Who was Heng O? Moon goddess of Ancient China
Welcome to Quatr.us Study Guides!

Who was Heng O?

A sacrifice to the moon
A sacrifice to the moon

December 2016 - Heng O was the Chinese goddess of the moon. In Taoist thought about yin and yang, Heng O is the symbol of yin - cold, dark, and female. Here's one version of a story about Heng O (the whole story may have been learned from the Hindu story of Chandra):

Heng O was married to the heavenly archer Shen Yi. Shen Yi was never going to die because he had a magic drink of immortality. Heng O wanted to live forever, like her husband, so she tried to steal the magic drink from Shen Yi. She took the potion and ran away with it, drinking as quickly as she could. But Shen Yi still chased Heng O down and caught her before she could drink all of the magic drink. She had not drunk all of the magic drink, so she could not go all the way up to heaven with the other gods. But she had drunk enough of it to get to the moon. So there she sits forever on the moon.

Moon cake
Moon cakes

Starting as long ago as the Shang Dynasty, about 2000 BC, people mostly worshipped Heng O at the Autumn Festival or Moon Festival, which falls around the time of the fall equinox. Like Thanksgiving, the Autumn Festival was a celebration of the harvest. As with Yom Kippur, about the same time of year, you were supposed to pay off all your debts and settle your arguments before the festival. People ate special moon cakes, a kind of fruitcake made of seeds, almonds, minced meat, bean paste, orange peels and lard. Everybody tries to visit their families, forming a whole family like the whole full moon.

More about Chinese families
A Chinese poet writes about the moon
More about the moon

Bibliography and further reading about Chinese gods:

The Gods and Goddesses of Ancient China, by Leonard Everett Fisher (2003). . One page for each god, with lots of pictures and some historical context.

Five Heavenly Emperors: Chinese Myths of Creation, by Song Nan Zhang (1994). Stories .

Chinese Mythology A to Z, by Jeremy Roberts (2004).

Dragons and Demons : Myths of China, by Stewart Ross (1998). A few Chinese stories, retold .

Dragons, Gods and Spirits from Chinese Mythology, by Tao Sanders (1983). More of a child's encyclopedia.

More about the Chinese gods
More about Chinese religion
Ancient China
Quatr.us home


Please help other teachers and students find us: link to this page from your class page.
Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram, Pinterest, or Twitter, or buy her book, Vandals to Visigoths.
Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram or Twitter, or buy her book, Vandals to Visigoths.
Sign up for more free articles and special offers in Quatr.us' weekly newsletter:
We will never share your e-mail address unless you allow us to do so. View our privacy policy. Easy unsubscribe links are provided in every email.
Check out our new ebook: Short and Simple: Ancient Greek Myths! - just out! Twenty-five easy to read, illustrated stories, from Pandora to Medea, Icarus, and the Trojan Horse (you can read these online as samples). Get it this week for just $14.99, five dollars off the regular price of $19.99.
Cite this page
  • Author: K.E. Carr
  • Title:
  • Site Name: Quatr.us Study Guides
  • Publisher: Quatr.us
  • Date Published:
Did you find what you needed? Ask your teacher to link to this page so other people can use it too! Send it in and win a Quatr.us "Great Page!" award!
Sign up for more free articles and special offers in Quatr.us' weekly newsletter:
We will never share your e-mail address unless you allow us to do so. View our privacy policy. Easy unsubscribe links are provided in every email.
Comment on This Article
Quatr.us is loading comments...
(Comments will appear after moderation, if they are kind and helpful. Feel free to ask questions, and we'll try to answer them.)
Cite this page
  • Carr, K.E. . Quatr.us Study Guides, . Web. 17 August, 2017
ADVERTISEMENT