Hou Yi & Chang’e, the original star-cross’d lovers

Posted on August 27, 2015


Mid-Autumn Festival, which falls this year on 27th September, celebrates the tale of Hou Yi, the archer, and his wife Chang’e. Legend has it that in Hou Yi’s time there were ten suns in the sky, the heat of which scorched the earth and burnt plants causing people great hardship. Hou Yi shot down nine of the ten suns, leaving only one for light, and the people were very grateful.

In recognition of Hou Yi’s heroism, an Immortal gave him an elixir of immortality – but only enough for one person. Hou Yi wished to be immortal but loved Chang’e too much to live forever without her, so decided not to take the elixir. One night, an ill-intentioned apprentice of his, Feng Meng, went to their house when Chang’e was aloneĀ and tried to force her to give him the elixir.

Knowing that she could not defeat Feng Meng but also that she could not let him take the elixir, Chang’e drank the elixir and became immortal. She flew higher and higher into the sky and took residence on the moon, to be as near to her beloved Hou Yi as possible. Heartbroken, Hou Yi laid out the fruits and cakes Chang’e liked in their yard as offerings to her; neighbours did the same and this became an annual tradition which has endured ever since.

In modern times, it has become traditional to paint and display lanterns and give and eat mooncakes, all remembering the story of Chang’e and Hou Yi. Here at Hutong we will be honouring both traditions, and will share more details in the coming weeks.