Legend of Hanyi Festival

As an important component of folklore, traditional festivals have their own historical background. One of its manifestations is the stories and legends. These stories and legends give an account of the origins of the festivals and enable the people to understand the connotations of the festivals and customs in an easy-to-understand way, thus perpetuating the festivals and customs. On the first day of the tenth lunar month, winter clothes were sent. Who sent the clothes and it was sent to whom in the earliest days? The stories and legends give an account of this.

Legend of "Giving Clothes" by Emperor Zhuyuan Zhang

The tenth month of the lunar calendar was an important month in ancient times, when the rice was harvested and put into storage, and the emperors took the ceremony of wearing winter clothes to inform the common people that winter had arrived. According to legend, Zhu Yuanzhang, who became emperor in Nanjing at the beginning of the Ming Dynasty(1368-1644AD), performed the ritual of "giving clothes" at the morning court on the first day of the tenth lunar month to show that he was in tune with the times, and gave the ministers a taste of the new harvest by making a hot soup of red beans and glutinous rice. A folk proverb around Nanjing says: "In the tenth lunar month, you wear a cotton jacket, and eat bean soup to keep out the cold." This is how the "Winter Clothing Festival" came about. While people add clothes to protect themselves from the cold, they also bring winter clothes to their wanderers who are far away from home, doing business or studying, to show their concern and care.

Meng Jiang Nui Sends Winter Clothes from A Thousand Miles

According to legend, in the Qin Dynasty (221 BC to 207 BC), two families, Meng and Jiang, grew gourds in the Songjiang province in the south of the Yangtze River and got a daughter, who was named Meng Jiang Nv (孟姜女) and was married to her husband, Fan Qiliang. Later on, Qiliang was arrested and taken away to build the Great Wall in the north, so Meng Jiangnu searched for her husband to send her winter clothes. When she came to the foot of the Great Wall, she was told that her husband was exhausted alive and his bones were locked in the Great Wall. When she heard the news, Meng Jiangnu could not help but cry. The Great Wall fell to her, revealing the white bones of her husband. An old man told her that if she burned her winter clothes, the ashes would fly onto the bones of her loved ones and she would be able to recognize them. When Meng Jiangnu listened, she immediately burned the winter clothes, only to see the ashes float up and land on the bones of a corpse, which was her husband. The story of Meng Jiangnu moved the villagers and they called the first day of the tenth lunar month when Meng Jiangnu delivered the cold clothes as the "Hanyi (Winter Clothing) Festival".

Cai Lun's Relatives Pretend to Be Gods and Ghosts

Legend has it that after Cai Lun in the Eastern Han Dynasty (25 AD - 220 AD) invented paper, his brother Cai Mo followed suit and learned how to make paper. However, the quality of the paper he produced was questionable, and naturally it did not sell well. Cai Mo's wife, Huiniang, came up with a solution, pretending to be a ghost and dying of a sudden illness. She pretended to have died of a sudden illness, and then "resurrected" in front of everyone, saying that it was because the paper Cai Mo had made had been burned and turned into money, which she had used to bribe the ghosts to bring the dead back to life. The couple played this double act, but the neighbors were fooled! When people saw that the paper money had the wonderful effect of bringing people back to life from the dead, they paid for the paper to be burnt. Within a few days, the Cai Mo family had sold out of their paper in stock. As the day of Hui Niang's return to life was the first day of the tenth lunar month, people in later generations went to their graves on that day to burn paper and pay homage to the dead.

Chinese Calendar

SuMoTuWeThFrSa
28廿四/24 29廿五/25 30廿六/26 1廿七/27 2廿八/28 3廿九/29 十壹月 (Nov) 4初壹/1
5初二/2 6初三/3 7初四/4 8初五/5 9初六/6 10初七/7 11初八/8
12初九/9 13初十/10 14十壹/11 15十二/12 16十三/13 17十四/14 18十五/15
19十六/16 20十七/17 21十八/18 22十九/19 23二十/20 24廿壹/21 25廿二/22
26廿三/23 27廿四/24 28廿五/25 29廿六/26 30廿七/27 31廿八/28 1廿九/29