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Moonlight Rabbit

silk embroidery work

The Moon Rabbit or Usagi has long been associated with lunar deities, meaning rebirth or resurrection, symbolising fertility and sensuality, represented in many Japanese arts. In addition, the symbol of Usagi has a connection with the Otsukimi Moon-viewing Festival, a Japanese celebration in honour of the autumn moon. People admire the reflection of the Moon in the water and read Tanka poetry in the moonlight, spotting the image of a jumping rabbit in the silver circle.

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The Moon Rabbit is a mythical figure in East Asian folklore based on the association that identifies dark markings on the near side of the Moon as either a rabbit or hare. Tsuki no Usagi is one of the Japanese folktales, and its images are found all over Japan.

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As the legend says, a man who lived on the Moon made his way to the Earth, where the animals met him. They thought him to be an old, starving beggar. He looked weak and hungry, so they decided to give him food. The first was the Monkey, who picked fruits from the trees and ate them by the beggar. Then, the Otter brought fish from the river and offered it to the beggar.

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The Jackal was too lazy to bring anything, so he caught the first lizard seen in front of him and gave it as an offering. The last was the Rabbit, who had nothing to grant because of his inability to hunt, fish, climb trees, or gather fruit. The Rabbit was the best at collecting grass, but grass could not be a good gift for a human. So the Rabbit sat alone and silent, being quite unhappy, when a sudden idea came into his head.

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The Rabbit remembered that humans eat meat, so he shined happily, made a fire and jumped into it to provide the guest with a festive dish.

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The fire did not burn the Rabbit, and it was time for the beggar to reveal his name. He called himself Sakra — the ruler of Gods and said to the Rabbit: “You have been exquisitely kind and unselfish”.

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Touched by Rabbit’s virtue, Sakra drew the Rabbit silhouette on the Moon and added: “Thus, in all ages, people who look at the Moon will see you and remember your kindness”.

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This piece of embroidery is inspired by the traditional Japanese aesthetics of admiring the full Moon and cherishing the technique of silk embroidery. For authentic artists, my methods might seem inappropriate because I modify some approaches to adapt them to the materials I have found nearby.

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This is a lovely story that you may embroider too, following the series of lessons given on my Patreon page.