Chang Er.

A Chinese deity, more commonly romanized as Chang E or Chang O. There are a number of different backstories about her origins and why she took her radical action, so I'll just tell you what she did and not why. She swiped an elixir of immortality that was supposed to be for her husband, and drank it, becoming a goddess. Now in trouble, she fled to the Moon, where she can still be seen. Like Lilith, because of her rebellion against patriarchy she has frequently been depicted as somewhat negative, but she has not been demonized. She is still viewed as a beautiful immortal who just happens to live alone in the Moon rather than in Heaven with the other immorals. She is usually depicted as a graceful young woman, sometimes accompanied by the rabbit that is the only other occupant of the moon. Check your egg roll's paper wrapper; a popular Chinese food-supply company prints red pictures of Chang Er dancing in the moon on their wrappers.

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Pinyin: Cháng'é
Wade-Giles: Ch'ang2-o2
Also called: Héng'é 姮娥

Chang'e is the Chinese goddess of the moon. The legend is set in the time of the Emperor Yáo 堯.

Chang'e was wife of the heavenly archer Hòu Yì 後羿. Through no fault of his own, Hou Yi was banished from heaven and Chang'e was banished with him. Chang'e was resentful of her husband, because she felt that she had been unfairly treated.

They were both fearful of death but Hou Yi journeyed to Kunlun, where he pleaded with the Queen Mother of the West 西王母 who took pity on him. She gave him a bottle of medicine explaining that if the bottle was drunk, it would deify the drinker, but half the bottle would still make the drinker immortal. Hou Yi returned to his wife and explained what was said. They planned a great banquet after which husband and wife would each drink half and thus be saved from death. Hou Yi entrusted the bottle to Chang'e's safe keeping.

While he was away, Chang'e, still resentful, drank the entire contents of the bottle herself. Realising that she could never return to heaven, she fled instead to the moon. Hou Yi returned to discover only the empty bottle.

The legend has inspired much literature. "Chang'e" is the title of a poem by the late Tang dynasty poet Lǐ Shāngyǐn 李商隱.


Candlelight reflects dimly in the marble screen,
The Milky Way slowly sets and the dawn stars are sinking,
Chang'e must regret stealing the medicine that made her immortal,
As she meditates, night after night, over jasper sea and indigo sky.

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