The painting The Moon Goddess Chang E, dated to the Ming dynasty
Chang'e or Chang-o, originally known as Heng'e,[a] is the Chinese goddess of the Moon. She is the subject of several legends in Chinese mythology, most of which incorporate several of the following elements: Houyi the archer, a benevolent or malevolent emperor, an elixir of life and the Moon. In modern times, Chang'e has been the namesake of the Chinese Lunar Exploration Program. Chang'e is also married to the archer Houyi.
Among the immortals that lived in the Heavens, Chang’e was the most elegant dancer, like a dove on windswept currents. She drew the affection of the hero archer, Hou Yi, and the two were soon married.
Yet, beneath the Heavens, all was not well. Ten suns, the ten children of the Jade Emperor, rose to scorch the earth and boil the seas. Brave Hou Yi, bow in hand, shot nine from the sky, sparing only one. Though the world was saved, the Jade Emperor was furious his children were killed. In punishment, Hou Yi and Chang’e were made mortal.
Chang’e grew melancholy and danced no more. To restore their status in the Heavens, Hou Yi found the Elixir of Immortality, but thieves came to steal it while he was hunting. Chang’e struggled to hide the Elixir, but, in the end, was forced to drink it. Too much for one person, the Elixir gave her immortality, but it also swept her into the sky.
Since then, Chang’e has lived on the moon, forbidden to see her husband, a Jade Rabbit her only companion.
On Mid-Autumn Day, the full Moon night of the eighth lunar month, an open-air altar is set up facing the Moon for the worship of Chang'e. New pastries are put on the altar for her to bless. She is said to endow her worshippers with beauty.
- Ronald Evans (CC): 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.
- Michael Collins (CMP): Okay. We'll keep a close eye out for the bunny girl.[b]
In 2007, China launched its first lunar probe, a robotic spacecraft named Chang'e 1 in the goddess' honour. A second unmanned probe, named Chang'e 2, was launched in 2010. A third Chang'e spacecraft, a robotic lunar rover dubbed Chang'e 3, landed on the moon on Saturday, Dec. 14, 2013 at about 9:12 p.m., Beijing time, making China only the third country in the world to achieve such a moon feat after the former Soviet Union and the United States. The lander also delivered the robotic rover Yutu ("Jade Rabbit") to the lunar surface to begin its months-long driving mission. It has performed the first lunar soft landing since the Russian Luna 24 mission in 1976.
- The name Heng'e was changed to Chang'e due to a taboo character from a name of Emperor Wen of Han.
- NASA transcripts had attributed the response to Aldrin (Apollo 11 Technical Air-to-Ground Voice Transcription. National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Page 179), but corrected NASA transcripts attribute it to Collins (Woods, W. David; MacTaggart, Kenneth D.; O'Brien, Frank. "Day 5: Preparations for Landing". The Apollo 11 Flight Journal. National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Retrieved 26 June 2018.)
- Shaughnessy, Edward L. (2014). Unearthing the Changes: Recently Discovered Manuscripts of the Yi Jing ( I Ching) and Related Texts. New York: Columbia University Press. p. 154. ISBN 0231533306.
- Clark, Stephen (1 October 2010). "China's second moon probe dispatched from Earth". Spaceflight Now. Retrieved 1 October 2010.
- Yang, Lihui; An, Deming (2005). Handbook of Chinese mythology. Santa Barbara: ABC-Clio. ISBN 1-57607-806-X.
- Allan, Tony, Charles Phillips, and John Chinnery, Land of the Dragon: Chinese Myth, Duncan Baird Publishers, London, 2005 (through Barnes & Noble Books), ISBN 0-7607-7486-2
- Laing, Ellen Johnston, "From Thief to Deity: The Pictorial Record of the Chinese Moon Goddess, Chang E" in Kuhn, Dieter & Stahl, Helga, The Presence of Antiquity: Form and Function of References to Antiquity in the Cultural Centers of Europe and East Asia. Wuerzburg, 2001, pp. 437-54. ISBN 3927943223