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Old man under the moon
月下老人

The old man under the moon, 月下老人, commonly known as Yue Lao,月老, is a Chinese deity in charged of marriage between man and woman.

Legend of Yue Lao, Old Man under the Moon

The earliest account of Yue Lao is a story set during the Tang Dynasty. It tells about a young man Wei Gu’s 韦固 unsuccessful attempts to find a wife. On another failed marriage prospect trip to a city called Song 宋城, he saw an old man reading under the moon. Curious, about his book, Wei Gu inquired from the old man who informed him it was the book of marriages and that his duty is to tie a red threat between a couple to make them husband and wife.

Desperate to find a wife, he asked if the old man could show him his future wife. Wei Gu’s was shown an old woman carrying a three year old child and they both seem to live in poverty. The three year old child was his future wife.

Incensed, he ordered his servant to murder the child. Fortunately, the servant only managed to injure the child.

Years later, a high official offered his daughter in marriage to Wei Gu who happily accepted and pleased that he finally found a wife. On the wedding night, he noticed a scar between her eye brows and enquired about it. His new wife told him about an incident where she was stabbed by a man in the City of Song.  

Wei Gu realized his wife was that little girl whom he tried to kill.

Worship of Yue Lao

This story spread and soon people began praying to that old man for help in marriage concerns. As no one knew his name, he was referred to as the Old Man under the moon, Yue Lao or Yue Lao Deity. 月下老人, 月老, 月老神君

In the traditional Chinese marriage custom, the bride and bridegroom walks together holding a length of red cloth with a ribbon in the middle. This might be a symbolism of their match by Yue Lao.


Wedding scene in a Chinese opera
Notice the piece of red cloth held by the couple

There are many temples and shrines establish for the worship of Yue Lao. Yue Lao is seen as an elderly man holding the book of marriage 姻缘簿, in his left hand and a walking stick in his right hand. Sometimes, the red threads can be seen too along with clay dolls symbolizing the couple. His birthday is celebrated on the 15th day of the eight lunar month the same as the Mid Autumn Festival.
Click here for this year's date.

In these temples, there could be couples praying for a happy marriage, singles in search of love or parents eager for their children to be married.

In Taiwan, there is an often notice board where lovers or singles leave their wishes for Yue Lao.

Yue Lao is believed to be in charged of heterosexual relationships leading to the emergence of the Gay Rabbit God in charged of homosexual relationships. In Taiwan, there is a Gay Rabbit temple dedicated to this Rabbit God.

For the days of arranged marriage to today’s individual search for their special one, Yue Lao’s special help remains relevant and sought after.

 

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