An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History, Literature and Art

Xi He 羲和

Jul 12, 2012 © Ulrich Theobald

Xi He 羲和 was in ancient Chinese mythology the wife of Emperor Di Jun 帝俊 and the Goddess of the Sun. She came from the country of the same name and, according to a story told in the book Shanhaijing 山海經, gave birth to ten suns that she used to bath in the source of River Gan 甘水 (also called 甘淵).

This story is similar to that of Chang E 嫦娥, who produced and bathed several moons. A similar story is told of a country in the west called Tanggu 湯谷 where ten suns were bathed. Nine of them stayed on the lower branches of the tree, and one on the top. It is also said that one sun rose in turn, when another other sun set. Each sun was inhabited by a crow.

Xi He also was also said to have steered the sun cart that was dragged by six dragons, as a commentary to the elegy Tianwen 天問 in the collection Chuci 楚辭 "Poetry of the South" says. The story is also told in the Huainanzi 淮南子.

The chapter Yaodian 堯典 "Canon of Yao" in the Classic Shangshu 尚書 "Book of Documents" mentions Xi He as the inventor of time, and the genealogy Shiben 世本 lists her invention of prognostication by the sun (zhan ri 占日). Xi He is also often called the master of sun and moon.

Yuan Ke 袁珂, ed. (1985). Zhongguo shenhua chuanshuo cidian 中國神話傳說詞典 (Shanghai: Shanghai cishu chubanshe), 4, 441.