The Chinese moon goddess Chang’e

chang-e_198x198Chang’e is the Chinese moon goddess. She does not symbolically represent the Moon, like for example the Greek moon goddess Selene, but Chang’e lives on the Moon and is befriended with the well-known rabbit that is very familiar to us. But has she always been up there?

The legend says that she got there some thousand years ago. There are different versions of the story, which we don’t want to elaborate on. In any case, her husband Hou Yi plays a central role, who came to help because of his skillfulness in archery, when ten suns threatened to burn the Earth and he shot down nine from the sky. chang-e_198x286As a result he received a medicine in form of a pill, which would make him immortal. Exactly this pill was found by Chang’e in his absence and she swallowed it in a rush, when he suddenly returned. This is how Chang’e achieved eternal life and floated into the sky toward the Moon, where she has been living ever since. Hou Yi, who subsequently built his palace on the Sun, visits her each year in September at the Moon Festival. Both characters represent Yin and Yang, the feminine and the masculine principle.

When the American astronaut Michael Collins was humorously made aware of Chang’e and her companion, by the mission control center in Houston, during the Apollo 11 mission in 1969, Collins winking answer was, »Okay. We’ll keep a close eye out for the bunny girl.«

The People’s Republic of China sent, as part of the Chinese Space Program, three different probes to the Moon from 2007 to 2013, which were named after the Moon goddess Chang’e and hence, expressed an appreciation of this legend. Even when space travel mostly deals with technical facts, it does feel nice that there are stories like the one of Chang’e that remind us of reality being much larger than we can imagine.

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