Romance of the Jade Kingdom
The Moon Maiden and the Hare
Chang’e was known for her exotic and haunting beauty, a maiden who enjoyed walking through the forest under the light of the moon, picking white and purple moon flowers. On the night of a full moon, Chang’e was walking through the forest, when suddenly a hunter came upon her. The hunter, named Hou Yi, instantly fell in love with her. Annoyed by the intruder, Chang’e fled. On the next night, she deemed to stroll through the forest again, but the hunter was there, waiting for her. Again she fled. On the third night, she stood in a grove and waited for the hunter to show up. Hou Yi appeared as predicted. ‘Why are you stalking me?’ Chang’e demanded. ‘I am bewitched by your beauty,’ the hunter answered. ‘And I have a present for you, if you will have it,’ and he took from his pack a white hare he hunted earlier that day. ‘Does hunting innocent creatures please you?’ Chang’e exclaimed. ‘This is how I make my living, sweet maiden,’ Hou Yi answered. ‘This gift is an extension of my hard work and this majestic creature allowed me to chase it in honor of my honest intentions for you. For since the first night I laid eyes on you, I was taken aback. You have given me purpose.’ Intrigued by the hunter but disgusted by the death of the hare, Chang’e refused the gift. ‘Hunter, I am flattered, but please take this creature and give it to someone who may need it more than me.’ Hou Yi said, ‘As you wish maiden, but please allow me to come back tomorrow to speak to you about the merits of the hunt.’ Cautiously, Chang’e agreed to the meeting. And so, the two met for many nights, discussing and disagreeing on their opinions of hunting, among other topics, and soon the two became very close. Chang’e felt a certain affection for her hunter, but was still unimpressed by his argument. Hou Yi, originally struck by her beauty, fell deeply in love with her spirit and conviction. One day, he proclaimed his love to her. Chang’e smiled and knew she felt the same way, but could not get past his chosen profession. She had an idea. She wanted him to truly see her perspective and the perspective of those innocent creatures he hunted. ‘Honor these creatures such as you would deem to honor me. If you agree, I will transform you into a hare for one night, so that you may see the life of the creature you hunt.’ Hou Yi thought about this. ‘I will do this for you.’ And so, Chang’e transformed her love into a hare, and off he went. As the night wore on, Chang’e spied upon the creature that was once the hunter as he scurried about the forest foraging for food. She eventually lost track of him, but headed home, knowing that her magic would wear off the next night. The following night, she waited for her hunter, but he did not appear in the grove. Fraught with worry, Chang’e traversed the forest searching far and wide for Hou Yi. He was nowhere to be found. She then came upon a cabin in the woods with a light of a fire from a hearth in the window. Through the window, she saw a young huntress and her frail father. Both looked terribly malnourished. In the arms of the huntress was the limp form of a majestic white hare with an arrow through its heart. ‘Father, many days and nights have gone by with no luck and I feared we would starve to death. But tonight, I have something. By the light of the moon, I caught this hare, who allowed me to hunt after it so that we may have a meal this night.’ Shocked, Chang’e immediately knew it was the hunter Hou Yi, transformed by her own magic into the white hare. She turned and ran through the forest, tears streaming down her face over the grief of her dead lover. When she finally calmed herself, she came to realize that her hunter sacrificed himself so that this family could live. Although still in grief, she understood. He honored to take on a different perspective from the life he led. So, the maiden accepted his fate, despite her deep sadness and heartbreak, in order to honor his way of life. For his sacrifice, Hou Yi was revered as the God of Wilderness and Hunting. On the nights before the full moon, worshippers of Chang’e recreate a similar hunt to honor life sustaining life.