East Asian Mythology: China and Japan

Chinese Heroes

Who was Yi, and what was the myth of the shooting of the suns?

Yi (sometimes Houyi) was the culture hero who is best known as the great archer who shot down the unnecessary nine of the ten suns. There are many versions of this myth and sometimes Yi is replaced by other archers. One myth begins with the goddess Xihe, the wife of the supreme being Di Jun, giving birth to ten suns. At first the suns, carried by crows, worked in succession to warm the earth, but somehow a problem arose and the suns shone simultaneously, burning everything. It was the wise king Yao who ordered the hero Yi to shoot down nine of the suns. Yi was also, in the universal heroic pattern, a great monster slayer.


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