Jun Qi - Art & Illustration
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Rabbit Silk Road Race to the Moon

July 27, 2022
Illustration
Children's Books
A digital painting of jade rabbits racing along Chang-Er's silken sash towards the moon, to leap into Chang-Er's embrace. Chang-Er is standing on the moon on the bottom-right corner, while her sash flows across the picture against a galactic backdrop with colorful nebulae and twinkling stars. Chang-Er and her sash are aglow with a deity's light, while the celestial jade rabbits leave golden trails and balls of light behind them as they bound forward. The leading rabbit is just about to leap into Chang-Er's arms, which are outstretched. The second rabbit is bounding up with a determined expression on his face, while the third is sliding down a section of the silken sash, the fourth is standing before the slide in hesitation, and the fifth is trying hard to catch up.
The finished contest piece
An old version of the same piece.
An old version of the piece. Since I was trying out a new style, it took a lot of experimentation and tweaking to get to a piece that I was satisfied with. The finished piece is definitely an improvement over this one.

This was another piece I created for the SVS Critique Arena Challenge for the month of July, based on the prompt "Rabbit Road Race". I had already created a piece based on the "tortoise x hare" Aesop fable reference, so I wanted to do other pieces drawing on Chinese mythology instead.

This is based on the folktale of the moon deity Chang-Er. Here is an off-the-top-of-my-head re-telling of this tale:


Once upon a time, there were nine suns, who were the sons of a heavenly king and queen. Their mother would supervise them as they went out to play each day, so that there would only be one sun in the sky at a time. One day the brothers grew restless and decided to all go out to play together unbeknownst to their mother. With nine suns all in the sky at once the Earth was scorched and the people suffered from a terrible drought and heat.

Hou Yi, another deity and a famed archer, decided to go to the people's rescue and started shooting down the suns. He was a good shot and got eight of them while leaving one alive so that the people of Earth could still enjoy the warmth of the one sun that they were used to. When their father, the heavenly king, heard that eight of his sons had been shot dead, he was furious and sent a complaint against Hou Yi to the Heavenly Jade Emperor, demanding that he be banished to the mortal realm.

Henceforth, Hou Yi and his wife, Chang-Er, were banished from heaven and had to live their life as mortals. Chang-Er was devastated by this, and constantly pined to return to heaven and an immortal life. One day, Hou Yi came upon a medicinal deity who bestowed upon him two heavenly pills. The deity claimed that upon consuming one pill, one would be able to live forever and never grow old in the mortal realm. Upon consuming two pills, one would be able to ascend to heaven as an immortal deity.

Hou Yi told Chang-Er about the pills and handed them to her for safe-keeping. Chang-Er was at once delighted but deeply conflicted; she desperately wanted to return to heaven, but if she ate both pills, there would be none left for her husband and he would be doomed to live and die as a mortal. If they ate one pill each, they would never grow old or die but they would remain confined to the mortal realm.

One night, after much agonizing, Chang-Er finally decided to eat both of the pills. Upon ingesting the second pill, she felt her body grow as light as a feather and before she knew it she was rising up to heaven. At that moment she felt a terrible guilt for what she'd done, leaving her husband behind. She was too ashamed to return to the heavenly palace, and instead fled to the moon where she has lived ever since.

On the moon, all she had for company was one lone osmanthus tree, and a celestial jade rabbit who was the keeper of the lunar medicinal hall. This is why in the various stories and imagery surrounding Chang-Er, one often sees her with a white jade rabbit.


My idea was to expand on Chang-Er's story and imagine how she would live out her life on the moon. Like any self-respecting Chinese deity she'd probably make frequent trips to the mortal realm (if only to visit her husband), and maybe she starts to bring back more and more mortal white rabbits as pets and turns them into celestial jade rabbits.

These rabbits always compete to race to the moon, on Chang-Er's long silken sash, to be the first to leap into her arms and be welcomed back home.

Painted in Krita.

Jun Qi - Storytelling & Illustration ©2022

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