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Chang E, Hou Yi, Moon Rabbit, and Mid Autumn Festival

In ancient Chinese Folklore, Chang E, or Chang'E, is the Moon Goddess. She and Moon Rabbit (or Jade Rabbit) live in the Moon Palace (Guang Han Gong), next to which is a giant, eternal Laurel.


Hou Yi, the God of Archery, is a hero that protected people from extreme drought and evil monsters. 


Chang E and Hou Yi are believed to be a loving couple but end up separated.


Chang E stayed on the cold moon with Moon Rabbit, while Hou Yi has mysterious endings throughout history. 

Chang E, Moon Rabbit and Moon Palace Guang Han Gong

Moon Goddess Chang E by Artist Yuan Yonghua

Love of Chang E and Hou Yi


Chang E, also named Heng E, was a beautiful princess of a strong tribe. In some folklore, she was the daughter of a deity in heaven. 


Hou Yi, also named Da Yi or Yi, was a brave young man. He was excellent at archery and was rewarded a fief because of his outstanding contribution. 


They fell in love, married, and lived happily together. 


Until a severe drought happened, King Yao summoned Hou Yi to save civilians. 

Chang E Deity

Moon Goddess Chang E by Artist Liu Danzhai

Hou Yi's Shooting Suns


In ancient times, ten suns worked in turns; each sun worked for one day and rested for nine days. 

During a year of King Yao's reign, they found their working schedule quite dull, so they went out together every day, which caused severe droughts.

Ten Suns in Ancient Times

Ten Suns in Ancient Times, Drawn by Quan Gao

Seas and rivers dried out, and countless people and plants died because of this destructive aridity. 

Moreover, many monsters also came out to hurt and hunt people, taking advantage of humans when they were suffering. 

Hou Yi was given a giant bow and ten magical arrows and came to the driest center, the nearest location to the ten suns.

With his courage and exceptional archery skills, Hou Yi shot down nine suns and commanded the last one to behave. 

The remaining sun was scared and promised to work diligently and punctually since that time.

Hou Yi Shooting Down the Suns

Hou Yi Shooting Down the Suns, Drawn by Artist Snow Fish

Monsters Defeated by Hou Yi

After the world recovered from the extreme drought, Hou Yi became a true hero and master of many students learning archery skills from him. 

Besides training his students, Hou Yi also traveled to many places and defeated Six Evil Monsters that took away thousands of lives: 

Yayu, a giant snake with a human's head; 

Dafeng, a giant bird that brings hurricanes;

Xiushe, a strong snake that devours all life;

Zaochi, a giant beast with long teeth that could cut everything;

Feng Tun, a vast magical wild boar;

Jiuying, a monster with nine heads, howls like a baby crying and sprays fire and water.

Hou Yi Fighting Against Monster Jiuying

Hou Yi Fighting Against Monster Jiuying, Painted by Zhao Guodong.

Chang E and the Magical Pill of Immortality

Because of Hou Yi's exceptional contribution and fearless spirit, he was rewarded with an elixir of life by the deity Xi Wang Mu (Queen Mother of the West) living on Mount Kunlun

If two people share that elixir, they both will stay immortal; if someone takes it alone, they could fly into the sky and become a deity.

Hou Yi and Chang E planned to share it after Hou Yi defeated all evil monsters.  

However, Chang E took the elixir alone and flew to the moon. 

Chang E Flying to the Moon

Chang E Flying to the Moon, by Artist Yang Yijun

The most popular version of Chang E taking the elixir alone was that she was forced to when a greedy lousy guy was trying to steal the elixir. 

After landing on the moon, she realized she couldn't leave there.


Since then, she has lived in the Moon Palace or Guanghan Gong and is respected as the Chinese Moon Goddess.

From that time, Chang E only could watch her beloved husband Hou Yi from far away, and her only company is the Moon Rabbit or Jade Rabbit, in Chinese Yutu. 

Lacquerware Debris of the Yuan Dynasty (1271 — 1368) Inlaid with Mother-of-pearl Made Moon Palace Picture

Lacquerware Debris of the Yuan Dynasty (1271 — 1368) Inlaid with Mother-of-pearl Made Moon Palace Picture — Capital Museum (Photo by Dongmaiying)

Hou Yi and Mid Autumn Festival

When Hou Yi came home and found his beloved Chang E was gone, he was heartbroken and cried her name loudly day and night. 

Sometime later, the deities of heaven were impressed by Hou Yi's sincere love; hence, one night, he finally saw Chang E's silhouette showing up on the full moon.

Then, he took out all his fine food and put them on a table, trying to share them with his beloved wife living on the moon. 

After hearing their story, more people started to worship the moon using fine food on the day that Hou Yi saw Chang E, on the 15th of August in the Traditional Chinese Calendar

Soon, this day was named the Mid Autumn Festival, a holiday to reunite with family and beloved ones, worship the moon, and eat mooncakes.

Mooncakes for Mid Autumn Festival

Ending of Hero Hou Yi

When Chang E stayed as an immortal Goddess of the Moon, and the Mid Autumn Festival has been celebrated for thousands of years in China, hero Hou Yi left the world with a mysterious ending.  


In some folklore, Hou Yi grew older and passed away like an average person. Without the elixir of immortality, he was a human being, even though he used to be super brave and strong. 


Some versions believe he became the Lord of a state named Youqiong, who usurped the throne of the king of the Xia Dynasty (about 2027 BC — 1600 BC) and was later assassinated by one of his generals.


The Kingdom Xia was then reigned by nobles of State Youqiong for decades until King Si Shaokang (about 1972 BC — 1912 BC) regained power and regained everything. 


In other versions, Hou Yi became a deity as well. Each year at the Mid Autumn Festival, Hou Yi could reunite with Chang E under the Laurel next to the Moon Palace.

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