The Profound Chinese Language (Episode 18): Heaven (天)

Da Qiong (Colossal Firmament)

PureInsight | February 6, 2006


Watch Online (5:08) | Download (7,728KB)
Chinese version (English captions yet to be added)

An opening poem recitation by a group of children:

When the sky was dark and the universe was barren,
Pan Gu (盤古) created the universe and heaven.
Since then, the bright moon has been shining upon the human realm,
The wind blows and the sun bestows beautiful sunshine on the Earth.
There is no need to pass judgment on who is good or bad
Because Heaven is always watching and omits nothing.
Heaven will reward kind deeds and punish bad deeds
Because Heavenly Law will never change and will always prevail.

Scene One:

Grandpa Brush Pen: Children! Take your seats! Our school bus is about to take off!

Narrator: The school bus disappeared in a flash and reappeared in a place where there was no heaven or earth. There was nothing but fog as far as eye could see.

Children: Wow! Have we entered outer space?

Grandpa Brush Pen: That's right! A very long time ago, a giant god named Pan Gu (盤古) was born. Sandwiched between Heaven and Earth, Pan Gu grew bigger and taller each day. After 18,000 long years in his space-time dimension, Pan Gu became 90-million meters tall. As a result, the distance between Heaven and Earth was stretched to 90-million meters.

Yuan Yuan: It must have been very hard for Pan Gu to support the immensely big sky.

Grandpa Brush Pen: Indeed! Pan Gu made a lot of effort to support Heaven day after day and year after year until one day he thought, "I have been standing up for too long. I am exhausted. Why don't I lie down and take a rest?" He sighed and his breath turned into spring breezes and white clouds. Gradually, Pan Gu's left eye became the brilliant sun and his right eye became the bright and clear moon. His long hair became the Milky Way and his beard became the countless stars in the sky. Finally, his breathing became earth-shaking thunder.

Scene Two:

Ying Ying: Yuan Yuan! I just had a dream about a giant!

Teacher Wang: It's time for class! Children, in today's Chinese Language class, we will ask Grandpa Brush Pen to explain the evolution of the Chinese character for heaven (天).

Grandpa Brush Pen: The Chinese people traditionally believe that man is an integral part of heaven. This is why the word root for human (人) is an integral part of the character for heaven (天). Let's take a look at the initial version of the character for heaven in oracle-bone scriptures. It was the juxtaposition of a human and a line below his head representation heaven. In the next two variations, the human's head was exaggerated. In the third variation, the human's head is pointy as though it is moving towards the sky. In the fourth variation, the human's head has been flattened as though it has become a part of the heaven. All the variations in the character for heaven in bronze inscriptions were the same as those in oracle-bone scriptures, except that the lines were thicker. The second variation looks like a man standing tall, as though he is touching heaven and earth. The character looks like a human being, but it has the magnificence of a heavenly deity. The character for heaven in Small Seal has softer lines, but assumes pretty much the same shape. The character for heaven in modern script is a small variation from the Small Seal, except that it no longer looks like a human being.

Teacher Wang: There is indeed a close relationship between man and heaven. Confucius said, "If a person does a bad deed that violates the Heavenly Law, no prayer can save him from the Heaven's punishment!" Let's conclude today's class. See you next time!

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