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This article is about the goddess. For other uses, see Chang'e (disambiguation).
File:Chang'e Flying to the Moon (Ren Shuai Ying).jpg
Chinese 嫦娥
Alternative Chinese name
Chinese 姮娥

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 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, but there's well-known story regarding the origin of the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival.[1] In a very distant past, ten suns had risen together to the heavens, thus causing hardship for the people.[1] The archer Yi shot down nine of them and was given the elixir of immortality as a reward, but he did not consume it as he did not want to gain immortality without his beloved wife Chang'e.[1] However, while Yi went out hunting, Fengmeng broke into his house and forced Chang'e to give up the elixir of immortality to him, but she refused to do so.[1] Instead, Chang'e drank it and flew upwards towards the heavens, choosing the moon as residence to be nearby her beloved husband.[1] Yi discovered what had transpired and felt sad, so he displayed the fruits and cakes that his wife Chang'e had liked, and gave sacrifices to her.[1]


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".[2]

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.

Space travel

Chang'e was mentioned in a conversation between Houston Capcom and the Apollo 11 crew just before the first Moon landing in 1969:[3]

Houston: 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: 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.[4] 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 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.[citation needed]
  • 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.

See also


  1. ^ The name Heng'e was changed to Chang'e due to a taboo character from a name of Emperor Wen of Han.
  2. ^ 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 12 October 2014).


  1. ^ a b c d e f Yang & An 2005, 89-90 & 233.
  2. ^ 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. 
  3. ^ 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 12 October 2014
  4. ^ Clark, Stephen (1 October 2010). "China's second moon probe dispatched from Earth". Spaceflight Now. Retrieved 1 October 2010. 
  5. ^ Shen Yun Performing Arts, "Chang'e and Hou Yi". Accessed February 5, 2012.


  • Yang, Lihui; An, Deming (2005). Handbook of Chinese mythology. Santa Barbara: ABC-Clio. ISBN 1-57607-806-X. 

Further reading

  • 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