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"Moon goddess Cháng'é" - ( 嫦娥 ),
image of the Ming period according to Tang Yin (唐寅, 1470–1524)

Chang'e ( Chinese  嫦娥 , Pinyin Cháng'é , W.-G. Ch'ang-O , Jyutping Soeng 4 Ngo 4 , Yale Chang-Ngo ) is a Chinese goddess of the moon . Unlike lunar deities in other cultures do not personified the moon, but lives with the Jadehasen , as jade rabbit known ( 玉兔 , Yutu ) in a palace called " Guanghan Gong " ( 廣寒宮  /  广寒宫 , Guǎnghán Gong  - "the palace the vastness and cold ”) on him. Historically, Chang'e is originally called Heng'e in Chinese antiquity ( 姮 娥 , Héng'é , Heng-O , Jyutping Hang 4 Ngo 4 ). In the Taoist mythology, the Chinese goddess of the moon, Chang'e as "will Taiyinxingjun ", literally "Lady of the Moon" ( 太陰星君  /  太阴星君 , Tàiyīnxīngjūn ), respectively. The origins of the moon goddess Chang'e were recorded and described in the works Huainanzi and Taiping yulan . It was also the subject of the works of Li Shangyin (approx. 813–858) and Bi Yuan (1730–1797), for example .

The lunar program of the People's Republic of China ( 嫦娥 工程 , Cháng'é gōngchéng  - "Project Chang'e") and the spacecraft of the program itself also bear the name Chang'e. A crater on the moon was also named after her, it is called Chang-Ngo and is located within the Alphonsus crater .

Legends of Chang'e

"Chang'e rises to the moon"
( 嫦娥奔月 , Cháng'é bènyuè )

Most of the legends in Chinese mythology about Chang'e ( 嫦娥奔月 , Cháng'é bènyuè  - "Chang'e rises to the moon") consist of variations of the following elements: Houyi ( 后羿 , Hòuyì ), the archer; an emperor ( 皇帝 , huángdì ) who is either benevolent or malicious; an elixir of life ( 不死 藥  /  不死 药 , bùsǐyào ) and the moon ( 月亮 , yuèliang ). While in western culture people speak of the " man in the moon ", the Chinese speak of the "woman in the moon".

Chang'e and Houyi the Archer (Version 1)

"Wu Gang falls the cinnamon cassia " ( 吳剛 伐 桂  /  吴刚 伐 桂 , Wú Gāng fáguì ) - woodcut v. Yoshitoshi

According to legend, Chang'e and her husband Houyi ( 后羿 , Hòuyì ), the archer, are immortals (Xian) who lived in heaven. One day the ten sons of the Jade Emperor turned into ten suns to scorch the earth. After the instruction to his sons to stop destroying the earth fails, the Jade Emperor Houyi asks for help, he may use his famous bow to shoot nine of the ten suns from the sky, but spare a son this fate. That's exactly how Houyi did it. But the emperor was unhappy about the death of nine of his sons. As punishment, he banished Houyi and Chang'e from the moon and ordered them to live on earth as mere mortals.

Chang'e was very unhappy about the loss of her immortality, so Houyi decided to go on a long and dangerous journey to find a medicine that would restore immortality to his wife . At the end of this journey he meets the Queen Mother of the West who gives him this medicine. But she warns him that a single person only needs half the medicine to become immortal.

Houyi brings the medicine home and puts it in a box. He warns his wife not to open the box and leaves home for a while. Like Pandora in Greek mythology, curiosity triumphed in Chang'e: she opened the box and found the medicine the moment Houyi was just returning home. Fearing that Houyi might take the contents of the box after her discovery, she accidentally ingested all of the medicine. She began to ascend to heaven from the overdose. Houyi thought for a moment to stop her ascending into the sky with an archery shot, but he could not have the heart to shoot his wife. Chang'e ascended until she finally landed on the moon.

