I chose the wonderful city of San Francisco as the location for the tale because of its rich culture in Chinese lore. My husband and I took a few tours of Chinatown, one being a ghost tour, which was interesting. The tour guide had grown up in Chinatown and told us about the superstitions as well as the history of the town.
The moon festival caught my interest for the basis of my story. The Autumn Moon Festival is a traditional festival. It is the third and last festival for the living and is usually celebrated on the fifteenth day of the eighth moon. This is the autumn equinox. In San Francisco the festival is celebrated in September.
The festival is about worshiping the moon (called xi yue in Chinese.) One tradition is sending moon cakes to their relatives as gifts to show their best wishes for the family. A moon cake is a semi-sweet pastry filled with bean or lotus-seed paste. Sometimes the pastry is topped with a duck egg to signify the full moon. In my story, Autumn’s grandmother made the moon cakes. It is also the pastry Jairec mistaken as the elixir of life when he steals the package from Autumn.
The Seer tells Jairec that the Autumn Moon festival is his salvation and this is the only way he will reunite his two souls. He was attacked by a chiang-shih (Chinese Vampire.) In Chinese belief, each person has two souls, a superior soul and an inferior soul. The superior soul can leave the sleeping body. It will appear, as the body's double, speaking and acting as if all is fine. However, if something happened to the disembodied soul during its journey, the body would suffer. This is why Jairec is desperate to reunite his souls before it is too late.
The chiang-shih may appear to look like a normal human being while others have a hideous green phosphorescent glow with serrated teeth and long talons. Some may appear more like a zombie as if being controlled by another entity. For the story, as the person leaned toward evil and succumbed to the chiang-shih curse, their appearance took on the more hideous version of the chiang-shih.
Not realizing there is a woman named Autumn Moon, Jairec is desperate to find the elixir. The festival is also known for the immortal moon Goddess, Chang O who lives in the moon. She took the elixir of life meant for her husband. Of course, Autumn believes Jairec has lost his mind. The story of the elixir of life is a myth, not reality. How could she have the elixir?
Chinatown, San Francisco moon festival has many street vendors to purchase plants, clothes, souvenirs and such. Autumn is an acupuncturist and offers her service during the festival. Autumn’s grandparents set up a booth to sell pastries from their bakery.
The Dragon parade closes the festivities of this event and this is where the showdown between the master chiang-shih and Jairec will go down. It seemed only appropriate. There are dancers who maneuver the giant puppet along the fog-filled street to give it a surreal feel. Fireworks light the sky. A master chiang-shih that has reached the flying, white-haired stage can only be killed by copper bullets or by thunder. Autumn and her grandfather work with Jairec to end the threat that will destroy Chinatown.
I hope you enjoyed the behind the scene tour. Until next time, I leave you with a Chinese proverb: “In safety, do not forget danger.”