The legend of Chang’e, the Moon Goddess, is deeply embedded within Chinese folklore and culture. This enchanting tale has been passed down through generations, captivating the hearts and minds of people around the world. The legend of Chang’e provides insight into the origins of the Mid-Autumn Festival and important messages of love, sacrifice, and the celestial realm.
The Legend Unveiled
The legend of Chang’e is intricately connected to the origins of the Mid-Autumn Festival, also known as the Moon Festival, which falls on the 15th day of the eighth lunar month. According to Chinese mythology, long ago, there were ten suns in the sky, scorching the earth and causing widespread suffering. A heroic archer named Hou Yi emerged to save humanity. With his unparalleled skill, he shot down nine of the suns, leaving only one to provide light and warmth.
Hou Yi’s Extraordinary Gift
In gratitude for Hou Yi’s feat, the Heavenly Queen Mother rewarded him with the elixir of immortality. However, Hou Yi had a devoted wife, Chang’e, whom he loved deeply. Fearing that immortality would separate him from his beloved wife, he decided not to consume the elixir and instead entrusted it to Chang’e for safekeeping.
The Theft of Immortality
One day, a covetous apprentice of Hou Yi discovered the existence of the elixir. In a moment of treachery, he attempted to steal it while Hou Yi was away. Realizing the danger, Chang’e knew she had to protect the elixir at all costs. She decided to consume it herself, transforming her into an immortal being with the power to ascend to the heavens.
Chang’e Ascends to the Moon
Upon consuming the elixir, Chang’e experienced a sensation of weightlessness and began to float upward, eventually finding herself on the moon. There, she became the immortal Moon Goddess, eternally separated from her beloved husband on Earth. Hou Yi was heartbroken upon learning of his wife’s sacrifice and grieved deeply. The Jade Rabbit was sent to accompany Chang’e. They were often depicted pounding the elixir of life on the moon.
The Eternal Separation
In his despair, Hou Yi looked up at the moon and discovered that it shone brighter and more beautifully than ever before. He realized that Chang’e was still with him in spirit, residing on the moon and watching over him. To honor his wife, he placed her favorite fruits, cakes, and other offerings on a table in the courtyard, which eventually evolved into the tradition of offering mooncakes during the Mid-Autumn Festival. Hou Yi’s love and longing for Chang’e became the foundation of the festival’s celebration.