Since she felt lonely on the moon without her husband, she teamed up with a moon hare ( 月 兔 , yuètù , also jade hare , jade rabbit 玉兔 , yùtù ), who also lived on the moon and made elixirs. Another companion was the woodcutter Wu Gang ( 吳剛  /  吴刚 , Wú Gāng ). The latter had offended the gods by also trying to achieve immortality and had been banished to the moon. Wu Gang was allowed to leave the moon if he could cut down a tree ( 桂樹  /  桂树 , guìshù  - " Kassia tree ") on the moon . But every time he cut down the tree, it grew back, so that he was doomed to live on the moon for an eternity. (see Sisyphus exercise )

Chang'e and Houyi the Archer (Version 2)

"Chang'e rises to the moon"
Jap. Color woodcut - Tsukioka , before 1892

Chang'e was a beautiful young girl who worked for the Jade Emperor in the Heavenly Palace, where immortals, godmen and fairies lived. One day an accident happened to her and she broke a precious china glass. The emperor got angry and banished them to earth, where common people lived. She could then come back to the Heavenly Palace when she rendered a special service to humanity.

Chang'e turned into a member of a poor farming family. When she was 18, Houyi, a young hunter from a neighboring village, courted her and they became friends. One day a catastrophic phenomenon appeared in the sky. Instead of one, ten suns rose in the sky and scorched the earth. Houyi, who was also an excellent archer, now decided to save the earth. He successfully shot nine out of ten suns and thus became a hero. He may even become a king and marry Chang'e.

But Houyi became a tyrant. He strived for immortality and commissioned the creation of an elixir to secure his life. The single pill elixir was almost ready when he met Chang'e. Accidentally or deliberately, she swallowed the pill. The angry King Houyi now tried to seize his wife. She tried to escape, jumping out of a window at the top of the palace. But instead of falling, it floated in the sky towards the moon.

King Houyi tried to shoot her with an arrow, but to no avail. Her companion, a rabbit, has since been pounding the elixir of immortality in a large mortar. There is also a woodcutter on the moon who is trying to cut down a cassia tree ( 桂樹  /  桂树 , guìshù ). But as soon as it cuts a notch in the tree, it heals again immediately, so that it never makes any progress.

Meanwhile, King Houyi goes to the sun to build a new palace there. Chang'e and Houyi have since represented Yin and Yang , the sun and the moon.

Chang'e and the cruel emperor

For many years she was but a goddess on the moon, Chang'e looked down to earth and saw a terribly cruel emperor on the throne. To help the people, she let herself be born into the world a mortal. While the other members of the mortal family were being killed or enslaved by the emperor, she organized their escape to the countryside.

Meanwhile, the emperor was getting older and he became obsessed with discovering the elixir of life. All over the country people were brought to him from whom he asked to bring him the elixir of life. But nobody knew the elixir. However, the emperor did not accept their answers and had all of these people executed.

In the country, Chang'e met Guanyin , the goddess of compassion, who gave her a small elixir. Chang'e brought the elixir to the emperor. The suspicious emperor was afraid that the elixir might be poisoned and ordered Chang'e to taste it first. After no symptoms of intoxication appeared, the emperor ingested the elixir and died immediately. But Chang'e also left the mortal world again, because the elixir took a delayed effect on her. But instead of dying, she rose to the moon again to take her place as goddess again.


The moon goddess Chang'e was mentioned in a radio conversation between NASA's Mission Control Center in Houston and the crew of the Apollo 11 mission shortly before the first manned moon landing in 1969 .

“Among the large headlines concerning Apollo this morning, is one asking that you watch for a lovely girl with a big rabbit. An ancient legend says a beautiful Chinese girl called Chang-O has been living there for 4,000 years. It seems she was banished to the Moon because she stole the pill of immortality from her husband. You might also look for her companion, a large Chinese rabbit, who is easy to spot since he is always standing on his hind feet in the shade of a cinnamon tree. The name of the rabbit is not reported. "

"OK. We'll keep a close eye out for the bunny girl. "

- Michael Collins (Command Module Pilot, CMP)

See also

Web links

Commons : Chang'e  - collection of images

Individual evidence

  1. Chang-Ngo in the Gazetteer of Planetary Nomenclature of the IAU (WGPSN) / USGS
  2. Note: Japanese mythology also has references from literature where rabbits live on the moon.
  3. Note: The Chinese keep using this image to explain life on earth. Limbs or parts of life die off all the time, but new buds keep forming.