chang’e

is she still waiting there?

on a hot october evening in a hong kong park in 2006, little groups of friends hover around colourful lanterns. tiny bonfires are lit. there are candles and incense. people are stretched out on blankets. it’s night, but there is an odd feeling of day in the air because of the all the light. the candles and the lanterns and the fires and the incense. and the moon.

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chang’e went to the moon by tragic accident. she was married to her guy. houyi, a terrifically brave archer whose soul purpose was to shoot down the extra nine suns that at the time were scorching the world. the divine king yao was so pleased with houyi’s mad bow-and-arrow skills and grateful to hou for saving the world from climate change that he gifted him the elixir of life. but houyi didn’t drink it right away – he wanted to become immortal, but only with his beloved by his side.

houyi was great at archery but not so great at choosing the people in his life, and his apprentice was this greedy twat by the name of feng meng. feng wanted the elixir, duh, and one day when houyi was out hunting, feng broke into their home. but chang’e was wise and ran to her husband’s defence, drinking the elixir to keep it falling into destructive hands.

as soon as she drank it, chang’e became immortal. you might think that was a good thing but she was distressed at having to leave her beloved behind on earth, so she flew away to the closest place she could find – the moon – hoping he might join her someday.

on mid-autumn festival, we celebrate the moon. we being anyone who follows the lunar calendar and anyone who loves the moon, and me. mid-autumn festival falls on the 15th day of the 8th lunar month. the farmer’s almanac calls it the harvest moon; it’s one of the brightest moons of the year, and the perfect culmination of summer’s end and the crisping of air under a night sky. or a too-warm night sky, like that october night in hong kong 13 years ago.

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maybe the spirits of those that came before become our guides. maybe they live in some dimension between here and the beyond, in the meaning we ascribe to a sneeze or a toad, in synchronicities, in our weird dripping faucets, on the moon. maybe they guide us, maybe they whisper stories for us to learn and unlearn. maybe it is up to us to see these old scars and tend to them, and in that way. maybe it’s up to us to make the world new.

whatever you believe, it’s nice to think chang’e will be lighting my path up blythe hill with her moonlight tonight.

chang’e is pronounced like chahng-uh. she donated her name to the chinese lunar rover program, so now you know.

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