Chang'e, the Chinese Goddess in the Moon

Apr 16, 2009
*Special to asia!
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Feminists claim Chang’e to be the first victim of male chauvinist propaganda.

According to legends that predated Confucius (551 – 479 BCE), Chang’e and her archer husband Houyi lived in heaven. They were sent by their ruler, the Jade Emperor, to earth. The emperor had 10 sons, who playfully manifested themselves as suns, causing prolonged drought and famine on Earth. Houyi was to frighten them with his arrows and chase them home. But the archer, enraged by the suffering, killed nine, leaving only one in the sky. As punishment, he and Chang’e were stripped off their immortality and banished to earth. Houyi then secured two portions of elixir of immortality for himself and Chang’e. But in her greed Chang’e took both, and was sent soaring to the moon, where she lived alone for eternity.

Chang’e, who might have been an antecedent of Kaguya given the similarities, was portrayed as selfish and disobedient. That was one version of the legend. The feminists favour another version, which stated that Houyi had become a tyrant on Earth, and Chang’e stole the elixir to prevent him from having an immortal reign. In their eyes, she was a woman who sacrificed herself for the good of the masses. This is the version now in favour among many Chinese scholars who are keen to ensure ancient myths are in keeping with China’s socialistic ideals.


lee han shihLee Han Shih is the founder, publisher and editor of asia! Magazine.


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