Chinese Sun Myths - Hou Yi Shoots the Sun

There are numerous accounts in ancient Chinese literature about the story of Hou Yi shooting the sun. This article is based on the reimagining of "Classic of Mountains and Seas - The Main Land Within the Seas" and "Huainanzi - The Basic Warp." It narrates how the ten sons of the Heavenly Emperor wreaked havoc on Earth, causing people to live in scorching heat. Only after the divine archer Hou Yi shot down nine of the suns was the peaceful and harmonious life of the past restored.

Original article: 后羿射日

Chinese Sun Myths - Hou Yi Shoots the Sun
Fusang Tree and Ten Suns

In ancient times, there were ten suns in the sky, all of them being the sons of the Heavenly Emperor. They and their mother lived beyond the Eastern Sea. Their mother would often have the ten children bathe in the sea, and after bathing, they would perch on a large tree in the sea called "Fusang." Nine of the suns lived beneath the tree while one lived at the top. When dawn arrived and the world needed the morning light, the sun perched on the treetop would ride a chariot guided by their mother, crossing the sky to illuminate the earth, bringing light and warmth to the people. The ten suns took turns in an orderly manner, and everything in the world flourished. Everyone was grateful for the sun's energy and vitality, filling their lives with joy.

However, the ten suns grew impatient with this happy and harmonious life. "Why do we have to take turns?" they complained. "Why can't we all go out together?" "Waiting under the Fusang tree for nine days is so boring!" "We despise this monotonous routine." The ten suns argued and caused a commotion. "Why don't we go to the sky together? Wouldn't that be more fun?" suggested one of the suns. "Great idea! We, the ten brothers, have never gone out to play together. Let's enjoy ourselves this time!" The other nine suns agreed, and the next morning, they secretly took the chariot with its radiant wheels and appeared in the sky!

Chinese Sun Myths - Hou Yi Shoots the Sun

Now, things took a turn for the worse. The ten suns became like ten enormous fireballs, and the heat and light they emitted scorched the earth. Rivers dried up, and even the water in the oceans began to evaporate. Farmers couldn't cultivate, fishermen couldn't catch fish, and hunters couldn't hunt. Many people, animals, and plants suffered and perished from the scorching heat. "Who will save us?" "We can't bear this anymore!" "The ten suns are terrifying!" people wailed, but there seemed to be no solution.

Upon learning of his sons' misdeeds, the Heavenly Emperor grew furious and decided to send someone to warn the ten suns to behave. In the heavens, there was a young and handsome god named Hou Yi. He was born with a left arm slightly longer than his right, making it more powerful and convenient for him to use the bow. He was a skilled archer, and any target he aimed at, big or small, would be hit with unerring accuracy.

The Heavenly Emperor bestowed upon him a red divine bow and a bundle of white-feathered arrows, saying, "You must only frighten the ten sun brothers and not harm them." However, Hou Yi, being impulsive by nature, didn't hear the full message and swiftly flew down to the mortal realm with the divine bow. His wife, Chang'e, knowing her husband's temperament and fearing a mistake, hurriedly followed him.

Chinese Sun Myths - Hou Yi Shoots the Sun

When Hou Yi saw the people suffering in the scorching conditions, he couldn't bear it. He made up his mind to shoot down all the suns and help the people escape their plight. Thus, Hou Yi crossed ninety-nine towering mountains and traversed ninety-nine desolate lands until he reached the eastern coast of the sea and climbed a mighty mountain. He drew the divine bow and notched a white feathered arrow, taking aim at the blazing suns in the sky. "Swoosh, swoosh, swoosh..." In an instant, he shot down nine of the suns. Only one sun remained, trembling with fear.

Just as Hou Yi was about to draw another arrow to shoot, Chang'e suddenly appeared before him and grabbed his hand. She said, "You are too impulsive. You didn't fully understand the Heavenly Emperor's intent!" She continued, "If you shoot down the last sun, who will continue to illuminate this world?" So, Hou Yi put away his precious bow and divine arrows and instructed the remaining sun to behave and continue providing light and warmth to all living beings and the earth. From that day onwards, the sun rose from the eastern sea and set behind the western mountains, bringing warmth to the world and allowing everyone to live in peace and happiness.

Children, our ancestors, used their rich imagination to create various myths to explain the wonders of nature. Did you enjoy this myth about the sun? Please share it with your parents, teachers, and classmates.

Written by Linlin
Sponsored by Mei-Hua Hall