Good Stories from China: Goddess Chang'e of the Moon

June 14, 2006 12:00 am Last Updated: June 14, 2006 12:00 am

Chang'e is a goddess whose beauty is unsurpassed. According to legend, she came down to earth to accompany her husband Houyi, the divine warrior who assisted the human world by shooting down nine out of ten suns (see related articles ). Before their departure from heaven, while the Heavenly Emperor gave Huoyi a bow and some arrows, the Heavenly Empress gave Chang'e a bag of magic powder for them to swallow in order to return to heaven after their work on earth was done.

After descending onto the middle earth, Huoyi and Chang'e built a home among the humans. Houyi then set off to travel east in order to shoot down the extra suns, leaving Chang'e behind. Alone at home and constrained by the human form, Chang'e suffered from loneliness.

One night, overwhelmed by a sense of loss, Chang'e took out the magic powder and swallowed it. Immediately her body became light and she started to float upward to heaven.

As soon as she returned to heaven, Chang'e realized her selfishness. Determined to rectify her mistakes, Chang'e went on a self-imposed exile to become the guardian of the moon.

On the moon there were only a medicine-grinding white rabbit and a laurel tree. Later on, a laborer Wu Gang was exiled to the moon by the Heavenly Emperor for wrongdoings — his punishment was to chop down the laurel tree that would heal itself immediately after each cut.

Till today, the Chinese people still look at the moon searching for the goddess Chang'e, the white rabbit, and the laurel tree, as they try to make out the sound of Wu Gang's endless chopping of the laurel tree.

Source: Modified based on a traditional Chinese legend.