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Chang'e

by Lolitta Ho

The goddess of the moon, daughter of a water god. She is the wife of Houyi, the heavenly archer. In Chinese, 嫦, "chang" means "immortal female" and 娥, "e," means "consort."

According to one story, Houyi had built the summer palace for Xi Wang Mu and in return was given two elixirs of immortality, the last of their kind, which Houyi planned to use on himself and his wife. While Houyi was away, Chang'e came upon the elixirs and out of boredom drank them both. Coincidentally, Houyi had just returned and saw his wife ascending to the moon. He tried to seize her but she was already out of reach.

Another myth has it that Chang'e and her husband Houyi -- the archer who shot down the nine suns -- were originally immortals living in Heaven. She was banished when Houyi shot down nine of the Jade Emperor's sons, who were wrecking havoc among mankind. Another version has it that she was originally an immortal who broke a precious vase and was punished. Whatever the reason, Chang'e and Houyi were banished to live as mere mortals on earth.

Chang'e became very depressed over her banishment. Seeing that, Houyi obtained a pill from the Queen Mother of the West to make them immortal again. However, Chang'e stole the pill and swallowed it. Yet another tale tells of her swallowing the pill when threatened by a villain. She became immortal and came to live on the moon for eternity, with only white hares to accompany her.

The goddess is worshiped on Mid-Autumn day (the night of the full moon in the eighth lunar month). An altar is set up outside facing the moon. Chang'e endows her worshipers with beauty. In Chinese tradition, many paintings and stories describe her as a moon goddess.


Article details:

  • Also known as:
    Ch'ang-o, Chang O, Zhang E
    Heng-o, Heng O
    嫦娥

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