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China Moon

Once, there were ten suns that orbited the earth. This led to an intemperate climate. So Houyi, an immortal archer who was hanging out in China after having been banished from heaven (long story), was commanded by the Emperor to shoot down nine of them. He did so, and the Emperor rewarded him with a pill. Houyi stuck the thing under his pillow and set about meditating in preparation for whatever it is one meditates in preparation for. While doing so, his wife, Chang’e, took the pill from under the pillow and swallowed it. Houyi was mad, but Chang’e flew out the window. Houyi tried to follow, but the wind held him back. Chang’e made it to the moon, where, breathless, she accidentally coughed up some of the pill.

Now, on the moon was a rabbit. Chang’e told the rabbit to make the pill fragment into something digestible, so she could eat it and revisit her husband, who wasn’t angry anymore but had, for some reason, taken up residence in the sun. That rabbit is still pounding away with his mortar and pestle, and the lovers are still separated. Except during the Mid-Autumn Festival, when the two get together and do some horizontal folk dancing.

This year’s Mid-Autumn Festival coincides neatly with the Autumn Splendor exhibition at the Norton Museum (1441 S. Olive Avenue, West Palm Beach), which celebrates autumnal art (as you might figure). Gorgeous Chinese brush-paintings like the one seen here — “Autumn Moon at Dongting,” by Wu Qingyun (1857 – 1916) — will be on display, and if they don’t necessarily tell stories like the one mentioned above, you can bet they’re informed by them. Call 561-832-5196, or visit
Sept. 19-Dec. 1, 2007

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Brandon K. Thorp

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