Chinese Moon Myth - Chang'e Flies to the Moon

This story is based on a reinterpretation of "Huainanzi - External Eight Discourses." Hou Yi and Chang'e were removed from their celestial status by the Heavenly Emperor and demoted to mortals. They sought the elixir of immortality from the Queen Mother of the West. However, due to the interference of Feng Meng, they were unable to consume the elixir simultaneously. As a result, Chang'e was stranded in the Guanghan Palace, while Hou Yi could only long for his wife in the mortal realm.

Orignal article: 嫦娥奔月

Chinese Moon Myth - Chang'e Flies to the Moon

Long ago, in the heavenly realm, there was a deeply in love couple. The husband, named Hou Yi, was a legendary archer, and his wife, Chang'e, was a beautiful and gentle goddess. They were married beneath a laurel tree and lived happily ever after.


Chinese Moon Myth - Chang'e Flies to the Moon

Long ago, in the heavenly realm, there was a deeply in love couple. The husband, named Hou Yi, was a legendary archer, and his wife, Chang'e, was a beautiful and gentle goddess. They were married beneath a laurel tree and lived happily ever after.

At that time, the Heavenly Emperor had ten sun sons. Originally, they took turns shining their light upon the Earth, allowing the people to live in peace. However, the ten suns grew impatient with their rotating duty and decided to shine together, scorching the Earth in the process. They evaporated all the water sources, dried up rivers, and left the oceans cracked and dry. Farmers couldn't till their fields, fishermen couldn't catch fish, and hunters couldn't find prey. Many ordinary people, animals, and plants suffered and perished from the intense heat.

"Who will save us?" "We can't bear this anymore!" "The ten suns are terrifying!" cried the people, but they could not find a solution to their predicament.

Upon learning of his sons' behavior, the Heavenly Emperor was filled with rage. He decided to send a heavenly messenger to warn the ten suns to behave and restore the original rotational duty, allowing the people to live in peace. The Heavenly Emperor sought out Hou Yi and said, "Take this red divine bow and white-feathered arrows. Use them to warn my ten sun sons to take turns illuminating the Earth each day. Ensure the well-being of the people. Remember, your mission is to frighten them, not harm them."

Chinese Moon Myth - Chang'e Flies to the Moon

Hou Yi, being naturally impulsive, didn't wait for the Emperor to finish speaking. He immediately took the divine bow and arrows and set off to confront the ten suns. His wife, Chang'e, knowing her husband's temperament, followed him hastily, fearing a hasty mistake.

When Hou Yi saw the miserable state of the people's lives, he was filled with anger. Without a second thought, he drew the divine bow, drew back the white-feathered arrow, and took aim at the scorching suns in the sky. "Swoosh, swoosh, swoosh..." In an instant, he shot down nine of the suns, leaving only one trembling sun.

As Hou Yi was about to nock another arrow to shoot, Chang'e suddenly appeared before him and grabbed his hand. She said, "You are too impulsive. You didn't fully understand the Heavenly Emperor's intent!" She continued, "If you shoot down the last sun, who will continue to illuminate this world?" So, Hou Yi put away his precious bow and divine arrows and instructed the remaining sun to behave and continue providing light and warmth to all living beings and the earth.

Chinese Moon Myth - Chang'e Flies to the Moon

"What? My nine sun sons were all shot down by Hou Yi!" The Heavenly Emperor, learning that only one sun remained of his ten sun sons and that the others had been shot by Hou Yi with the divine bow and arrows he had provided, was shocked and furious. Consequently, he stripped Hou Yi and Chang'e of their divine status and banished them to live as ordinary mortals in the human world.

Upon their arrival in the mortal realm, Hou Yi and Chang'e had to face the expenses of daily life. They devised a plan: Hou Yi would become a teacher, imparting his archery skills and enrolling students to earn tuition fees.

Due to Hou Yi's exceptional accuracy in archery, many people were attracted to study under him. Among the numerous students, Feng Meng was a cunning individual, but he learned the fastest and excelled the most, which led to a close relationship with Hou Yi and Chang'e.

After living in the mortal realm, Chang'e often longed for her previous life in the heavenly realm and would occasionally complain that Hou Yi had burdened her. This resulted in quarrels between the couple. "It's all because of you that we're suffering in the mortal realm!" Chang'e angrily expressed her frustration to her husband. "Oh, I had no idea it would turn out like this!" Hou Yi replied impatiently. "Hmph! As immortals, we could have lived forever. But now, we will gradually age and, one day, we will even die!" Chang'e lamented.

Chinese Moon Myth - Chang'e Flies to the Moon

As Chang'e spoke, tears welled up in her eyes. Hou Yi, feeling helpless, tried to comfort his wife, saying, "I'll think of a solution. I've heard that the Queen Mother of the West, who resides on Kunlun Mountain, possesses the elixir of immortality. I will go to her and ask for some to grant us eternal life." Chang'e, partly skeptical but with no other option, reluctantly nodded in agreement.

The next day, Hou Yi set out on his journey to Kunlun Mountain to find the Queen Mother of the West. Kunlun Mountain was located far away, and Hou Yi traveled day and night, enduring hardship and overcoming numerous obstacles. Eventually, he acquired the elixir of immortality, and he returned home with great joy, preparing to share this rare elixir with Chang'e.

Unfortunately, one of their students, Feng Meng, got wind of this and had his own devious plans to attain immortality. One day, when Hou Yi took the students out for a hunting trip, Feng Meng pretended to be sick, unable to join them. Seizing the opportunity, he approached Chang'e and requested to share the elixir of immortality. However, Chang'e flatly refused him.

Chinese Moon Myth - Chang'e Flies to the Moon

In response, Feng Meng decided to resort to theft. In a moment of panic and with no other options, Chang'e swallowed the elixir of immortality. She began to feel her body becoming lighter, gradually lifting off the ground and ascending into the sky.

Filled with fear and not wanting to stray too far from her husband, Chang'e flew towards the nearest celestial body, which happened to be the moon.

On the desolate moon, Chang'e found herself living alone in the Guanghan Palace, feeling extremely isolated and lonely. Every day, she yearned for her husband, Hou Yi, hoping for a reunion.

To alleviate her solitude, she asked the Jade Rabbit for help in concocting a celestial elixir that would allow her to fly back home and be with Hou Yi once again.

Chinese Moon Myth - Chang'e Flies to the Moon

Meanwhile, Hou Yi returned from his hunting expedition, and his servants revealed everything that had transpired, making him both angry and sorrowful. He wanted to hold Feng Meng accountable, but to his surprise, his disciple had already fled.

On the fifteenth day of the eighth month in the lunar calendar, the night of the Mid-Autumn Festival, Hou Yi missed Chang'e dearly. He took a walk in the courtyard and, as he looked up at the exceptionally bright and clear moon that night, he saw a figure resembling Chang'e moving across the moon's surface. This sight prompted him to prepare a table with Chang'e's favorite pastries and fruits, hoping that his wife would return home soon.

Upon hearing the news of Chang'e's celestial ascent to the moon, the common people followed Hou Yi's example and set up altars under the moonlight to pray for the well-being of the beautiful and kind Chang'e. Since then, the tradition of worshipping the moon during the Mid-Autumn Festival has become a popular custom among the people.

Children, when it comes to the Mid-Autumn Festival, we will always think of the story of "Chang'e Flies to the Moon." Despite the advancements in technology and humanity's successful moon landings, the beautiful myths surrounding the moon remain timeless. This story can be read alongside "Hou Yi Shoots the Sun" to gain a deeper understanding of their origins and connections.

Written by Linlin
Sponsored by Mei-Hua Hall