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The myth of the Sun in China

In Chinese mythology, the sun is sometimes symbolized as a three-legged crow called a sunbird. There were ten of these sunbirds, each of whom are the offspring of Di Jun, God of the Eastern Heaven. The ten sunbirds resided in a mulberry tree in the Eastern Sea; each day one would travel around the world on a carriage, driven by Xihe, Mother of the Suns. Eventually, the sunbirds grew tired of the routine and decided that all of them were to rise at the same time. The heat on earth became intense. As a result, crops shriveled in the fields. Lakes and ponds dried up. Human and non-human animals cowered in shelters or collapsed from exhaustion. Time passed and the suffering continued. Emperor Yao decided to plead for divine intervention and to ask Di Jun for aid. 


Di Jun was well aware of his sons' misdeeds and sent for Houyi, the God of Archery, to teach his sons a lesson. Di Jun wanted Houyi to simply frighten them so that they would not dare to cause mischief again. Houyi, too, wanted to settle this crisis peacefully, but a single glance at the scorched land was enough to convince him that desperate measures were needed. Angered by the suffering of the people caused by the Sun-birds' misconduct, Houyi lifted up his bow and shot them down one by one. Upon killing the ninth, Emperor Yao hurried to halt him as killing the last one would leave the world in total darkness. Houyi agreed and was hailed as a hero for mankind, but later, Houyi's actions caused him to make enemies in Heaven and as a result he was punished with divine wrath. 


In an alternative version, Houyi attempted to settle the problem peacefully by simply frightening the Sun-birds, but approaching the Sun-birds and threatening them with the arrows, but the sun-birds laughed at him and said he wouldn't dare shoot them, knowing that their father would not kill them. Angered by this Houyi took aim and shot one of the suns from the sky. Houyi realised he had acted out of anger and knew he was in trouble with Di Jun, but reasoned that since he had already begun the task he might as well finish it and shot the remaining suns out of the sky one-by-one, but before he could shoot the last sun the Emperor came to stop him reminding him the world needed the sun. From that day the remaining sun-bird now scared by Houyi, always did his duty and behaved well, always rising and setting on time.

2016-06-22

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