There are many
beautiful legends about the moon in China. The most popular one tells how a
goddess named Chang'er ascended to the moon.
A long, long time ago, a terrible
drought plagued the earth. Ten suns burned fiercely in the sky like smoldering
volcanoes. The trees and grass were scorched. The land was cracked and parched,
and rivers were dried. Many people died of hunger and thirst.
The King of Heaven sent
Hou Yi down to the earth to help. When Hou Yi arrived, he took out his red bow
and white arrows and shot down nine suns one after another. The weather
immediately turned cooler. Heavy rains filled the rivers with fresh water and
the grass and trees turned green. Life was restored and humanity was
One day, a charming
young woman Chang'er made her way home from a stream, holding a bamboo
container. A young man came forward, asking for a drink. When she saw the red
bow and white arrows hanging round his belt, Chang'er realized that he was their
savior, Hou Yi. Inviting him to drink, Chang'er plucked a beautiful flower and
gave it to him as a token of respect. Hou Yi, in turn, selected a beautiful
silver fox fur as his gift for her. This meeting kindled the spark of their
love. And soon after that, they got married.
A mortal's life is
limited, of course. So in order to enjoy his happy life with Chang'er forever,
Hou Yi decided to look for an elixir of life. He went to the Kunlun Mountains
where the Western Queen Mother lived.
Out of respect for the
good deeds he had done, the Western Queen Mother rewarded Hou Yi with the
elixir, a fine powder made from kernels of fruit which grew on the tree of
eternity. At the same time, she told him that if he and his wife shared the
elixir, they would both enjoy eternal life; but if only one of them took it,
that one would ascend to Heaven and become immortal.
Hou Yi returned home
and told his wife all that had happened and they decided to drink the elixir
together on the 15th day of the eighth lunar month when the moon was full and
A wicked and merciless
man named Feng Meng overheard their plan. He wished Hou Yi an early death so
that he could drink the elixir himself and become immortal. His opportunity
finally arrived. One day, when the full moon is rising, Hou Yi was on his way
home from hunting. Feng Meng killed him. The murderer then ran to Hou Yi's home
and forced Chang'er to give him the elixir. Without hesitating, Chang'er picked
up the elixir and drunk it all.
Overcome with grief,
Chang'er rushed to her dead husband's side, weeping bitterly. Soon the elixir
began to have its effect and Chang'er felt herself being lifted towards
Chang'er decided to
live on the moon because it was the nearest to the earth. There she lived a
simple and contented life. Even though she was in Heaven, her heart remained in
the world of mortals. Never did she forget the deep love she had for Hou Yi and
the love she felt for the people who had shared their sadness and
It is said that
Chang'er transformed herself into brilliant moonlight and descended to earth to
offer good fortune. Thus, couples swear their mutual love under the full moon
while separated lovers pray for reunion under the full moon.
explained the role of the Old Man on the Moon, the Divine Match-maker. The
Chinese believed that marriages were made in Heaven but prepared on the moon.
The Old Man on the Moon tied the feet of young men and women with red cords for
marriages. Thus a maiden made offerings and prayed to him during the Mid-Autumn
Festival, hoping that some day she would ride in the red bridal sedan