Sunday, September 27, 2015

Is Chang’e (嫦娥) happy?

While I was enjoying my favourite moon cake, I remember something I saw this morning.  

Next to the Clock Tower in Tsim Sha Tsui, colorful lanterns were set up for the Mid-Autumn Festival.  Among all the fruits and animals, there was a cute little cartoonish smiling girl with a huge head.  Presumably that was supposed to be Chang’e.  I felt something was not right then, but I could not quite put my finger on it.  Now I know why.  

Chang Er stole from her husband an elixir and imbibed it.  She acquired immortality but was stuck on the moon, with only a rabbit for company.  Her predicament was depicted so compellingly by 李商隱.


Like many Chinese tales, it is a nuanced story.  When we want something really badly, we may resort to desperate measures to acquire it.  When we do get what we desire, however, there may be a dark side to it that causes us to regret.  Those twists are what make the story so compelling.  Turning Chang’e into a cartoonish cutie removes that nuance.  Something is lost.  We seem to be doing that to a lot of our culture.  We want everything to be cute and happy.  But life is not always cuties and happy faces.  

By the way, for those who do not recognise the moon cake, it is 金華火腿五仁.

No comments: