Medicinal Moon Hare

David Leffman Uncategorized Leave a Comment

Here’s a print from Beijing of the white Moon Hare pounding herbs in a mortar to make the elixir of immortality. It was probably meant to be put up in the home during the Mid-Autumn Festival – associated with the full moon – and dates from the 1930s.

Behind the hare is the icy Guanghan Palace, residence of the beautiful Moon goddess Chang E. She protects women from loneliness and plays the yin element (representing female, dark, cool) to the Sun God’s yang (male, warmth, light).

Chang E was the wife of archer Yi, who shot down nine of ten suns that were causing a drought on earth. Yi later charmed the Queen Mother of the West into giving him the elixir of immortality – but Chang E ate the elixir instead and then, terrified of her husband’s anger, fled to the moon. China’s space program is named after her.

Framing the hare is a roundel representing the moon. The curlicued red shape behind him is a lingzhi fungus, a symbol of longevity (there are also some growing at the bottom of the roundel).

Four civil official deities stand either side of moon, while the top strip features the red-faced deity of Martial Righteousness, Guan Di, flanked by his son and halberd-bearer, along with what are probably wealth gods and their attendants.

There’s a larger, grander version of this print titled 福如东海寿比南山 – “Luck as Deep as the East China Sea, Longevity as High as South Mountain”. In that version, Guan Di has a completely separate panel at the top, acting out a scene from Romance of the Three Kingdoms where his enemy Cao Cao gifts him with a cloak; and the hare’s body is finished with gold foil.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *