Tales From The Moon For This Year’s Mid-Autumn Festival!

Celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival and coming of Autumn with these luminous poems and tales from the moon!

Author's Corner Book Culture Diverse Voices Pop Culture Recommendations

The moon is at its fullest and brightest today, which calls for a celebration—the 2021 Mid-Autumn Festival begins gazing at the night sky.

The Mid-Autumn Festival, also referred to as the Moon Festival or Mooncake Festival, is a holiday celebrated across East and Southeast Asia to, as you can guess, honor the moon and its symbolic representation of a good harvest. The annual festival is celebrated with joyous traditions, treats like mooncakes, and an honoring of the moon that dates back to thousands of years of Chinese history. This year specifically is unique in the way that the festival falls on the time of the Autumn Equinox, literally putting emphasis on the annual seasonal change of summer into autumn.

At the center of this holiday is the Chinese moon goddess and her chanced attainment of immortality. Literature, music, and art drew inspiration from this celestial woman called Chang’E, hailed as the moon goddess. Her beautiful legend that was passed on through generations is only one of many artistic expressions of honoring the moon. Time has only produced more creative poetry, stories, and art that centered the moon as a muse, but unique to the creator’s lived experiences and identity.

Bring your tea and snacks and enjoy these small snippets of work, both traditional and modern, that were inspired by the moon!


We begin with a short poem composed by Hồ Xuân Hương who is universally considered to be one of Vietnam’s most celebrated poet. In this poem, “Questions for the Moon,” she questions the moon, smoothly incorporating lunar folklore and tales:

How many thousands of years have you been there?
Why sometimes slender, sometimes full?

How old is the White Rabbit?
How many children belong to Moon-Girl?

Why do you circle the purple loneliness of night
and seldom blush before the sun?

Weary, past midnight, who are you searching for?
Are you in love with these rivers and hills?

“Questions for the Moon,” by Hồ Xuân Hương from The American Review vol. 29, no. 5

John Yau is a Chinese American poet with over fifty works of poetry. Also an art curator and critic, Yau is an important poet in the Asian American literary world, often speaking about his dual experiences and consciousnesses of growing up Chinese American. In “Music from Childhood,” Yau reflects on that specific heritage

You grow up hearing two languages. Neither fits your fits
Your mother informs you “moon” means “window to another world.”

You begin to hear words mourn the sounds buried inside their mouths
A row of yellow windows and a painting of them

Your mother informs you “moon” means “window to another world.”
You decide it is better to step back and sit in the shadows

You grow up hearing two languages. Neither fits your fits
Your mother informs you “moon” means “window to another world.”

“Music from Childhood,” by John Yau from poets.org

Although not a poem, “The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter,” is a folktale from Japan’s Heian period telling the legend of a mysterious baby girl found by a bamboo cutter in the stalk of a glowing bamboo. The baby, later named Kaguya, is raised by the bamboo cutter and his wife and grows into a beautiful woman in the span of months. In truth, Kaguya is a being of the moon and must soon return to live on the moon. A beautiful story, the tale was also made into a Studio Ghibli film in 2013, The Tale of the Princess Kaguya, which was Isao Takahata’s last masterpiece for Studio Ghibli as a director.

I hope these snippets lead you to a wonderful Harvest Moon and Autumn!