of Chang’e and her rabbit. Western people also like “rabbit”. Think about the logo of PLAYBOY. Both present the casual and elegant look of the “rabbit”.
The “rabbit” is rather meek, sharp-eared and agile. People born in the year of the “rabbit” (of the twelve animals, representing the twelve Earthly Branches, used to symbolize the year in which a person is born) are mostly kind, honest and simple, with a deep sense of duty. Lads and ladies prefer to get married in the year of the “rabbit” and wish to have their children born in such a year. It’s foreseeable that the fertility rate in 2011, the year of the “rabbit”, will be much higher than the previous eleven years. Though we’ll continue to be busy or even busier in the context of global economic recession, but we won’t sacrifice the happiness of marriage, from being alone to being accompanied. Our feeling of happiness comes not from what others feel about us.
“Mao” (卯), one of the twelve Earthly Branches, refers to the time between five and seven o’clock in the morning. It’s dawn then, when all sleeping creatures will wake up to embrace a brand-new day. Scenes of vitality are visible everywhere. And “柳”, produced when adding a “木” to “卯”, means “weeping willow”, a kind of tree that often grows near water with its graceful slender green leaves trailing down, like the long hair of a lady.
And the “rabbit” (兔) corresponds to “Mao” (卯). While praying for happiness in the up-coming year, remember: “As a man sows, so he shall reap.” The Chinese character “冤” (the lower part “兔” means rabbit) indicates that if the rabbit is fenced and confined, then what great injustice it is! In the old story “A Hunter Waiting for Another Hare to Bounce into a Tree Slump”, the “rabbit”, at the expense of its life, tries to tell us not to count on coincidence, but to rely on our own effort for fruit.
Putting up a picture of the “rabbit” at your home would remind you of the legend of “Chang’e and her rabbit”, fill you with longing for peace and happiness and show your noble taste. As the year of the “rabbit” is drawing near, traditional Chinese paintings of the “rabbit” will surely receive great attention, among which paintings by Zhang Yongquan stand out, for they are works integrating artistic and poetic conception.