Moon rabbit
The image of a rabbit and mortar delineated on the Moon's surface
Chinese name
Chinese月兔
Literal meaningMoon rabbit/hare
Alternative Chinese name
Chinese玉兔
Literal meaningJade rabbit/hare
Korean name
Hangul달토끼
Japanese name
Kanji月の兎

The Moon rabbit or Moon hare is a mythical figure in East Asian and indigenous American folklore, based on pareidolic interpretations that identify the dark markings on the near side of the Moon as a rabbit or hare. In the realm of East Asian mythology, the rabbit is seen as pounding with a mortar and pestle, but the contents of the mortar differ among Chinese, Japanese, and Korean folklore. In Chinese folklore, the rabbit is often portrayed as a companion of the Moon goddess Chang'e, constantly pounding the elixir of life[1] for her and some show the making of cakes or rice cakes; but in Japanese and Korean versions, the rabbit is pounding the ingredients for mochi or some other type of rice cakes. In some Chinese versions of the mythological tradition, the rabbit pounds medicine for the mortals and some include making of mooncakes. Moon folklore from certain Amerindian cultures of North America also has rabbit themes and characters.

History

The Chinese mythological white hare making the elixir of immortality on the Moon embroidered onto an eighteenth-century Imperial Chinese robe

An early Chinese source called the Chu Ci, a Western Han anthology of Chinese poems from the Warring States period, notes that along with a toad, there is a hare on the Moon who constantly pounds herbs for the immortals. This notion is supported by later texts, including the Song-era Taiping Imperial Reader. As rabbits were not yet introduced to China during Western Han, the original image was not a rabbit but a hare.[2]

Han dynasty poets call the hare on the Moon the "Jade Hare" (玉兔) or the "Gold Hare" (金兔), and these phrases were used often, in place of the word for the Moon. The famed Tang poet Li Bai, relates how "The rabbit in the moon pounds the medicine in vain" in his poem, "The Old Dust".[3]

East Asian folklore

Sun Wukong fights the Moon Rabbit, a scene in the sixteenth century Chinese novel, Journey to the West, depicted in Yoshitoshi's One Hundred Aspects of the Moon

In the Buddhist Jataka tales,[4] Tale 316 relates that a monkey, an otter, a jackal, and a rabbit resolved to practice charity on the day of the full moon (Uposatha), believing a demonstration of great virtue would earn a great reward. When an old man begged for food from them, the monkey gathered fruits from the trees and the otter collected fish, while the jackal found a lizard and a pot of milk-curd. Knowing only how to gather grass, the rabbit instead offered its own body by throwing itself into a fire the man had prepared. However, the rabbit was not burnt and the old man revealed that he was Śakra. Touched by the rabbit's virtue, he drew the likeness of the rabbit on the Moon for all to see. It is said the lunar image is still draped in the smoke that rose when the rabbit cast itself into the fire. The rabbit is believed to be a Bodhisattva.

A version of this story may be found in the Japanese anthology, Konjaku Monogatarishū, where the rabbit's companions are instead a fox and a monkey.

The Moon rabbit legend is popular and part of local folklore throughout Asia. It may be found in diverse cultures in China, Japan, India, Korea, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam, and Myanmar.[5][6][7]

This legend also gave rise to the Mid-Autumn Festivals of China, Tsukimi of Japan, and Chuseok of Korea across the East Asian mythological landscape. The Sampeah Preah Khae in Cambodia and Tết Trung Thu of Vietnam, all of which celebrate the legend of the Moon rabbit across Southeast Asia. In Vietnamese mythology, the Jade Rabbit on the Moon is often accompanied by the Moon Lady and Cuội, who sits under a magical banyan. The trio has become the personifications of the holiday, when they descend to the mortal world and give out cellophane lanterns, mooncakes and gifts to children.[8]

Indigenous American folklore

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Presumed to be arising likewise, through lunar pareidolia, legends of Moon rabbits also exist among some indigenous cultures of North and Central America.

The Maya moon goddess frequently is depicted holding a rabbit

In Mayan art, glyphs, hieroglyphics, and inscriptions, a rabbit frequently is shown with the Moon Goddess and another deity related to the Moon.[citation needed]

According to an Aztec legend, the god Quetzalcoatl, then living on Earth as a human, started on a journey and, after walking for a long time, became hungry and tired. With no food or water around, he thought he would die. Then a rabbit grazing nearby offered herself as food to save his life. Quetzalcoatl, moved by the rabbit's noble offering, elevated her to the Moon, then lowered her back to Earth and told her, "You may be just a rabbit, but everyone will remember you; there is your image in light, for all people and for all times."

