The Chinese love story that went to the moon.. but not back.

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We love tragic, star-crossed lovers. Romeo and Juliet? Still going strong after thousands of renditions. The Fault in Our Stars? A hit as a novel and just as popular as a movie. And let’s not forget Rose and Jack in Titanic. Look at any successful movie and chances are you’ll find a heartbreaking love story in the middle of it.

But even the most successful films can’t match the lasting popularity of the story of 嫦娥 (Cháng’é), or Chang E in popular Western culture. Yes, the Chinese “goddess of the moon” who flew to the moon… and never came back.

If this is all new to you, here’s a refresher: legend tells us that Chang E was Hou Yi’s Wife. Hou Yi shot down 9 suns in return for the sacred celestial “Never die” medicine. But Hou Yi refused to eat the immortality medicine and leave his wife behind, so he gave it to his wife for safekeeping.

 

All in the name of love, right? But this is where the story takes a turn. The Empress found out that Chang E had the medicine, and demanded Chang E give her the medicine. To keep the medicine away from The Empress, Chang E was forced to drink it.

 

Gulp.

“What did I do to myself?” Chang E wondered as she started drifting to the moon. It turned out that immortality meant living in heaven like the gods, so Chang E could no longer live in the mortal realm. As a result, Hou Yi was forever separated from his beautiful wife except for August 15th of each Lunar Year(There’s always a catch to immortality. Don’t try it). Talk about heartbreak and agony.

 

More importantly, the story of Chang E set a tradition. During the Mid Autumn Festival, people gather to celebrate the holiday while drinking Osmanthus wine, eating Mooncakes, and worshipping the moon. Mid-Autumn Festival celebrates the reunion of families while remembering separated loved ones like Hou Yi and Chang E.

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