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Chinese Myths: Hou Yi Shoots the Sun

Stories of the past are more than narratives of the ancients. It holds something more meaningful. It possesses a power that conditions people to inculcate a specific thought, value, or belief.

That is why many stories from ancient times have endured to this day. Even if its central mode of transmission is through word of mouth, it remains to be impactful. All Chinese stories from Chinese antiquity are timeless classics. They showcase how vast Chinese people think and reflect their understanding of social customs.

houyi shoot the sun
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However, these stories are more than mere reflections of an ancient civilization. It is also intrinsically baffling, enchanting, and captivating. That is why today, we shall embark on a journey; to a world forged in the past. We shall be witnesses of how a man struggled with nature. We shall be first-hand spectators of the life of Houyi – the man who shot the Suns. 

The journey of Houyi exemplifies three values that Chinese people hold dearly: determination, fearlessness, and perseverance. While this story is a classic man-vs-nature, it properly fleshes out the virtues of the protagonist. It shows the innate struggle of the ancients in battling the evils of nature. Let’s read the story with more details!

The Story of Houyi Shoots the Sun 后羿射日 (Hòu Yì Shè Rì)

In ancient China, it was said that ten suns appeared in the sky, and all of them were sons of the Heavenly Emperor 天帝 (Tiān Dì).

Ten little suns lived on the East Sea 东海 (Dōng Hǎi) with their parents, and they perched 栖息 (qī xī) in one big tree like little birds. Nine of these suns perched in low branches, and only one sun slept in the treetops. They take turns to shine their radiating light through the earth. Their inherent duty is to give people the light and warmth to prosper. In this way, each sun slept on the treetops, and everything was in harmony.

As time passed by, the little suns got bored with their life, so they decided to travel the sky together. When dawn came again, ten suns appeared in the sky at once. The heat of the ten suns scorched 炙烤 (zhì kǎo) everything, fried up rivers, burned forests, and disintegrated crops. Those who were lucky enough to survive struggled to find meaning in the fire sea. Seeing all this, the Heavenly Emperor couldn’t turn a blind eye to the situation. He found the archer Hou Yi 后羿 (Hòu Yì) and ordered him to complete the task of driving away the sun.

Hou Yi climbed ninety-nine mountains and crossed ninety-nine deserts. Finally! He came to the top of a big mountain by the East Coast. He fired his bow vigorously. With each arrow he shot, one sun falls. It was total chaos until only one sun left. He was ready to shoot his arrow at the last Sun, but it was too afraid害怕 (hài pà). So they made a pact. They agreed to Hou Yi’s order and provided light and heat to the earth on time.

After that, the sun rose from the east and set from the west at night every day, and everything returned to its former harmony 和谐 (hé xié).

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