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Qing Ceramic Figure of Moon Goddess “Chang’E”



Height: 40cm | Width: 17cm | Condition: Mint


A white ceramic Chinese lady, lightly coloured with 粉彩 (Read: Fen Cai, Meaning: pastels used in ceramics as an underglaze, commonly used in Qing Dynasty) poses in her gown, with long pieces of jade-coloured fabric draped across her body seeming to emit an aura of purity. Skilfully crafted, she seems to ascend amidst red and blue clouds, gazing down with a forlorn look. This isn’t just another pretty woman crafted by a learned ceramicist but a classic Chinese portrayal of嫦娥 (Read: Chang’E) the Moon Goddess. The story of Chang’E is well-known by the Chinese and plays a very important cultural role. It tells a romantic reason why the Chinese gather every 5th day of the 8th lunar month to celebrate the Mid-autumn Festival and the significance of her sculptures. According to the ancient Chinese text 《淮南子·外八篇》 (Read: Huai Nan Zi · Wai Ba Pian, Meaning: External Eighth Text of Huai Nan Zi), the story goes as below. Once upon a time, in China, there were ten suns in the sky. They shone so brightly that it was too hot for the people to bear. It made it impossible to farm or go about their daily lives. Everyone was unhappy. To end their misery, a man named Hou Yi who was an excellent archer shot nine suns down. He left one sun in the sky and asked it to rise and set in time so that it may give just the right amount of light and warmth to the world.
To reward Hou Yi for his great deed, 西王母 (Read: Xi Wang Mu, Meaning: Queen Mother of the West) gave him two “Pills of Everlasting Life”. Hou Yi intended on sharing it with his wife Chang’E so that they could have an eternity of love and bliss together. However, one of Hou Yi’s greedy disciples wanted the pills for himself. Chang’E learnt of the disciple’s evil intentions and caught him sneaking in the house to steal the pills. In desperation, Chang’E ate both pills. As she ran out, she began to float, rising higher and higher into the sky. As she did not want to be too far away from her husband, she landed on the Moon which was the nearest celestial place to the Earth. Thence, she looks forlornly down at Earth from then till eternity, just as sculpted in this ceramic figure. In the evening, Chang’E’s husband Hou Yi learnt of his wife’s tragic departure from the maids. He swore to kill his disciple but the evil man has long fled. He looked up to the sky in frustration and despair, calling out to his beloved wife to return. It was then he realised that the full moon was exceptionally luminous this day and against it was a little floating silhouette resembling Chang’E.

Hou Yi missed his wife dearly and thus ordered his servants to place Chang’E’s favorite foods in her dearest backyard, honouring towards the Moon Palace her sacrifice for the world every year on this day. People soon learnt of Chang’E’s immortality. Many came to pray to her, asking for blessings for their family. Therefore, the day Chang’E left for the Moon Palace is known as the Mid-autumn Festival, a day of reunion. Because of this story, Chang’E has become a cultural mascot, representing transcending love. This ceramic statue of her riding on celestial clouds called 祥云 (Read Xiang Yun, Meaning: Auspicious Clouds) depicts the famous scene of her leaving Earth, also known as “嫦娥奔月” (Read: Chang’E Ben Yue). To have this Qing Dynasty sculpture of her is a great reminder of the importance of family. It is believed that a statue of this Moon Goddess will not only boost prosperous energy but also keep families or lovers together; reuniting those who are far apart, for the goddess herself misses her loved one dearly too. It is recommended to place her statue in the living room by a round table; round objects have a reuniting significance in the Chinese culture. Alternatively, this sculpture can be a wonderful ornament. Made in the purest white of China’s porcelain, Chine de Blanc, Chang’E glows like a light of hope. Furthermore, the artist’s control of the nuances on her dress and the clouds she rides on is of utmost difficulty, especially in an ancient era where minimal technology is available and pieces as such easily meet with failure upon firing. Yet, Chang’E floats realistically. The process of making this sculpture is art in itself.


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