This is part of our Chinese Mid Autumn Festival series. One thing that was particularly perplexing to me during Chinese Mid Autumn Festival was that there was also this really pretty girl on the moon in the Chinese Mid Autumn Festival posters or she’s on the mooncake boxes. So, who is she? Well, her name is Chang Er and there’s actually a really tragic love story that is a huge part of the Chinese Mid Autumn Festival. Chang Er is called the Chinese Moon Goddess and she’s in love with Hou Yi, this great famed archer. Chang Er and Hou Yi’s love story also involves 10 suns. Yes, 10 suns.
There are many variations to this famous legend so I’ve picked the one that I’ve heard most frequently and modernized it slightly as well.
THE TRAGIC LOVE STORY OF CHANG ER (嫦娥) AND HOU YI (后羿)
Long, long time ago (because all stories have to start this way, right?), there lived a woman named Chang Er.
Chang Er was married. Meet her husband, Hou Yi, also known as her bae in present day terms.
Chang Er and Hou Yi were madly in love. Think those really lovey dovey couples you see on Facebook and Chang Er and Hou Yi were the real deal.
The Earth at the time had 10 suns.
It was getting too hot. Plants died. People died. The guy in charge, the Jade Emperor, needed to do something fast. Hou Yi was an archer. In fact, he was the best archer in all of the lands. The Jade Emperor asked Hou Yi to shoot all the suns down except for one. So off Hou Yi, the great famed archer, went.
Hou Yi was very strong and a great archer. So the task was easy for him, so much so that he would have most definitely won the Hunger Games. Move aside Katniss.
impossible accomplished. The Jade Emperor was ecstatically happy, so happy that his tweet, if Twitter were available back then, would have been in ALL CAPS. The Jade Emperor showed his gratitude to Hou Yi by presenting him with a pill. It looks like a Dr. Mario pill, but don’t be mistaken. It was the Elixir of Life.
Hou Yi didn’t want to be immortal because he loved Chang Er too much and wanted to be by her side. No one knew if one got to stay on Earth once consuming the Elixir of Life so Hou Yi gave the pill to Chang Er for safekeeping instead. Hou Yi got really famous due to his accomplishment, and tons of people came knocking on his door to be his apprentice.
One of his apprentices, Feng Meng (逢蒙) was greedy and evil. And he wanted the elixir. One day, when Chang Er was home alone, Feng Meng demanded to have the Elixir of Life. Chang Er knew he was up to no good, so she did the only thing she could. She ate it.
Right after she took it, Hou Yi came home and saw what had transpired! But it was too late, Chang Er was already transforming… She started floating away from the Earth and its trajectory looked like she would be landing in the Heavens. Oh dear.
She desperately wanted to be closer to her beloved Hou Yi. So she tried to stop flying and managed to land on the moon instead of the Heavens.
Hou Yi was beyond heart broken and he immediately took Chang Er’s favourite cakes and fruits and placed them on a table under the moon for her, worshipping the moon and hoping to get a glimpse of her. This day became known as the day of the Chinese Mid Autumn Festival and mooncakes were thus invented.
More and more of the people soon heard of this sad tale and followed suit with the worship of the moon. It is said that it is on this day, and only this day every year, that Hou Yi and Chang Er get to see each other.
Unfortunately, it’s one very long distance relationship and sadly one that never ends… Their love story spread far and wide and Hou Yi became known as the God of Archery and Chang Er became the Goddess of the Moon.
But wait, Chang Er isn’t alone on the moon… This picture isn’t actually quite right. It should look like this.
We can’t forget about the Moon Rabbit… So how did he get up to the moon? That’s another story =)
Check out The Story of the Moon Rabbit in our Chinese Mid Autumn Festival series to see why there’s a Rabbit on the moon with Chang Er. Have you checked our previous posts from the Chinese Mid Autumn Festival Series? Check out the post on the Origin of Mooncake here. Did you know that mooncakes can end Chinese Dynasties?
AUTHOR’S NOTE: My parents, Hong Kong locals who moved to Vancouver in the 70’s, somehow and somewhere between those two cities also lost their enthusiasm for celebrating holidays, the Chinese or Western variety. Canada celebrated Chinese Mid Autumn Festival (& all other varieties of that) but obviously no where to the same degree of intensity as they do in Hong Kong, so I would say our household celebrated Mid Autumn Festival with tepid enthusiasm. My mom would buy a pomelo and maybe ONE mooncake that was shared amongst the whole entire household. I think my mom maybe bought me a lantern once to worship the moon, so that being said, I knew certain things about the Chinese Mid Autumn Festival, but there was also a whole lot that I didn’t know. This Chinese Mid Autumn Festival series of posts is to help others learn more about Chinese Mid Autumn Festival, so I hope you enjoy it and to check out all the other posts in the series.
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