Ho Yui (Chinese: 后羿), known as Shen Yi or Yi, is a mythological archer who was later perceived as the god of archery. Legend has it that the archer descended from heaven at the behest of the Heavenly Emperor to deal with the misfortune of 10 suns in the sky that threatened life on earth. His wife Chang’e (嫦娥) is a lunar deity.

In the beginning, a very long time ago, ten suns took turns in the sky and took turns. However, once, the scorching heat, burns and suffering ravaged the earth and the people at the same time. Chinese Emperor Yao sought a way to save humanity from disaster.

The ten suns are told as ten boys who radiated bright light. According to some, these were the sons of the Heavenly Emperor, and according to others, the sons of the immortal Di Jun. There was a huge tree on the Eastern Ocean, inhabited by the Ten Sons, which was so huge that people said that if a thousand people gathered around it and spread their arms, they would not be able to reach it; the branches so high that the view from the earth to the sky could not comprehend where their end was.

The ten sons were ten suns, each son flying slowly across the sky, illuminating the whole earth and returning to the tree to rest at night. So the sons took turns and every day a different son lit up the sky, and the people did not make a difference, because every day one son was in the sky, never two or three. And yet, knowingly or not, they loved the suns because they gave warmth and comfort, and their grain ripened thanks to the grace of the sun.

Dry Destruction

One day, for unknown reasons, the sons all decided to visit heaven and illuminate the earth. First it shone with one sun and everything was fine, but then another sun rose, then another and another, until finally the ten found themselves in the sky and burned everything. Drought came, rivers evaporated, forest fires ignited, animals and plants died out. Nature was out of balance, man also suffered and began to fade.

However, the devastating cataclysm attracted various monsters to China. Emperor Yao had to decide how to deal with the bad news: a strange creature with a human body and an animal head with a single sharp, deadly tooth; elsewhere came a giant peacock flapping its wings, stirred the air as much as a storm; a lake monster also came, devouring fishermen and travelers on rivers and lakes.

Heavenly Emperor Sends Help

The famous Emperor Yao, who solved all problems and trusted his people, did not know how to approach the problem. He prayed to the Supreme Ruler. The sky responded by sending him the capable warrior The Archer Yi. He arrived on earth at night while the suns rested on the tree before rising in a few hours. He had a huge red bow with which to cut the suns. He went straight to Emperor Yao’s palace and obeyed his orders.

The emperor was impressed by the archer’s appearance, but doubted his weapon – would it be enough for this bow to bring down the ten suns that had inflicted so much damage on the earth. Archer Yi, however, demonstrated: he drew his bow and fired an arrow high in the sky, it flew such a long distance, miles, and finally crashed into the trunk of a huge pine tree in a distant mountain, halving it.

The emperor was hopeful, but all night he excitedly prayed to the Heavenly Emperor for success. In the morning, before dawn, the emperor visited the Archer Yi, who calmly waited for the dawn to come to draw his powerful bow and carry out his orders.

Yao and Yi walked the streets of the city to reach a high tower, which they climbed to get the best possible visibility for the deadly arrows. People filled the squares, they were confident in the archer, as the emperor himself entrusted his hope to him.

The Dying Suns

Archer Yi aims at the suns, relief from the middle of the 2nd century

The pink sky to the east foreshadowed the dawn, and the archer chose ten arrows with sharp bronze tips and inserted them into the quiver. The suns began to rise, and he realized that he had to act immediately, loaded his arrow, stretched the bowstring, and went straight into the first sun — it went out and a big black crow fell to the ground— that was the soul of the sun. Emperor Yao was impressed by the archer’s skill, but the heat became unbearable and the archer shot down another sun, and another, and another. Six suns, six crows on the ground, and the emperor noticed that there were four more arrows left in his quiver and worried that if he knocked down all ten, the earth would be enveloped in darkness forever.

So Emperor Yao slipped behind the archer and took an arrow, quickly hid it in his sleeve. The archer lowered three more and left one sun to warm the earth. Clouds came and a life-giving rain fell, the drought ended, and only one in ten sons of the tree of the Eastern Land was spared.

Monsters of Land, Sea and Sky

The danger of the suns was over, but it remained that of the monsters born of the solar cataclysm. Archer Yi engaged and pursued the monster with the deadly tooth for days. He eventually caught up with him at the place where he beheaded his victims to devour their bodies. Everywhere severed heads, the archer prepared from his terrible arrows, but the monster hid behind a shield and did not give up. Slowly walking, behind the shield, the monster came close enough to jump and swallow him, but the moment he stepped behind the shield, Yi sent his arrow straight into his mouth, breaking his sharp cutting tooth and piercing the monster straight in the throat. That’s how it died.

Finished with the monster Yi set out to look for the next one: the giant peacock. And the archer knew that the arrow would not be enough, so he tied a string at its end. When he searched for a peacock, he sent his arrow straight into the peacock’s body, and it began flapping it’s wings. The archer pulled on one side, the peacock on the other. It tried to get out, but with last force Yi pulled the rope hard, the peacock fell in front of him and cut off it’s head with his sword.

Only the sea monster remained. When he reached the lake that the monster inhabited, Yi got on a fishing boat. He lurked for a while, and the monster finally pushed it’s scaly back to the surface. The archer aimed and sent his arrow at him, and the monster fell into unbearable pain, began to toss in all directions.

The wild lake monster, though wounded, still had much strength. So Yi thought about what else to do, alas, the waves of the throwing of the scaly body of the monster shook the boat too much to be able to aim with his bow and arrow. He decided and threw himself directly on his back and began swinging and thrusting his sword into his body.

He stabbed him countless times, the monster trying to turn it’s neck to bite him, but each time the archer avoided it’s powerful jaws until he finally stabbed his sword deep into his body in a place that was less protected. The sea dragon relaxed, the waves stopped, the lake calmed down. The hero surfaced, swam to shore, and rested against the setting sun.