Mid-Autumn Festival Mythology

In remote antiquity, there were ten suns rising in the sky which scorched all the crops and drove people into dire poverty. A hero named Hou Yi , very concerned about this state of affairs, climbed up Kunlun Mountain and, drawing his extraordinary bow, he shot down the nine superfluous suns one after another. He then ordered the last sun to rise and set according to time. For this reason, he was respected and loved by the people, who came to him to learn about archery and martial arts. One of these ‘students’ was named Peng Meng. Hou Yi also had a beautiful and kindhearted wife named Chang E.

One day, on his way to the Kunlun Mountain, Hou Yi met the Empress of Heaven, Wang Mu. Empress Wang Mu gave him a magical potion which would allow Hou Yi to would ascend immediately to heaven and become a celestial being. Hou Yi, however, hated to part with his wife so he left the potion in Chang E’s care. She hid the parcel in a treasure box on her dressing table. Unfortunately, Peng Meng once caught a glimpse of it.

One day, when Hou Yi was hunting with his students, Peng Meng, sword in hand, forced Chang E to hand over the potion. Yet, Chang E, thinking quickly, decided to take the potion instead. As soon as she swallowed it, her body floated off the ground, out of the bedroom window and flew towards heaven. Peng Meng ran away.

When Hou Yi returned home from the hunt and learned what had happened to Chang E, he was overcome with grief. He raised his voice to heaven, calling out his wife’s name. Even in his grief-stricken state, he noticed that the moon was full, and especially clear and bright. On it, was a swaying shadow that was exactly like his wife. He tried his best to chase after the moon, but his efforts were fruitless.

Hou Yi could not stop thinking of his wife so he had an altar arranged in the garden that Chang E had loved so much. He loaded the table with sweetmeats, fresh fruit and other delicacies. At a distance, he held a memorial ceremony for his beloved wife.

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