Hou Yi, the Hero Who Shot Suns, and His Wife Chang'e

In the remote ancient times, there was the supreme God Di Jun (帝俊) who existed in the Heaven much the same as the Greek God Zeus. Xihe (羲和), the sun-goddess, bore ten suns for Di Jun. Changxi (常羲), the moon-goddess, bore twelve moons for Di Jun. Xihe and her sons lived in the east. Her sons rested in a divine tree Fusang (扶桑). Every morning, Xihe took one son to Gan Pool (甘泉) and bathed him. Then she drove a sun-chariot and carried her son from the east to the west in the sky in the day, and returned to the east through the underground in the night.

One day, the ten mischievous sons of Xihe played in the sky together. Di Jun and Xihe doted on their sons, and actually didn’t stop them from their mischief. Crops and trees began to wither, and many people starved. At that time, many evils and savage beasts went out and harmed humans. Humans suffered terrible disasters. Di Jun started to sympathize with humans, then he sent a god Hou Yi (后羿) and his wife Chang-e (嫦娥) to descend to the world of mortals and help humans. Di Jun gave Hou Yi some divine arrows.

Hou Yi was an excellent marksman. He killed many evils and savage beasts. Yet the ten suns still had their mischievous fun in the sky. Hou Yi had to warn suns, but the suns thought reasoned to themselves that they were the sons of the supreme God Di Jun, and Hou Yi was merely an ordinary god. So the suns ignored the warning of Hou Yi. Hou Yi was hesitant whether he should shoot the suns. When he saw there were too many starving people in the world, he indignantly shot at the suns. The suns which were shot became crows which had three legs and fell down to the earth. When there was only one sun in the sky, the people stopped Hou Yi and told him they needed a sun to warm them and light the world.

Di Jun and Xihe were shocked at what had happened, and they were very sad and angry. So they caused Hou Yi and Chang-e to be mortals and didn’t permit them to return to the Heaven. Xiwangmu (西王母), the goddess of the West, admired heroic Hou Yi and sympathized with the couple. Then she gave the couple two divine pills. She told them that by taking one pill could make a person live long and that two pills could make a person become a god and ascend into the Heaven. Hou Yi told Chang’e that they would eat the pills in a favorable day and they could live together for a long time.

Hou Yi always went out and eliminated public scourges for the people, so Chang’e was always solitary. She was becoming dissatisfied with her husband. She wanted to return to the Heaven and be a goddess again. So one day, she actually ate the two divine pills and restored her divine abilities. When she returned to the Heaven Palace, Xihe disliked this woman who betrayed her husband and didn’t permit her to enter the Heavenly Palace. The kind goddess Changxi let Chang’e live in her Moon Palace (月宫, or called 广寒宫), but the Moon Palace was cold and cheerless because Changxi and her daughters didn’t live there. Chang’e had no other choice, so she had to live there alone with a white rabbit. Later a god who was called Wu Gang (吴刚) was banished there, yet Chang’e still felt solitary and mournful. She started to become longing to return to her husband Hou Yi, a great hero. Unfortunately, she and her husband were isolated by the differences between gods and humans forever.

Many years passed by, and the heroic Hou Yi disappeared with the people of his time, but Chang’e remained living in that remote and desolate place, in solitude, and in sadness forever.

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