The Profound Chinese Language (Episode 14): Sun (日)

Da Qiong (Colossal Firmament)

PureInsight | January 30, 2006


Watch Online (5:05) | Download (8,078KB)
Chinese version (English captions not yet added)

An opening poem recitation by a group of children:

When there is one sun in the sky,
The earth feels warm and comfortable.
When there were ten suns in the sky,
All creatures suffered from heat exhaustion and had nowhere to hide.
Then Hou Yi (后羿), the divine archer, rose from Heaven,
And shot down nine giant suns from the sky.
The remaining sun is preserved to shine upon the earth,
Giving nourishment and strength to all creatures.

Ying Ying: The sun is scorching today! I am nearly toasted!

Teacher Wang: Well, it is indeed very hot today. Why don't I tell you a story about the sun?

Ying Ying and Yuan Yuan: All right!

Teacher Wang: In ancient times, there were ten suns in the sky, taking turns providing warm sunlight for mankind day after day and year after year. Over time, the ten suns began to feel increasingly bored performing their duty alone. One day, they decided to go to work together from then on. Starting the next morning, ten suns appeared in the sky all together. It happened during the reign of Emperor Yao.

Teacher Wang: Emperor Yao was one of the five morally perfect sage kings in ancient China. When ten suns appeared in the sky and toasted the earth, all the crops died and no one could find food. Emperor Yao was in agony watching his people suffer. He prayed to Heaven every day, begging the deities in heaven to save his people from the disaster as soon as possible. The Jade Emperor in Heaven heard Yao's genuine prayers. He ordered a divine archer named Hou Yi (后羿) to descend to the human realm with a divine bow and a bag of divine arrows.

Teacher Wang: When Hou Yi arrived at the human realm, he saw the crops that farmers worked hard to plant and grow had dried up and that even rivers had run dry. People were panicking. They were confused and helpless. Meanwhile, the ten suns in the sky were playing happily with each other, completely oblivious to the severe damage they had caused. Hou Yi was outraged. With his divine bow and arrows, he shot down nine suns from the sky.

Teacher Wang: As Hou Yi was about to shoot down the tenth sun, his wise and beautiful wife Chang E (嫦娥) showed up and stopped him.

Ying Ying: Chang E was very wise. She knew man cannot live with a sun.

Teacher Wang: You are right! All creatures on earth require the light and heat from the sun to grow and survive. Now let's ask Grandpa Brush Pen to explain the origin of the Chinese character for the sun.

Grandpa Brush Pen: In oracle-bone scriptures, the character for sun had either a rectangular or a polygon shape because it was a challenge to inscribe a circle on hard shells. The character for sun in bronze inscriptions, however, was round because the cast bronze technology made drawing a circle easy. There was even a dot in the center of the sun to show that it was not a hollow circle. Some say the dot represents sunspots. In Small Seal, the character was stretched vertically and resembled a lean rectangle. In modern handwriting, it resembles more like the rectangular version in oracle-bone scriptures. Do you now have a better idea of the origin of the Chinese character for sun?

Teacher Wang: For about 200 years during the Spring and Autumn Period (722 – 481 B.C.), 37 eclipses were recorded in the ancient Chinese history book and 33 of them have been confirmed to be true. During the reign of Emperor Cheng (32 – 7 B.C.) of the Han Dynasty, one day an eclipse took place during the day and an earthquake took place during the night. Emperor Cheng immediately searched inward for any mistake he might have made. In ancient times, the Chinese people believed that cosmic changes were closely related to their conduct. So when disasters occurred, the rulers were usually the first to search inward for any improper conduct and rectify their mistakes.

Ying Ying: Ancient Chinese emperors were truly admirable. We should learn from them and start looking inside of ourselves to improve ourselves. If everyone would strive to become a better person and do good deeds constantly, I believe the frequency of natural disasters would be greatly reduced.

Teacher Wang: I believe so. This gives us modern people a lot to think about. We will conclude today's class. See you next time.

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