…is a story that’s central to the Mid-Autumn Festival. It has many versions, but generally goes like this. Chang E was a beautiful young woman who dwelt in heaven as a servant of the Jade Emperor, a Zeus-like character of Chinese mythology. She was married to another immortal, an archer by the name of Hou yi.
One day the Jade Emperor’s ten sons decide to have a little fun. They transform themselves into ten suns and begin to march across the sky together, burning the land to cinders. The Emperor is not amused and begs Hou Yi for help. His response is to shoot nine of the suns down and kill them, which wasn’t the solution the Emperor had in mind. So he punishes Hou Yi and Chang E by sending them to Earth to live out their lives as mortals.
But Chang E and Hou Yi soon hatch a plan to regain their immortality by locating the elixir of life that is in the possession of Xi Wangmu, the Goddess of the West. Shortly Hou Yi sets off on a quest and returns with enough potion for the both of them. Somehow — and stories vary widely on exactly how this happens — Chang E ends up drinking it all. Made buoyant by too much youth juice, she floats up into the sky and ultimately lands on the moon where she lives to this day.
For company she has only the Jade Rabbit (who himself makes elixirs and is forever pounding a mortar and pestle) as well as a Sisyphus-like woodcutter by the name of Wu Gang who is cursed by the gods to cut down a tree that is forever growing back again.
Traditionally Chang E is honored during the Mid-Autumn festival (as a sort of embodiment of the female principle) and mooncakes are laid out for her to bless.