Monday, August 06, 2007

A Chinese legend

Today I would write about a Chinese legend I learned about recently. Everything started with a stamp sent by a Chinese friend for my frog stamps collection. Here it is.

The stamp belongs to a set issued on the 25th of September 1987 about folk tales. The stamp itself pictures “Chang’e flying to the moon”. As you see, a frog is pictured near the moon. Of course I tried to find more about this story and here is what I learned so far.
I found several versions of the same legend. One of this version tells us that Chang’e was a young girl working in the Jade Emperor’s palace in heaven. Having accidentally broken a precious jar, she was banned from Heaven and was sent on Earth to live with ordinary people. There she met Hou Yi, a young archer, who saved the Earth from destruction : one day, ten suns arose in the sky instead of one, blazing the Earth. Hou Yi shot down nine of the suns and became a hero. Hou Yi and Chang’e married together. In order to live an eternal life with his beloved, Hou Yi searched for an elixir to bring them immortality. After a lot of adventures, he succeeded to get from the Queen Mother of the West, a pill to become immortal. The Queen told Hou Yi that they should both take half of the pill, and not more. Going back home Hou Yi decided that it was wiser to wait one year before eating the pill. He put it in a box, asking Chnag’e not to open it. But she became too curious, and like Pandora in the Greek mythology she opened the box while her husband was away. Afraid that he would discover what she did, she swallowed the complete pill. Because of this overdose, she started to float into the sky landing on the moon, where she turned into a frog !
There are some other versions of the same legend. The variations are around the way Hou Yi gets the pill, or the way Chang’e eats it. But the end is always the same, the two lovers are separated for ever. Also I understood that normally Chang’e turns into a three legged frog, which is not the case on the stamp. It seems that, when looking at the moon from some places, you can see the silhouette of a three legged frog. Hence the legend.

The frog in the moon, can be seen on another set of stamps, issued two years later. But I’ll write about them tomorrow.


Anonymous said...

I just found your blog. I also am a frog stamp collector, and help the ATA keep the frog checklist up to date. I love that you actually try to learn from each stamp, and I learn from you. How did you make your list of frogs on stamps?

Eric said...

Hi Paul

Well this is a good question. In fact I'm also an ATA member (#53946) so I could benefit from the ATA checklist that you maintain. Then I completed it by browsing new issues section in philatelic newspaper.
Recently I pruchase the Scott catalogue on CD-Rom. That also helped me to find the stamps by using the seach facaility on my computer.

Velu said...

Great story. :)



There is a mistake in this story. Chang'e e didn't turn into a frog after landing on the moon. There is only a Rabbit, a Frog and a Cherry Bay in the Moon. Hou Yi missed his wife, so he put Chang'e 's favourite food: Mooncake under the moonlight. This is one original story of the Middle Autunm Day.

Eric said...

Thank you for your comment. As I said there exist more than one variation of this legend. The one I gave is coming from my Chinese penpal and I found the same on various websites. But there are several other versions, among which some versions where Chang'E does not turn herself into a frog. You are right.