Chang’e, Chinese Goddess of The Moon

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ZETIZEN RADAR CIREBON – Chang’e (嫦娥) is the Chinese Goddess of the moon. Best known for stealing an elixir of immortality from her husband, Hou Yi. Her story is celebrated as part of the annual Mid-Autumn Festival. (cva)

Etymology

The goddess Chang’e’s name is comprised of cháng (嫦), a character completely unique to her name, and é (娥), meaning “pretty, young woman”. In other styles of romanization, Chang’e (嫦娥) is sometimes referred to as Chang’o.

Chang’e was once known as Heng’e (姮娥). Her original name was changed, however, because the emperor Liu Heng (劉恆) used a similar character in his name. An emperor’s name was supposed to be unique, and having a name so similar to another Chinese cultural figure would have been considered very taboo. Thus, the name “Heng’e” was changed to “Chang’e.”

Attributes

Prior to becoming the spirit of the moon, She was a woman renowned throughout China for her beauty. She had pale, milky skin, hair as black as night, and lips like cherry blossoms.

In art, she is consistently depicted as a graceful young lady wearing stylish hair ornaments and long, flowing robes. She is sometimes shown holding an elegant white rabbit. Occasionally, she may be depicted as an ugly toad.

Family

Chang’e is married to the legendary archer hero Hou Yi. In some versions of her myth, she served the Jade Emperor before being condemned to live as a mortal for accidentally breaking a porcelain pot.

Chang’e is often confused with the less popular lunar goddess, Changxi, who gave birth to twelve moons. Some historians believe that she may be Changxi’s mother due to their similar names and status as moon goddesses.

One of her earliest appearances is in the ancient divination text the Gui Cang (歸藏). This text recounts her deeds as such: “In the past Chang’e took the Western Queen Mother’s medicine of immortality and ate it, and subsequently fled to the moon, becoming the essence of the moon.”

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