Sci. Aging Knowl. Environ., 31 October 2001
Vol. 2001, Issue 5, p. aa4


Chang E, the Moon Goddess

Stephen Little

The author is the Pritzker Curator of Asian Art, The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL 60603, USA.;2001/5/aa4 This work of art is from the Late Yuan or early Ming dynasty, 1350/1400 [ink and colors on silk (25 x 25 cm)]. From The Art Institute of Chicago, Samuel M. Nickerson Endowment Fund (1947-534). This painting depicts Chang E, the Moon Goddess, also known as Taiyin xingjun (Star-lord of Supreme Yin). Chang E was believed to live in the Guanghan Gong (Broad Cold Palace) in the moon. The moon itself was an ancient symbol of the yin force, and it is appropriate that its deity was a woman, also a pure manifestation of yin. Chang E was said to have stolen the elixir of immortality from her husband, the mythical Archer Yi, and taken it to the moon; as a result, she was closely associated with longevity and immortality. She was well-established as a popular deity by the Tang dynasty (618-906).

At the time of the Autumn Moon festival, on the night of the full moon in the eighth lunar month, an altar would be set up for worship of the moon and of Chang E. This festival was closely associated with women, because the advent of the full moon in the eighth month signaled the rising of the yin element in the annual cosmological cycle.

The Art Institute fan depicts Chang E standing on a rocky plateau. The goddess rests her left hand on the trunk of a pine tree (a symbol of longevity) that grows at the edge of a chasm. Behind the figure, a full moon rises among white clouds in a deep blue sky (1).

October 31, 2001

  1. S. Little, K. Schipper, W. Hung, P. Ebrey, Taoism and the Arts of China (The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL, 2000), p. 288.

Science of Aging Knowledge Environment. ISSN 1539-6150