Traditions and Tales of China

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Traditions and Tales of China

Celebrating the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival

On the fifteenth day of the Eighth Moon (October 15 in 2017) family members come together to honor the Moon Goddess, Chang E and enjoy an evening under the especially large Harvest Moon. Sharing poems and stories are a traditional activity of the holiday. The books listed below include beloved Chinese tales, stories of family, and books to help prepare for the day and evening of the seasonal event:

Thanking the Moon: Celebrating the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival by Grace Lin
Grace Lin’s bright gouache images lend cheerfulness to this nighttime family event. Each activity of the evening is clearly portrayed across both pages, giving the reader lots of detail to examine. Round foods and objects are recognizable to the youngest of readers. The brief text of the story is informative and charming, but gets assistance from the author’s note at the end. Thanking the Moon is a terrific picture book to share in preparation for October 15.

Moon Festival by Ching Yeung Russell
The sights, sounds and smells of the Moon Festival are rendered through Ying’s experiences with her extended family throughout the day and evening. A morning walk with her cousins through the village is a time to smell the baking moon cakes, see the giant painting of the Moon Goddess, and make paper lanterns of colored wax paper. A midday reunion meal for returning relatives is a chance for Ying to help her grandmother and join her in an afternoon prayer. The evening’s festivities feature lights, parading, food and stories. Each tradition is given focus as a young girl missing her faraway parents experiences the joy of the holiday with the help of her family.

Moonbeams, Dumplings & Dragon Boats: A Treasury of Chinese Holiday Tales, Activities & Recipes by Nina Simonds
Background information along with traditional activities, recipes, and stories give a good overview of five seasonal festivals, including the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival. Learn the story of Chang E and her betrayal of her husband, the hunter Hou Yi. Try a recipe for sweet Five-Treasure Moon Cakes - illustrated and rated for difficulty to ease preparation. Use the step by step instructions for making and presenting shadow puppets. Whether researching a specific holiday or learning about Chinese culture in general, Moonbeams makes for a readable and fun resource.

Chinese Children’s Favorite Stories by Mingmei Yip
Compiled are 13 read-aloud tales that illustrate cooperation, bravery and kindness. The story of the Moon Goddess and how she came to live on the Moon and two stories of the Monkey King’s troublemaking are among the familiar stories great for sharing during the Moon Festival or anytime. 

The Hunter by Mary Casanova, illustrated by Ed Young
Hai Li Bu sustains his village through a drought with the fish and meat he skillfully captures, but when a talking snake pleads for his help, he kindly scares away her capturer. As a reward from her father, the Dragon King Hai Li Bu is offered anything he wishes.  When Hai Li Bu asks to understand the language of animals so that he can better provide for his village, the gift he receives comes at a price. Ed Young’s pastel and gouache images evoke the young hunter’s quiet spirit and the sadness of his sacrifice.

Lon Po Po by Ed Young
Shang, Tao, and the littlest, Paotze are home alone in this familiar folktale of an enterprising wolf and its innocent prey. One evening a wolf, having seen the girls' mother leave, dresses up as an old woman and succeeds in tricking the children into letting him in the house. The eldest, Shang, asks lots of questions and eventually acts on her suspicions, but is she too late? Translated and illustrated by Ed Young, who won the Caldecott Medal for this book, Lon Po Po, in image and story, is a frightening version of Little Red Riding Hood. Sensitive readers be warned. 

Red Thread by Ed Young
In ancient China, a young man named Wei Gu, orphaned as a boy, wishes to marry and have a family of his own. While traveling, Wei hears of a matchmaker who could help him marry the daughter of a prominent official. When Wei meets the matchmaker and his future is foretold, he attempts to change his fate. The red thread that runs through the story invites the reader to take a closer look at Ed Young’s ethereal pastels and watercolors and the clues to the storyline it provides.  Young’s spare text makes for great storytelling in this yarn of ties that bind across time and place.

A Banquet for Hungry Ghosts: A Collection of Deliciously Frightening Tales by Ying Chang Compestine, illustrated by Coleman Polhemus
Truly ghoulish and suspenseful, Ying Chang Compestine utilizes her extensive knowledge of Chinese cuisine in a 12-course meal of ghost stories.  In Chinese folklore, those who die hungry, too soon, or under bad circumstances will haunt the living if they are not placated by offerings of food.  Compestine’s banquet begins with an appetizer of mysteriously delicious steamed dumplings and ends with a benign yet dangerous rice pudding. Each haunting course is sprinkled with details of day to day life in China across the centuries.

Monkey King, Vol. 01, Birth of the Stone Monkey, adapted by Wei Dong Chen
Junior Comics presents a comic book version of the beloved 16th Century novel, The Journey to the West, featuring the Monkey King, Sun Wu Kong over several volumes. Sun Wu Kong is born from out of the rock of Spring Mountain, a monkey paradise. After living happily with his fellow monkeys, Sun Wu Kong discovers the monkey lair of Spring Mountain and is chosen Monkey King. 200 years pass and a monkey dies. Sun Wu Kong soon leaves his friends on a search for immortality. Along the way, he learns important lessons about leadership. 

Looking for Moon Festival events?  The Mayor’s Office on Asian & Pacific Islander Affairs (MOAPIA) is hosting a free outdoor showing of Mulan, September 29, in Chinatown Park at 5th and Massachusetts Avenue, beginning around 7:30 p.m. RSVP and learn more about this and other events at