Good Stories from China: Houyi Shot Down Nine Suns

May 31, 2006 Updated: May 31, 2006

Houyi was said to be a god that came to the human world during the time of the pre-historic Emperor Yao. At that time, there were ten suns that rose at the same time over the sky, scorching the earth and withering the crops. Rivers and lakes were drying out. Forest started to burn, driving out monstrous beasts to prey on people. Human life on earth became unbearable.

The suffering in the human world alarmed heaven. The Heavenly Emperor sent Houyi, a masterful arrow shooter, to come to the human world to help alleviate human suffering. Carrying a red bow and a bag of white arrows given to him by the Heavenly Emperor, Houyi descended onto the middle earth.

As soon as he came to earth, Houyi started to travel eastward toward the suns. He climbed ninety-nine mountains, waded ninety-nine rivers, and traversed ninety-nine valleys; then he arrived at the shore of the Eastern Sea. Taking out his bow and arrows, Houyi aimed at the suns and started to shoot. One by one, the suns disappeared from the sky at the shot of Houyi's arrows. Knowing that people and creatures would need sunlight, Houyi shot down nine suns and left the last one to shine in the sky.

The fiery heat disappeared, replaced with nurturing warmth and cool breeze. People could breathe again and the land could grow crop and vegetation again. Houyi traveled all over the land to eliminate the harmful beasts that came out of the forest.

A peaceful life was restored on earth, thanks to Houyi. To award Houyi's great deed, the Heavenly Emperor conferred on him the title of Divine Warrior.

Source: Traditional Chinese legend that was told in various versions.