A long, long time ago, there was a beautiful lady named Chang Er who was married to the heavenly archer Hou Yi…

By Frances Kai-Hwa Wang, AAV Contributing Editor

…They did a lot of very brave and kind things together to help the people on earth, the most famous being saving the earth from the ten suns that scorched the earth. One time, after they built a big new jade palace for the Queen Mother of the West (XiWangMu), the Queen Mother of the West rewarded them by giving them a special magic Pill of Immortality, saying, “If you eat this magic pill, you will live forever. But you can’t eat it right away. It has very strong magic, so you have to wait one year and eat special foods and sit quietly (fast and meditate) to get your body ready for the magic.”

Hou Yi took the pill home and told Chang Er about it. Then he put it in a secret hiding place until they were ready to eat it. But after three or four days, Chang Er wanted to take a closer look at the magic pill. So she took the box out from its hiding place and opened it up and took out the pill. It was so beautiful. It was like a pearl, glowing white from the inside with a rainbow of color shimmering just under the surface, and it smelled like peaches.

Just then Hou Yi came in and found her holding the pill. He said, “What are you doing?”

She hid the pill behind her back and said, “Nothing.”

He said, “Are you eating the Pill of Immortality? We’re not supposed to eat it until after one year. It’s too strong.”

She said, “No. I’m not eating it.”

He said, “Let me see your hands.” She took one hand out from behind her back. He said, “Let me see your other hand.” She switched the pill and showed him the other hand. He said, “Let me see both hands.”

She didn’t know where else to hide the pill, so she hid it in her mouth and showed him both hands and mumbled, “See, nothing.” She was so afraid of getting in trouble that she began to run away from him. He chased her around the room—on top of the tables and under the chairs and around and around—until, “gulp,” she accidentally swallowed the magic pill.

Her body suddenly felt weightless, and it began to glow with a bright light and she started to rise up into the air.

He said, “Where are you going? Come back down!”

She said, “I’m sorry, it was an accident! I didn’t mean to swallow it. I was just looking at it!”

The window was open and she floated out the window. He couldn’t reach her, but he saw her pet, Jade Rabbit, sitting on the porch looking up at her, and he tossed the rabbit up to her so that she wouldn’t be all alone wherever she was going. She caught Jade Rabbit in her arms and shouted, “Bye bye!” And she floated up up up to the moon, where she lives until this day in the Cold Palace of the Moon.

People say that when the moon is full, you can see them there. The Jade Rabbit is busy pounding a new elixir of immortality. And on the night of the Moon Festival, you can look up at her on the moon and ask Chang Er for a secret wish…


  • Hu, William C., The Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival: Foods and Folklore, Ars Ceramica, Ltd., Ann Arbor, MI 1990.
  • Stepanchuk, Carol, and Charles Wong, Mooncakes and Hungry Ghosts—Festivals of China, China Books and Periodicals, San Francisco, 1991.
  • Sanders, Tao Tao Liu, Dragons Gods and Spirits from Chinese Mythology, Peter Bendrick Books, New York, 1980.
  • Hong, Loke Siew, Legend of the Moon Maiden, AsiaPac Books, Singapore, 1996.
  • AsianFamily.Com: www.asianfamily.com/augustmoon.htm
  • 1996 Government Information Office, Republic of China: www.gio.gov.tw/info/festival_c/moon_e/moon.htm
  • Chinese Historical and Cultural Project: www.chcp.org/VMoonFestival.html
  • Petaling Street, Malaysia: www.petaling.st/mainstreet/midautumn/festivalorigin.html


Also of Interest

  • Celebrating the Moon Festival
    By Frances Kai-Hwa Wang, AAV Contributing Editor
    An Asian Autumn Harvest Festival Joins Family, Thanks, and Food
  • Tet Trung Thu and Mooncake Madness
    By Linh Song, Exec. Dir. of Man Non Organization
    Vietnam’s harvest festival celebrates children as well as the land’s bounty (with MP3 children’s songs)


Frances Kai-Hwa Wang is a second-generation Chinese American from California who now divides her time between Michigan and the Big Island of Hawaii. She is currently an acting editor for IMDiversity.com’s Asian-American Village, where she writes most frequently on culture, family, arts, and lifestyles topics. Her articles have appeared in Pacific Citizen, Asian Reader, Nikkei West, Sampan, Mavin, Eurasian Nation, and various Families with Children from China publications. She has also worked in anthropology and international development in Nepal, and in nonprofits and small business start-ups in the US. She is also the Outreach Coordinator of the Ann Arbor Chinese Center of Michigan and a much sought public speaker. She has four children. She can be reached at fkwang@aol.com.

IMDiversity.com is committed to presenting diverse points of view. However, the viewpoint expressed in this article is the opinion of the author and is not necessarily the viewpoint of the owners or employees at IMD.