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Chinese Myth: The Ten Suns

Updated on May 29, 2010

The suns were the ten children of Di Jun, the God of the eastern sky. Each morning one of the suns would rise, climb into a chariot pulled by a dragon, and ride across the sky bringing light to the different parts of the world.

One day, ten suns became bored of the routine, and started to rode across the sky together in their chariots.

To save the earth, Di Jun sent for the Divine Archer and gave him a magic bow. The Archer had nine arrows in his quiver and, one by one, he shot an arrow at each of the suns. (Myths and Legends)

The ten suns have a mother, the Goddess Xi He, who traveled with her children before one sun started a day's job:

"Each day the ten suns would travel with their mother, the goddess Xi He, to the Valley of the Light in the East. There, Xi He would wash her children in the lake, and put them in the branches of an enormous mulberry tree called Fu-sang. From the tree, only one sun would move off into the sky for a journey of one day, to reach the mount Yen-Tzu in the Far West." (Windows to Universe)

In Confusion's Classics, the Book of Shu, Chapter The Canon of Yao, Xi and He are the Emperor Yao's Minster, They seem to 'have been brothers of two families, on whom devolved the care of the calendar, principally with a view to regulate the seasons of agriculture." Xi resided in the Bright Valley in the east, and He in the Dark Valley in the West.

"He commanded the Hsîs and Hos, in reverent accordance with (their observation of) the wide heavens, to calculate and delineate (the movements and appearances of) the sun, the moon, the stars, and the zodiacal spaces, and so to deliver respectfully the seasons to be observed by the people."(Internet Sacred Texts Archive)

But, During the Emperor Cheng the 2nd of Yin Dynasty, these brothers became negligent of their duty and indulged in wine, and let the calendar get into confusion. So Yin went to punish them. I wonder how they became goddess, the ten suns' mother.

In this Wikipedia page, we know that these ten sun are sometimes symbolized as a three-legged birds, called a Sun-birds. But we also find that, the carriage driven not by a dragon, but by Xi He, their mother:

"each day one of the Sun-Birds would travel around the world on a carriage, driven by Xihe, the Mother of the Suns."

It is also reasonable, because the ten suns were children, they need to be bathed by their mother every morning, and still couldn't travel far by themselves, just like now-a-days, people push around their child in a pram or pushchair, or fast in a car-seat and drive around to help the baby fall into sleep. And we also understand that only children could have become bored and done those kind of childish misdeeds without thought of the result.

We also learned that it was the Emperor Yao, decided to plead for divine intervention and to ask Dijun for aid, then Dujun sent for the Divine archer Hou Yi. But Dijun's true intention was to simply frighten his sons, instead of to kill them. But as soon as he gave out the magic bow, he lost control of his son's fate, Houyi wanted to settle the crisis once for all, he shot those mischievous suns down the sky one by one. It was the Emperor Yao who hurried to halt Houyi to kill the last one, as the earth will became chaos with a sun. We may never know if Houyi had only nine arrows or he had enough arrows to kill all suns even if he missed several targets.



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