Mooncake Lady: Chang’e

The interlocutor (ZG) is a high school friend of the interviewer. She and her twin sister grew up in a Chinese-American household in Los Angeles.

DESCRIPTION: (told over call)
(ZG): “I don’t know if this is what you want but there’s this mooncake woman story my mom used to tell me and my sister of her and her husband! Did she tell you this already?…Mm, okay. 

So basically, there’s this Chinese moon goddess named Chang’e, right? And she’s supposed to be really pretty, with like, long black hair, y’know? Anyway, my mom told us about how Chang’e was this woman who was kinda in love with this human guy named Houyi. Houyi’s, like, an archer, by the way, and he’s supposed to be, like, the best archer. So basically it’s about this husband and wife? And the husband, Houyi, did something courageous and legendary and was given a potion of immortality for it, I guess? And then he gave it to his wife, Chang’e, to hang on to it while he went out to go hunting or fight somewhere, and she was alone in the house. But then this OTHER guy came to steal the potion from her. I think his name was like… Fengmeng? But I could be wrong. So like, instead of giving it to him, she drank it, which caused her to become immortal. And then because she was now immortal, she floated up to the moon and became the moon goddess.

So now there’s a Chinese celebration or festival that kind of honors her, I think? And mooncakes are also kind of in her honor too! The salted duck yolk, yum, being like a little yellow moon of course!”

(ZG): “My mom grew up in Hong Kong, which is where she learned this story from her parents and from celebrating the Moon Festival. She moved to the U.S. when she was, like, 10 or something, I don’t really know. I don’t really remember when she first told this story to [my sister] and I… we’ve kinda just known it forever, I guess.”

As someone who grew up in two cultures with heavy folkloric traditions, I got the gist of what it’s like celebrating a tradition or a festival based off a myth. It’s really interesting to hear the different ways folklore can weave itself into a culture and pass itself down from generation to generation, withstanding elements such as migration to a different country or community as well as the test of time.