Hou Yi

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Hou Yi
Houyi, as depicted in Xiao Yuncong's Illustrated 'Inquiry of the Heavens (蕭雲從天問圖), published 1645

Hou Yi (Chinese: 后羿) is a mythological Chinese archer. He was also known as Shen Yi and simply as Yi (羿). He is also typically given the title of "Lord Archer". He is sometimes portrayed as a god of archery or a xian[1] descended from heaven to aid mankind. Other times, he is portrayed as either simply half-divine or fully mortal. His wife, Chang'e (嫦娥 Cháng'é), is one of the lunar deity.[2]


In Chinese mythology, there were 10 suns. Initially, the 10 suns would cross the sky one by one, but one day, all 10 suns came out at once, scorching the earth. Hou Yi was tasked by the mythical King Yao to rein in the suns. Hou Yi first tried to reason with the suns. When that didn't work, he then pretended to shoot at them with his bow to intimidate them. When the suns again refused to heed Hou Yi's warnings, he began to shoot at them one by one. As each one fell, they turned into three-legged ravens. Finally, only one sun was left. King Yao and the sun's mother Xihe asked for him to be spared for the prosperity of man.[3] In other variants, Hou yi's last arrow was stolen by either a brave boy or King Yao himself, who realized the land requires a sun.[4][5]

Hou Yi was also known for the slaying, maiming and imprisonment of several other mythical beasts such as the Yayu, Zaochi, Jiuying, Dafeng, Fengxi, and Xiushe. He had been directed by King Yao to go after these creatures as they were all causing trouble for humans. [6]

Hou Yi was gifted the pill of immortality by the gods. One of Hou Yi's apprentices called Peng Meng broke into Hou Yi's house in search of the pill of immortality while Hou Yi was out hunting. His wife Chang'e swallowed the pill before Peng Meng could get it. After eating the pill, Chang'e rose up to the moon.[7]

In another version, after Hou Yi shot down the suns, he was proclaimed as a hero-king by the people. However, once he was crowned king, he became a tyrant and subjugated his people. Hou Yi had also obtained an immortality elixir from Xiwangmu to live forever. Chang'e was afraid that if he lived forever, that people would forever be victim to his cruelty. Therefore, Chang'e consumed the elixir herself and floated away. As she did, Hou Yi tried to shoot her down but failed. For her sacrifice, people have taken to honoring her during the Mid-Autumn Festival.[8]

Historical references[edit]

Hou Yi—usually conflated with the legendary figure in ancient sources—was also a tribal leader of ancient China who according to the Bamboo Annals attacked the Xia during the first year of the reign of King Taikang and occupied his capital Zhenxun while Taikang was hunting beyond the Luo River. Hou Yi was deposed by his lieutenant Han Zhuo in the eighth year of the reign of Taikang's nephew Xiang of Xia.[2]

In popular culture[edit]

  • Hou Yi appears in the video game Smite as a hunter
  • In the Tencent series Three-Body, Hou Yi is depicted on the wall of Shi Qiang's office and is mentioned by the characters as an allusion to the Trisolarans who inhabit a chaotic multi-star system.
  • Hou Yi appears in Over the Moon, on flashbacks and as a ghost.
  • Hou Yi appears in the 2022 mobile RPG game, Dislyte, renamed as Dayi. His ability in the game references the shooting down of the 9 suns.
  • In the light novel "second Life ranker" the character Bow god Jang Wei is said to be Hou yi's disciple.
  • Mo Xiang Tong Xiu’s 2016 xianxia/wuxia web novel Modao Zushi (魔道祖师) may reference this mythology with its “Sunshot Campaign.” The story features a tyrannical clan seemingly too powerful to defeat; lesser clans’ union against them—to “shoot down the sun” —is called the Sunshot Campaign.
  • Hou Yi's bow appears as an item in the video game Spelunky 2.
  • Hou Yi appears as a character in the short novel Burning Roses, by S.L. Huang.
  • While Hou Yi does not make a direct appearance in the Touhou Project video game series, He plays an important role in the backstory of the fifteenth game Legacy of Lunatic Kingdom. Hou Yi's shooting down of the 9 suns resulted in the death of the son of the game's, final boss, Junko. This event leads Junko to form a grudge against Hou Yi's wife, Chang'e, and her plot for revenge leads to an invasion of the moon that forms the basis of the game's plot.[9] One of the stars he shot down was Apollo, who served as the sun in Hell. This earns him and Chang'e the ire of the Hell goddess Hecatia Lapislazuli, who serves as the game's extra stage boss.[10]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Ni, Xueting C. (2023). Chinese Myths: From Cosmology and Folklore to Gods and Immortals. London: Amber Books. p. 132. ISBN 978-1-83886-263-3.
  2. ^ a b "Hou Yi". Encyclopedia Britannica.
  3. ^ Walls, Jan (1984). Classical Chinese Myths. Joint Publishing Co. p. 68-69.
  4. ^ Bartlett, Sarah (2009). The Mythology Bible: The Definitive Guide to Legendary Tales. ISBN 9781402770029.
  5. ^ "Hou Yi Shooting the Sun | China Archery". November 2009.
  6. ^ Masako, Mori (1995). "Restoring the "Epic of Hou Yi"". Asian Folklore Studies. 54 (2): 239–257. doi:10.2307/1178943. JSTOR 1178943.
  7. ^ "Chang'e, Chinese Deity". Encyclopedia Britannica. The Editors of Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 8 March 2018.
  8. ^ Yang, Lihui; An, Deming; Anderson Turner, Jessica (2008). Handbook of Chinese Mythology. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780195332636.
  9. ^ https://en.touhouwiki.net/wiki/Chang%27e
  10. ^ https://en.touhouwiki.net/wiki/Hecatia_Lapislazuli

8. Hou Yi. (n.d.). Mythopedia. Retrieved April 14, 2023, from https://mythopedia.com/topics/hou-yi