Another Mesoamerican legend tells of the brave and noble sacrifice of Nanahuatzin during the creation of the fifth sun. Humble Nanahuatzin sacrificed himself in fire to become the new sun, but the wealthy god Tecciztecatl hesitated four times before he finally set himself alight to become the Moon. Due to Tecciztecatl's cowardice, the deities felt that the Moon should not be so bright as the Sun, so one of the deities threw a rabbit at his face to diminish his light.[9] Another version of the legend says that Tecciztecatl was in the form of a rabbit when he sacrificed himself to become the Moon, casting his shadow there.

In Canada and the United States, a Cree cultural legend tells a different story, about a young rabbit who wished to ride the Moon. Only the crane was willing to take him there. The trip stretched the crane's legs as the heavy rabbit held them tightly, leaving them elongated as the legs of all cranes are now. When they reached the Moon, the rabbit touched the crane's head with a bleeding paw, leaving the red mark cranes wear to this day. According to the legend, on clear nights, Rabbit still may be seen riding the Moon.[citation needed]

Modern references

Spaceflight

Houston: Among the large headlines concerning Apollo this morning, is one asking that you watch for a lovely girl with a big rabbit. An ancient legend says a beautiful Chinese girl called Chang-E has been living there for 4,000 years. It seems she was banished to the Moon because she stole the pill of immortality from her husband. You might also look for her companion, a large Chinese rabbit, who is easy to spot since he is always standing on his hind feet in the shade of a cinnamon tree. The name of the rabbit is not reported.
Michael Collins: Okay. We'll keep a close eye out for the bunny girl.[note 1]

Arts

Comics and animation

Literature

Live-action television

Music

Stage

Video games

See also

Notes

  1. ^ NASA transcripts had attributed the response to Aldrin (Apollo 11 Technical Air-to-Ground Voice Transcription. National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Page 179), but corrected NASA transcripts attribute it to Collins.[12]

References

  1. ^ "Why is the Moon Rabbit on the Moon". Moonfestivalblog.com. 3 June 2021.
  2. ^ "月兔的兔,是什么兔?". 果壳 科技有意思 (in Chinese). 2013-12-03. Retrieved 2019-08-21.
  3. ^ "The Old Dust Poem by Li Po - Poem Hunter". PoemHunter.com. 31 December 2002. Retrieved 2019-08-21.
  4. ^ Source: [1] (accessed: Saturday January 23, 2010)
  5. ^ "The Jatakas: Birth Stories of the Bodhisatta".
  6. ^ Wickremeratne, Swarna (February 2012). Buddha in Sri Lanka: Remembered Yesterdays. ISBN 9780791481141.
  7. ^ Abbott, Gerry (2000). The Folk-Tales of Burma: An Introduction. ISBN 9004118128.
  8. ^ Fairy Tale of Moon Lady in Vietnam
  9. ^ Smith, Michael (2012). The Aztecs (3rd ed.). Chichester, West Sussex; Malden, MA: John Wiley & Sons. p. 200. ISBN 978-1-4051-9497-6.
  10. ^ Ramzy, Austin (26 November 2013). "China to Send 'Jade Rabbit' Rover to the Moon". The New York Times.
  11. ^ Rivers, Matt (January 3, 2019). "China lunar rover successfully touches down on far side of the moon, state media announces". CNN. Retrieved January 3, 2019.
  12. ^ a b Woods, W. David; MacTaggart, Kenneth D.; O'Brien, Frank. "Day 5: Preparations for Landing". The Apollo 11 Flight Journal. National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Retrieved 9 October 2017
  13. ^ "She wears it well... Supermodel Kate Moss pays tribute to David Bowie in Ziggy Stardust outfit".
  14. ^ "Oldest Brit winner David Bowie enters independence debate". BBC News. 20 February 2014.
  15. ^ "Lorde Assists Clairo On Another New 'Sling' Song, The Gentle 'Reaper'". UPROXX.
  16. ^ "Theater review: 'South Street' at the Pasadena Playhouse". LA Times. 2011-09-28. Retrieved 2012-07-28.
  17. ^ Chang'e dances into Smite, brings Jade Rabbit with her. Archived 2013-07-26 at the Wayback Machine
  18. ^ "https://twitter.com/moq_46/status/1610639116345184256". Twitter. Retrieved 2023-06-29. ((cite web)): External link in |title= (help)
  19. ^ "the jade rabbit moon destiny 2 - Google Search". www.google.com. Retrieved 2020-12-07.