Rabbit's Moon

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.

By Balthazar Malevolent

Rabbit's Moon

The Moon Rabbit is living on the moon in the folklore of various world cultures. This representation arose due to a pareidolic visual illusion: dark spots on the surface of the moon were perceived as the figure of a hare or rabbit.

Probably the earliest mention of the Moon Rabbit is the poetical Chu Ci collection written in ancient China during the Western Han dynasty: the Moon Rabbit lives in the Moon palace, he is sitting in the shadow of a cinnamon tree, pounding the potion of immortality in a mortar. Other Han dynasty poets often referred to the Moon Rabbit as the 'jade rabbit' or the 'golden rabbit', and these phrases came to be frequently used to designate the moon.

More recent Chinese myth tells the story of Chang'e, the wife of the archer Hou Yi, who stole the potion of immortality, flew to the moon and turned into a toad there. In later versions, the tales of Chang'e and the Moon Rabbit gradually coalesced, and Chang'e became the Moon Goddess living in the Moon Palace with the Moon Rabbit.

In Indian folklore, The Moon Rabbit was placed on the moon by Indra: the Moon Rabbit, receiving a divine visitor in the guise of a beggar, could not find any food for him and roasted himself. Delighted by this act, Indra resurrected the Rabbit and placed him on the moon, thus making him immortal.

In pre-Columbian Mesoamerica, there was also the Moon Rabbit myth. Thus, an Aztec tale about the beginning of the fifth, modern era of the world represents the appearance of the luminaries in the following way: the gods Nanahuatzin and Tecciztecatl burnt themselves on a sacrificial fire becoming respectively the Sun and the Moon. The moon-Tecciztecatl was almost as bright as the sun-Nanahuatzin, so one of the gods grabbed a Rabbit from the ground and hurled it at Tecciztecatl, to diminish the moon's light.

China's first lunar rover, which successfully landed on 15 December 2013, was named Yutu - The Jade Hare.

Moon Rabbit

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