Tag Archives: chang'e

Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival Myth

Nationality: Chinese-American
Age: 19
Occupation: Barista/Student
Residence: Mercer Island, WA


A very long time ago, there were 10 suns in the sky. Crops and people were dying because of the excess heat from too many suns. One day, a really good archer named Houyi decided he’d solve the problem by shooting down the suns. He succeeded, shooting down nine out of ten of them. The people were happy, and afterwards, Houyi married a girl name Chang’e. He was rewarded for his feat with a special medicine ball, but told only to eat it when he was about to die. Later, Houyi went hunting, leaving his wife at home. Thieves broke into their house and demanded that Chang’e give them the medicine ball. Chang’e refused, but when the thieves insisted, she ate it rather than risk it falling into their hands. As a result, she floated all the way up to the moon. Houyi was extremely sad. Chang’e is said to still be there today. There are other versions of this story where Chang’e chooses to eat the ball without the intervention of thieves or where Houyi grows evil and Chang’e eats the ball to prevent Houyi from using it.


AZ was between 4 and 5 when she first heard this legend. She can’t remember where she first first it, but recalls that it’s generally told during the Mid-Autumn Festival or in school. This celebration is all about the moon at its brightest and roundest, and the legend is shared to honor Chang’e for eating the ball to protect it from being used for bad things. AZ says this story is the origin of the Mid-Autumn Festival. The story is very nostalgic for her. AZ told me that she prefers the version she told over the alternate versions. She doesn’t know what the story might mean or represent.


There’s a lot to this myth, which seems to have many variations and hold lots of value in Chinese culture. I designate this as a myth because it is not only a creation story, but also appears to be sacred. It’s the origin of a large, annual celebration, denoting its importance in China. I think that this myth expresses the importance of the Sun and moon in Chinese culture, as well as their intrinsic connection to human beings. This is because both bodies have major importance in the story: Houyi is reason there’s only one sun, and his shooting down of the other nine leads to his to his ownership of the ball; and Chang’e’s choice to eat the ball takes her to the moon, where she remains to this day. Chang’e’s and Houyi’s decisions to take action in order to protect the world around them highlights the importance of strength, virtue, and courage in Chinese culture. This is further emphasized by alternate versions of the tale mentioned by AZ. In the one in which Houyi turns evil, Chang’e’s choice to eat the ball is still courageous, strong, and virtuous. In the one in which Chang’e chooses to eat the ball, being stranded on the moon is her punishment, warning others to choose virtue over desire. Since this myth still shapes an important celebration in China and continues to be told, I believe that these values are still important to the culture in the modern day.

ZhongQiuJie: Chang’E


Chinese Characters (Simplified): 中秋节
Chinese Characters (Traditional): 中秋節
Romanization: zhōngqiūjiě
Transliteration: Middle – Autumn – Holiday
Free Translation: Mid-Autumn Festival


Informant: Chang e feng yue [嫦娥?月 (Chang’e Fengyue)] is uh, so there is – I, so I was reading this today, but somehow story is a little different from what I know. So what I know is that Chang’e is the lady, and her husband is a man. They don’t see each other until the moon day, so that is the day they can see each other. Chang’e is the name of this lady. Fengyue Feng yue means uh running with the moon. So when you In China, sometimes they have a drawing of the moon, bright moon, then have this lady, beautiful have beautiful clothes and kind of like.. next to the moon, and also have a small rabbit next to her. That’s a kind of a traditional character and picture, we call it Chang’e Fengyue. Chang’e that’s her name. Feng means run, yue means moon. Basically fly to the moon, and she will has the ancient clothes. Which is like beautiful long dress, 是唐代 Tang Dynasty clothes. All those really really long sleeves, you can’t see your hand, or if you do a like Tang Dynasty clothes thing you’ll probably see.

So it’s kind of interesting, uh besides all the serious part, right – eat mooncake, stuff like that. Also have, this kind of like, tale.

Her husband has a name, say they are 10 sun in the earth, so he shooting down 9, only left 1. One we are having now. 

Me: Oh! like the Chinese Archer man? [Houyi]

Informant: Right right, his wife is Chang E. And so he has a, some kind of medicine, that if you eat it you will live forever. But his wife steal it and ate it. Now, she’s going to live forever, and he wouldn’t. So somehow, I don’t remember the story exactly, and then she is now living in the other side not on the Earth, with the moon and with the rabbit and so they began to see each other once a year at 中秋节。

Informant: Since it’s a story, so it varies. That’s the part, they tell the story to foreigners. I mean, because sometimes the foreigners will ask, I mean, foreigners to Chinese. Will ask, hey what is ZhongQiuJie mean, what do you do. And sometimes they just tell this story. 

Me: Wait they made this story for foreigners?

Informant: Uhh they have this whole story even before the foreigners. but uh, since, in the past, nobody cares about Chinese ZhongQiuJie, but now with the more open to Western, more communication, everything, uhh so from time to time the foreigner will ask about this. So they say ok, we’ll just tell them this.


Q: Was there a point as a kid where you first started celebrating or learned about it?

A: Oh ever since I can remember things, it’s always every year that way.

Context of Performance: Collected from an in-person conversation. 

Personal Thoughts:

This particular story is very interesting to me because it displays a relationship between women and the moon. In many cultures across the world, women are associated with the moon. However, the typical associations are about witchcraft, menstrual cycles, or perhaps goddess representing the moon. So it was a great shock to see a story about a woman LIVING ON THE MOON. In addition, this legend displays a sort of blaming of women typically found in other stories. Chang’e is sort of exiled to the moon because she stole an elixir of immortality from her husband. This story choice likely reflects society’s greater blame towards women.