A truly contrived story.
Everyone in China knows the story of the Moon Maiden and how Chang E (嫦娥) ended up living on the Moon, but not many people know what happened afterwards.
Throughout China, people went to the temples to pray. All the prayers were recorded by the Office for Prayers which Guan Liao (官僚), the Record-keeping General, would collect and assess before submitting them to the Jade Emperor for his approval or rejection.
One day, Guan Liao began to notice that the number of women complaining about their husbands or boyfriends had increased dramatically. At first he thought it was a seasonal thing, but the number, far from declining, increased even more. When the huge pile of prayers from women thudded onto the Jade Emperor’s desk, he looked curiously at Guan Liao, thinking that he had kept prayers back or had found some down the back of the filing cabinets in the Office for Prayers. He was displeased to have such a large pile appear on his desk because he had seen some pretty fox fairies (狐狸精) the evening before and thought to sneak out and cavort with them while his wife was distracted.
“What’s this, Guan Liao?”
“If it please your Majesty, these are petitions from women complaining about their husbands and boyfriends, and hoping they’ll be loving, faithful and dutiful.”
“What? All those alone?”
“All those alone,” said Guan Liao.
“Why so many? I know there are usually quite a stack of them, but this is a library. Have some minion go down to Earth and see whether this is all true.”
Guan Liao bowed and returned to the Office for Prayers. He had an assistant called Cai Hong (彩虹) whom he sent to Earth to find out what was happening that should elicit so many complaints. Cai Hong flew down to Earth where he became a cat and slinked along the tops of walls, along the tops of the roofs, and along the branches of trees as he listened to as many conversations as he could. This woman was complaining how her husband had some mistress and that woman complained that her boyfriend wouldn’t leave his wife for her. And everywhere Cai Hong went, he heard many more complaints that women had about their husbands and boyfriends until he wondered whether there were any other topics of conversation.
He flew back up to the Office for Prayers where he faithfully reported everything he had heard to Guan Liao. “… and they talked about nothing else,” Cai Hong concluded.
Guan Liao immediately sought an audience with the Jade Emperor who was about to go looking for some other fox fairies. He told the emperor all that Cai Hong had learnt on Earth. The emperor stroked his beard thoughtfully.
“Go and tell my wife,” he said. “She’ll know what to do.”
Guan Liao bowed and went to find the imperial consort who was hungrily eyeing a rather hot boy ghost about whom she had had a serious thing for quite some time. In fact, she had sent the fox fairies deliberately to distract her husband so that she could roger this hunk of diaphanous man meat without being interrupted. She was not, however, expecting Guan Liao to enter, though he did so with due and proper ceremony. The empress listened to him slightly impatiently and then with more interest once he had explained the situation.
“I can’t allow such ignoble treatment of women to go unpunished. Without any chastisement, men will continue to behave badly and women will continue to suffer. Let me think about it, Master Guan.”
Guan Liao bowed and withdrew. The ghost, who had been thinking that sex with the Jade Empress should be a pleasure beyond anything he had known as a mortal, soon found that it was punishment beyond anything his misdeeds – by and large, rather minor – might have warranted as she pounded him mercilessly.
While the Jade Empress enjoyed the pleasure of the afternoon, she thought about her various servants, but could think of none who might be fit for the task which she intended to entrust to some suitably qualified minion. She thought about asking a female demon to undertake the job, but she disliked demons and their habits. With no one in the Heavenly Palace and no one outside it, the Jade Empress tried to think of other places beyond the mortal realm. She felt that she was overlooking someone obvious.
“The moon!” she cried.
The ghost was startled and wondered whether this was some divine expression of sexual pleasure; and so, because he could not restrain himself any longer, he started repeating the Empress’s words. Thinking that this was a sign, she leapt up, straightened her clothes, and flew to the moon in the form of a phoenix, which was fortunate because she had not put her knickers on.
Chang E had thought that life as an immortal would be an endless round of socialising with other immortals. She would go to their palaces; they would come to hers. But there were very few invitations addressed to her and even fewer responses to the ones she sent out. Those replies which she did get revealed that immortals had an endless supply of dead relatives whose funeral obsequies demanded, with regret, their utmost attention.
Thus Chang E only had her maids, strange, grey-coloured creatures, to keep her company, and her rabbit, Tu Niang (兔娘), whom she affectionately called Bunny-chan. The rabbit had always been a playful creature on Earth with malevolent, deep red eyes and a penchant for mysterious nocturnal adventures. But since they had come to the moon, Bunny-chan’s eyes had dulled and she had become sleepy and lethargic. None of Chang E’s maids much liked the rabbit and it, in turn, showed no fondness for such dusty, grey creatures.
When the Jade Empress suddenly appeared at the gate, there was great excitement in the Moon Palace. The maids scurried hither and thither making sure that the place was presentable, while Chang E hurried to greet her august guest. Bunny-chan stared dully and looked limp, much like the Empress’s recent ghostly lover. Chang E bowed as the Jade Empress swept in, but the latter asked her hostess not to stand on ceremony since she had little time and a signal honour to bestow. Chang E felt her heart race and she wondered what it could be.
“I should visit you more often,” the Jade Empress said as they sat drinking tea in the dull, grey palace garden, “and you don’t come and visit me as often as I should like.”
In truth, this was a bigger lie than the first one. Since Chang E had scoffed the pills of immortality, it was felt that she was a little too nouvelle immortelle to be included in the social engagements of the other immortals. But the Jade Empress persisted with the conceit.
“I’ve mentioned to my husband several times that he should honour you in some way, but since he’s too busy chasing fox fairies, he’s failed to do something about this unforgivable lapse; and that’s why I’m here. It seems that more and more women on Earth are being mistreated by their husbands and boyfriends. It’s reached such a number that something needs to be done about it. We need someone has an unquestionable sense of ethics; who is righteous; and who will mercilessly chastise men for their misdeeds. I immediately thought of you. It will, of course, mean going to Earth…” The Jade Empress hesitated as if this was a terrible imposition which she was reluctant to inflict on a fellow immortal. She was anything but reluctant to inflict it, and Chang E was anything but reluctant to accept it.
“That is a small price to pay for the honour which your Majesty is conferring on me,” said Chang E trying not to sound excited. Even Bunny-chan pricked up her ears. “But exactly what is it that you’d have me do?”
“Punish men who have behaved unrighteously towards their wives and girlfriends by banging their brains out. Since they’re so stupid as to behave so improperly, they shan’t, I aver, miss their brains in the slightest.”
It was unfortunate that the Jade Empress meant for Chang E to beat the heads of unfaithful men against walls and other solid surfaces, but Chang E, being more familiar with the modern idiom, took it the other way. She was a little surprised to be asked to use this as a means of punishment, but she remained silent because she did not want to jeopardise her chances of becoming part of the immortal social calendar. Also, she knew that it was probably unwise to question the Jade Empress’s decision. Thus it was, thanks to Chang E’s efforts, that the Chinese equivalent of Valentine’s Day came into being and has been celebrated ever since. How mooncakes came into it… Well, that’s another story.