Huo Yi and Chang’e


“So one time there was the world and there were nine suns, so it was really hot on earth, like unbearably hot, all the plants withered away, like it was so hot people would just stay in their house, it was a terrible time to live on earth. And so this archer, Hou Yi, decided to do something about the suns. So he got his bow and shot down eight suns, so now there was only one. But that meant the divine beings were really made that eight of their suns are gone from the celestial world. So he kind of got punished to live as a mortal – basically he was a divine being that’s how he was able to shoot down the suns – so he ended up finding a beautiful wife, Chang’e. And they are happily married and the villagers were very thankful for him to get rid of all eight suns because there is only one left and now the plants can grow, they can go outside, life was much more bearable. So they gift him with this elixir of immortality so he can go back to being a divine being. But he didn’t want to leave because he has a wife with him and that would mean he would have to choose immortality over her. So they just had a random elixir of immortality in their house. So one day he [Huo Yi] was just out in the field working, doing his archery stuff and his wife was at home. So he has an evil apprentice, who learns about this elixir of immortality and feeling jealous or greedy he wanted to get it for himself because he wanted to be immortal. And then he goes into their house and is looking for it, but Chang’e learns about his plan so instead of letting him [the evil apprentice] have it she drinks it and she ends up flying to the moon and becoming a divine being.”


The informant first heard the myth when she was in school. It’s a popular Chinese myth depicting the story of the moon spirit. The story also gives background to the Chinese Mid-Autumn festival. The informant says that there are many different variations of the story that have been told, though they all include Huo Yi and Chang’e.


This is an extremely popular Chinese myth that many people of Chinese descent likely know. The first time I heard the story was in elementary school, though there was no evil apprentice. In another version, there are ten suns rather than nine. Sometimes the elixir of immortality is given by another divine being or immortal. It is typically told during the Mid-Autumn festival as an origin myth of Chang’e, the moon deity. Often during the Mid-Autumn festival, people make offerings of food and other things to the deities, including Chang’e, and pray. The moon is very significant in many Chinese traditions as the Chinese calendar follows the Lunar cycle. It’s often associated with women and feminity, and it was once believed that a woman’s menstrual cycle was connected to the lunar cycle. The moon in Chinese culture is also associated with yin, from the Chinese philosophical concept of yin and yang which describes the balance of opposing forces.