It seems that clay Rabbit figurines were once a popular part of the China's Mid-Autumn Festival. But like the physical representations of so many old customs, today they are little more than collectables and found mostly in places that sell folk art (I found mine at Beijing's Dongyue Temple.) I've seen them many times in Beijing - small versions for sale in markets, larger statues outside of art galleries in the chic neighborhoods and even as coin-operated rides for children outside of shops in the hutongs. I remember the first one I saw standing outside a small gallery across the street from Beijing's Confuscius Temple. My daughter Aidan and I stopped, gawked for a moment, took a couple of pictures and wandered on thinking no more about it.
While the websites of the official Chinese travel agencies explain them away as a quaint custom, I wanted to find the source of the legend and sure enough, behind the quotidian lies the romantic.
Here is a rendition of the tale, conveyed via a most interesting translation -
"First give you about a legendary story: One year, the Beijing city suddenly Naoqi the plague, almost everyone has a patient, the kind of medicine is not brought the matter. See the world in the Chang'e moon incense scene of medical treatment was so sad, they send around to rabbit to human good of healing for the people who. Rabbit into a girl, came to Beijing. She left a further one, cured many patients. People to thank the moon, must give her something. What can Rabbit do not just borrow clothes to others. Thus, for a dressed rabbit Wherever he went on, and sometimes dress up like a sell, and, sometimes like a fortune teller ... ... while the men dress, while another woman dress. In order to give patients more treatment, the rabbit sat on horses, deer, or a woman riding a lion, tiger, traveled outside the city of Beijing. Rabbit plague to eliminate the city of Beijing, it went back to the Moon Palace. However, her beautiful image has forever remain in the hearts of Peking Man. Thus, people with a rabbit shaped the image of mud, with riding a deer, there by Phoenix, there are beaded with armor, and also dressed in clothes of workers all doing strange things, very cute. Lunar on August 15 every day, and everyone should worship her, put her delicious fruit bean, used to reward good fortune brought her to the world and happiness. It is also affectionately called her "rabbit Yeer", "Grandma Rabbit."