Chang Ê, who stole the elixir of immortality from her husband and swallowed it as she fled to the moon, became a moon goddess by the time of the Tang period (618–906) and was worshipped during the lunar festival, held annually in the eighth lunar month at the time of the full moon. In this embroidery, Chang Ê and an attendant are seen against a large disk representing the moon, within which is a house and a hare who is pounding the elixir of immortality. Chang Ê is handing an acacia branch to a scholar who is floating on clouds. In Chinese literature “plucking a branch of the acacia tree” was a metaphor for success in the imperial civil-service examinations.
Somewhat like needlepoint (but with silk, not wool), the embroidery technique employed in most of the piece involves stitches that regularly skip some of the openings in the fine silk gauze foundation cloth to create the various patterns seen here: a swastika (wan) fret for the moon disk and the dotted squares of the red background, for example.