The myth of Chang-O

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Caroline Young, artwork and text

QFWF, September 28th 2019 © Source: The art of Caroline R. Young (2002), Heritage Immortals

The legend of the autumn moon

Eternal Beauty

Once upon a time, many centuries ago in ancient China, there were ten suns circling in the skies above, creating great havoc and famine on the ground below.
With so much heat and sunlight, the fields were burning up, and the streams and rivers running dry.

The ruling Chinese Emperor decided that only the greatest archer in his kingdom could save the world. He called on his archer Yi, a man of great strength and skill, and asked him to shoot down nine of the ten suns.

The Archer Yi took aim and one by one he brought the nine suns down, leaving the one we know today.

As Yi was successful in saving the world, the Emperor asked what gift he would claim as his just reward.
Yi then asked for immortality.

The Emperor asked the Gods to create an elixir The Emperor thus asked the Gods to create an elixir of immortality for the savior of the world. Yi was given the Potion of Immortality, and warned to drink but half of the mixture.
The overly confident Yi decided to wait until he was an old man before drinking the potion, taking no chances.

Moonrising

The hero Yi became Emperor of China after the old monarch died. However, Yi proved to be a heartless tyrant, taxing the peasants relentlessly.

His beautiful wife, Chang-O, decided that if Yi lived forever, the peasants would never be free of him.
So, one night, Chang-O stole his Potion of Immortality. But, she had not heard the warning about drinking only half, and drained the entire vial.

As a result, her body became light and she began to float skyward, until she eventually reached the Moon.

Just before she left the earth, she pulled her pet rabbit to her breast and took it with her into the sky, where she and the rabbit remain to this day.

Every year, Chinese people celebrate the full harvest moon in her honor during the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival. Chinese eat traditional Moon Cakes shaped like rabbits, and during the autumn months they stay up late to view the Moon in her honor.

They say that on that night, when the moon is the fullest and brightest of the year, you will see the Rabbit on the Moon, with mortar and pestle, formulating some more of the Potion of Immortality for his mistress to drink.
Their eternal presence on the moon means that Chang-O and her rabbit bestow grace, harmony and inner peace on the world below.

Caroline Young

As an adopted child of Chinese-American expatriates living in Hong Kong, I have always been intrigued by how the Chinese culture explained the mysteries of the universe.