Top 3 Chinese Myths and Legendary Figures

Written by Francesca Zhu

The Myth of Sun WuKong

Sun WuKong, also known as the Monkey King, was born on the Mountains of Flowers and Fruits. He was powerful and with a rebellious trait, and one day, he went to the Heavens and caused havoc. The Gods were so angry with him that they tried to burn him but instead the fire made him even more powerful. The Gods then asked help to Buddha. Buddha punished the fearless Monkey King by suppressing him under the Mountain of Five Elements where he remained captive for five hundred years.


After centuries, a monk named Tan Sen was on his journey to the West with an important duty, to bring Buddha’s sutras to the East. One day, he passed by the Mountain of Five Elements. He freed Sun WuKong on the pact that the Monkey King had to be his disciple and had to help him collect the sutras. As such, the Journey to the West proceeded, with other new discpiples; Zhu BaJie, Sha WuJing and Bai Long Ma; who would later join one by one protecting Tang Sen from the dangerous demons of the West.

The adventures of Tang Sen and his four disciples are a recurrent theme in the Chinese folk culture. They appear in a multitude of cinematographic productions, from Chinese cartoons, movies, TV series to American screens.


Sun WuKong is probably the most popular character in the story; known for his power, braveness, repentance for his past and the willingness to become a better person under Tan Sen’s guidance. He is also featured in one of the most popular Japanese Anime that everyone knows about… that’s right, he is the undefeatable Goku in Dragon Ball. The synopsis of the anime is different from the Chinese myth but the character of Goku is indeed based on the story of Sun WuKong.



The Myth of the Cowherd and Weaver Girl

The story of the Cowherd and the Weaver Girl is a romantic one, on which the Chinese Valentine’s Day is based. It is said that the Weaver Girl was one of the seven angels that came from the Heaven to visit the Earth. During the journey, she met the Cowherd, a poor kind-hearted man, and the two fell in love with each other. The Weaver Girl stayed with the Cowherd on the Earth, they got married and had a boy and a girl. One day, the Mother Queen of Heaven came to know about the Weaver Girl and strongly disapproved the love between the two. She brought the Weaver Girl back to Heaven while the Cowherd chased after her. When he was almost reaching his wife, the Mother Queen used her magic hairpin to create a river separating the lovers. The Cowherd and the Weaver Girl cried so much for losing each other that the Mother Queen was moved. She still didn’t allow the lovers to stay together but she allowed them to meet once a year on the seventh day of the seventh month of the lunar calendar, when a flock of magpies will form a bridge crossing the river letting the Cowherd, the Weaver Girl and the children to reunite.


This day is also called Qixi in the Chinese culture, the equivalent of Valentine’s Day, when young people appreciate the night sky with their loved ones. In fact, the Weaver Girl represents the star Altair, the Cowherd Vega and the river separating the two the Milky Way.



The Myth of Chang E and Hou Yi

Once upon time, there were ten suns. It was so hot that all plants were burnt and people suffered drought. Hou Yi was an excellent archer, he took his arch and bow and shoot down nine suns only leaving one to provide light to people. Having saved the Earth, he was admired as a hero and many went to him to learn archery. To praise his bravery, the Gods gave him the elixir of immortality. Although Hou Yi wanted to become immortal, he was happily married with Chang E and didn’t want to be immortal without her, as the elixir was only enough for one person. So he just kept the elixir home.


One day, a greedy scholar of Hou Yi decided to steal the elixir. He broke into the house where only Chang E was there. He forced her to give him the elixir and Chang E, not knowing how to fight him, drank the elixir herself. She immediately became an immortal and flew to the Moon. When Hou Yi was back, he was heartbroken. He laid out his wife’s favourite fruits and cakes in the yard as offerings to her. His neighbours did the same and soon it became an annual tradition. Today, we still pass on this tradition on Mid-Autumn Festival, when we paint and light on lanterns and make and eat mooncakes, remembering the tragic story of the Chang E and Hou Yi.


Do you know any more Chinese Myths? If so, don’t hesitate to share them with us!




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