Mythology Monday: Hou Yi And Chang’E

So, this week, I’ve decided to go into a mythology that I haven’t really ever dipped my toes into much: Chinese mythology.

To start off with, we need to talk about heavan. So the Chinese concept of heaven is really, really important to both Taoism and Confucianism. It’s where all the gods and other assorted immortal beings live, all ruled over by a dude called the Jade Emperor.

Now, the Jade Emperor had ten sons. That, one day, all turn into ten suns. This is causing some really, really major problems don on Earth, mainly burning the shit out of everything. So the Jade Emperor goes to his main main, Hou Yi, for help.

To see why this doesn’t end particularly well, I should note that Hou Yi has an epithet. That epithet is “Lord Archer.” Meaning what he’s really, really good at is killing things with a bow. And the Jade Emperor asked him to solve his problem.

You guessed it: Hou Yi solves the problem by shooting down nine of the sons/suns, but leaving one up to be the one actual sun.

The Jade Emperor is absolutely shocked to find that the guy known for shooting things shot 9/10 of his kids, and ends up banishing Hou Yi and his wife, Chang’e down to Earth.

Now, this is not a particularly great situation, since now that they’re on Earth they’re mortal. This is particularly upsetting to Chang’e, since she didn’t really do anything to warrant being banished other than marrying Hou Yi. Hou Yi, deciding that this will not stand, decides to go and try and find a solution to this problem.

So he seeks out the Queen Mother of the West, and explains the situation to her. She’s like, “Oh, yeah, I got something that’ll fix that right up,” because apparently she talks like a Midwestern housewife. Anyway, she gives him this pill and tells him that half of it will restore their immortality, but a whole one will flat-out restore their god status. Unfortunately, she only has one.

So he gets back, puts it in a box for safekeeping until he decides what he wants to do with it, then heads out again. Before he leaves, he warns Chang’e to not, under any circumstances, look inside the box. Now, I’m sure you know what happens when you tell certain types of people to absolutely not do something.

Yup, she looks in the box.

And just as she’s looking in the box, Hou Yi gets home. Chang’e, at this point, panics and ends up swallowing the entire pill.

So that restores her godhood, and she starts floating upwards. Hou Yi is pissed and takes aim at her, but still can’t bring himself to fire. She continues floating upward until she hits the moon, where she continues to live with a jade rabbit and a dude named Wu Gang.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: couldn’t this have been avoided if Hou Yi just, you know, told his wife what was going on? The answer to that question is yes.

Then again, this also wouldn’t have happened if the Jade Emperor hadn’t gone to a guy known as Lord Archer to solve the suns problem if he didn’t want most of his kids to die, so I guess we can blame him too.

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