Mid-Autumn Festival Story - Chang E Flying to the Moon

Several versions of Mid-Autumn Festival story about Chang E flying to the moon are spread in the folklore. The most popular one is that a powerful archer, Hou Yi, shot down nine suns and saved people from suffering. As a reward, Wangmu, the Queen of Heaven, gave him the elixir of immortality. Hou Yi was not willing to become an immortal himself and gave the elixir to Chang E, his wife, for safekeeping. On a 15th day of an eighth lunar month, when Hou Yi was not out, one of his followers called Pengmeng forced Chang E to hand over the elixir. In desperation, Chang E swallowed it in desperation and flew to the moon. Since then, every year on 15th day of eighth lunar month, Hou Yi set up a banquet towards the moon, hoping to reunite with Chang E. 

Hou Yi Shooting Nine Suns

According to the most widely spread Mid-Autumn Festival story, in ancient times there were ten suns shining in the sky. The crop was drying and people suffered a lot. There was a powerful archer named Hou Yi, who was determined to relieve this suffering. He climbed to the top of Kunlun Mountain, took full strength to pull the bow with all his strength and shot down nine suns. He said to the last sun in the sky: “From now on, you must rise on time and fall on time every day, and benefit the people!” 

From then on, everyone respected him. Many people became followers of him and learned from him. A man named Fengmeng who was treacherous and greedy was among them. 

Hou Yi Got the Elixir

One day, Wangmu (the Queen of Heaven) living in the Kunlun Mountain gave Hou Yi an elixir as a reward for his magnificent feat. This elixir could help people who drank it ascend to heaven and become immortal. However, Hou Yi was not willing to leave his wife Chang E alone on the earth, so he gave her the elixir for safekeeping.

Chang E Swallowing the Elixir & Flying to the Moon

Chang E Flying to the Moon
Chang E Flying to the Moon

Chang E, Hou Yi’s wife, was a beautiful and kind woman who helped the poor, and people liked her very much. The greedy Fengmeng wanted the elixir so much. On the morning of a 15th day of an 8th lunar month, Fengmeng broke into Chang E's home when Hou Yi was outside hunting and demanded that she hand over the elixir. Knowing that she could not defeat him, Chang E promptly swallowed the elixir. As soon as she swallowed it, she flew to the sky towards the moon. 

Hou Yi Offering Sacrifice to Chang E on Every 15th Day in 8th Lunar Month

Hou Yi went back home and found his wife had disappeared. He rushed out of the door anxiously, Chang E was standing next to a laurel tree on the moon and staring lovingly at her husband. “Chang E! Chang E!” He screamed and shouted desperately toward the moon. But once he chased forward, the moon went back, so he could never catch up. Missing her wife so much, Hou Yi prepared the banquet towards the moon on every 15th day of 8th lunar month, looking forward to meet and reunite with Chang E.

The folks were very fond of the good-hearted Chang E. They also put on the sacrifice on that day and blessed her in the distance. Since then, the 15th day of the 8th lunar month, which was the day Chang E flew to the moon and separated with her beloved husband, has become the Mid-Autumn Festival for people to reunite.

Other Versions about Change E Flying to the Moon

One version of Moon Festival story has that Chang E stole the elixir and swallowed it on purpose, discarding her husband Hou Yi and then flew to the moon palace. This saying makes Chang E a beautiful but selfish lady, and it is said that Chang E was changed into an ugly toad for punishing for her stealing. 

Another Mooncake Festival story about Hou Yi and Chang E goes that Hou Yi presented the elixir to Chang E as a gift and shed took it then flew to the moon. 

The last version of Mid-Autumn Festival story is a little absurd, which said that Hou Yi had an affair, and Chang E was angry with him so she took the elixir and flew to the moon.

Further Reading
6 Most Well-Known Legends about Mid-Autumn Festival

Mid-Autumn Festival History and Origin since 3,000 Years Ago

- Last updated on Dec. 12, 2019 -
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