USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘Archer’
Legends

Chinese Moon Goddess

The interviewer’s initials are denoted through the initials BD, while the informant’s responses are marked as JL.

BD: So tell me about this legend.

JL: Okay, so there’s a legend about this woman who lives in the moon. She is the goddess of the moon, and what happened is there was this guy, a warrior—I guess the equivalent would be like Apollo, because he’s an archer. And he shoots down the suns. There’s like ten suns, back then, eons ago. And he shoots down nine of them because having ten was just way too much. The earth was just way too hot, and the people couldn’t do anything like grow crops and stuff because it was just too hot. So this guy comes along and shoots down nine of the suns—he has to keep one, otherwise there would be no daytime, but it’s a perfect balance where it’s not too hot. Because of his feat, he was granted a potion of immortality, but he didn’t drink it. He was a sweet guy, and didn’t want to leave his wife behind. He didn’t want to watch her grow old while he was immortal forever. So he stored it in his house. But then his apprentice broke into his house and tried to steal the potion, and the warrior’s wife instead drinks it herself. I guess, so it wouldn’t fall into the wrong hands—his apprentice was not a cool dude. So her spirit went to the moon and she lives there immortal forever.

BD: Why the moon?

JL: I have no idea.

BD: Do most people know this story?

JL: Yes, it’s one of the better known myths in China. Like how everyone know the Greek gods, the moon lady is one of the better known stories.


 

Analysis:
There are many variations of this legend, likely in part because of how common it is in Chinese folklore. This is not the first time I’ve heard of the moon goddess, but this is the first time I have heard of her origins. Another version of this legend can be found at: http://www.moonfestival.org/the-legend-of-chang-e.html. The moon goddess is named as Chang’e. This legend is very interesting, because from it stems a lot of folklore regarding the moon. Superstitions such as pointing at the moon will cause the moon goddess to cut off your ear are related to this legend. A lot of Chinese cultural values also present themselves in this legend. The importance of family, and not leaving anyone behind is a very apparent one. Another is the importance of sacrificing for your family, which the goddess does—she does not want to live without her husband either, but she must in order to prevent his apprentice from obtaining the potion.

Customs
Foodways
Legends
Material
Narrative

Moon Cakes

The world used to have 10 suns, but a man took arrows and shot them down until only one sun was left. He had a beautiful wife that wanted to become immortal. One day, the wife found her husband’s medicine and ate it, turning into an immortal fairy. She flew away to the moon where all the fairies lived and the woman brought a rabbit with her. Even though the husband was angry, he did not shoot down the moon because he loved his wife so much.

Whenever my informants family buys mooncakes (the Chinese sweet cakes that are consumed on/around Chinese New Year), there is a picture of a lady included in the package. Neither he nor his family is quite sure how this story relates to mooncakes, but they all agreed that the lady in the image is the lady from this story. He first heard this story from his mother when he asked about the picture. Unfortunately, my informant did not remember many of the details from this story, so it is difficult to analyze it without explanations for why she left her husband, however it is worthwhile to note that this story serves as an origin story for the rabbit on the moon visible if you turn your head to the right.

[geolocation]