Chang‘e is the Chinese goddess of the moon, best known for stealing an elixir of immortality from her husband, Hou Yi. Her story is celebrated as part of the annual Mid-Autumn Festival. The story goes like this…
According to legend, in the ancient times, there were ten suns in the sky. It was extremely hot all the time and there was no such thing as night. The extreme heat made it impossible for the people to live.
Hou Yi, a young man who was good at archery decided to save the people. He took out his bow, ascended up to the peak of the Kunlun Mountain and shot down nine of the ten suns one by one. He said to the last sun in the sky: “From now on, you must rise and fall on time every day for the benefit of the people!” The weather immediately became cooler. Heavy rain filled rivers with fresh water, and grass and trees turned green again. Life had been restored and humanity saved.
Hou Yi thus was respected and honored by people as a hero. Young men who were fond of archery flocked to him to learn shooting. There was a man named Pang Meng, who was treacherous and greedy, and followed like everyone else to learn something from Hou Yi. Later, Hou Yi married a beautiful and kind-hearted lady called Change. She often helped the poor villagers and they liked her very much.
One day, the goddess Xiwangmu gave Hou Yi an elixir of immortality on the Kunlun Mountain. It was said that people who take this elixir can not only live forever, but also ascend to heaven and become immortal. While Hou Yi was grateful for the gift, he felt conflicted. Xiwangmu had only given him enough elixir for one person. However, Hou Yi did not wish to be immortal if his wife could not live at his side for eternity, so he asked her to hide the elixir in a wooden box.
Pang Meng knew about this matter somehow. He wanted to get Hou Yi’s elixir. In the early morning of August 15th, when Hou Yi wanted to take his disciples out, Pang Meng pretended to be sick and stayed. In the evening, Pang Meng carried the sword in his hand and could not wait to break into Hou Yi’s house, threatening Chang’e to hand over the elixir. Chang’e thought, letting such a person take the elixir would not he harm more people? So, she tactfully dealt with Pang Meng. Seeing that Chang’e refused to hand over the elixir, Pang Meng rummaged and searched around. Seeing that the wooden box was about to be found, Chang’e hurried up and took out the elixir, and then swallowed it.
As soon as she took it, Chang’e flew out of the window and over the countryside, flying higher and higher and all the way towards the heaven and finally landed on the moon. When Hou Yi returned home, he could not see his wife Chang’e. He rushed out the door anxiously, only to see the bright moon in the sky, the shadow of the tree whirling on the round moon, and a jade rabbit jumping around under the tree. The wife was just standing next to a tree and staring at herself affectionately. “Chang’e! Chang’e!” Hou Yi called repeatedly, desperately chasing toward the moon. But when he chased three steps forward, the moon moved back three steps and no matter how hard he tried, he could not catch it.
Chang’e lived there since then. The people missed the kind Chang’e very much. They put Chang’e’s favorite food in the yard and blessed her. Since then, the 15th day of the eighth month of the lunar calendar every year has become a Mid-Autumn Festival, where people look forward to reunion.