Chang'e or Chang-o, originally known as Heng'e, 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 of course, the Moon. In modern times, Chang'e has been the namesake of the Chinese Lunar Exploration Program.
There are many tales about Chang'e, including a well-known story which is given as the origin of the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival. In a very distant past, ten suns had risen together into the skies and scorched the earth, thus causing hardship for the people. The archer Yi shot down nine of them, leaving just one sun, and was given the elixir of immortality as a reward. He did not consume it straight away, but hid it at home, as he did not want to gain immortality without his beloved wife Chang'e. However, while Yi went out hunting, Fengmeng broke into his house and tried to force Chang'e to give him the elixir; she refused and drank it herself. Chang'e then flew upwards towards the heavens, choosing the moon as residence. Yi discovered what had transpired and felt sad, so he displayed the Fruits and Cakes that Chang'e had liked, and gave sacrifices to her.
The recently rediscovered divination text Guizang contains the story of Chang'e as a story providing the meaning to Hexagram 54 of the I Ching, "Returning Maiden".
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 worshipers with beauty.
Chang'e was mentioned in a conversation between Houston Capcom and the Apollo 11 crew just before the first Moon landing in 1969:
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.
In popular culture
Chang'e's story was adapted in 2003 into a Chinese TV period drama titled Moon Fairy, starring Singapore actors Fann Wong and Christopher Lee.
Chang'e appears in Wu Cheng'en's novel Journey to the West and also TV adaptions of the novel. Her story slightly changed from her going to the Moon on her first try to going to the heavens, and would later be rewarded to live in the Moon after an incident which involved her and Zhu Bajie.
The story of Chang'e and her husband Houyi was adapted as a vignette in a dance production by Shen Yun Performing Arts.
Mao Zedong mentions Chang'e in his most famous poem, "The Immortals", about his murdered wife Yang Kaihui.
The legend of Lady Chang-O plays a prominent role in Amy Tan's children's book, The Moon Lady, retold from her more adult novel The Joy Luck Club.
The character Artemis in the anime Beast Wars II is a robotic woman who lives on Gaia's moon with her Transformer rabbit partner named Moon, and is based on Chang'e. The character's name, "Artemis", refers to the Greek goddess of the moon.
Chang'e and the Jade Rabbit appear briefly in a short story in the webcomic Gunnerkrigg Court.
Chang'e is a mute playable character in the MOBA game Smite, in-game she is accompanied by the Jade Rabbit, acting as one of her abilities and speaking for her when using voice chats and emotes.
Chang'e is a heavy source of inspiration for the character Kaguya Otsutsuki of the Naruto manga series.
In the Touhou Project video game Legacy of Lunatic Kingdom, Junko frequently mentions Chang'e due to her habitat being in the moon. Chang'e herself is alluded to prior in the Silent Sinner in Blue manga. It is implied that Chang'e and her husband Houyi (combined with the identically named figure attested to in the Zuo zhuan as an archer king of the Xia dynasty) are the source of her hatred towards Lunarians.