Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Myths Attending the Total Solar Eclipse of July 22, 2009

CNN's coverage of the total solar eclipse visible from many parts of Asia included this item: "In Chinese tradition, there is a story about a heavenly dog eating the sun. As the story goes, people would make noise to scare off the dog and rescue the sun, said Bill Yeung, president of the Hong Kong Astronomical Society." This prompted me to try to find out a little more about this ancient story, and I ended up at iLearn, which provided the historical response of communities to this astronomical event viewed as a manifestation of a mythical tale:
"In ancient China it was a heavenly dog that ate the Sun. Whilst the heavenly dog is devouring the Sun (or moon during Lunar eclipse), people would set firecrackers, beat the drums and shout to chase the dog away.

"Of course, that was the past and people no longer believed in the heavenly dog. However, the term 天狗食日 ‘Heavenly Dog Devours Sun’ is still commonly used, retaining a romanticized sense of mystery in this rare astronomic spectacle."

Like many people, I'm all for the "romanticized sense of mystery" and only wish I could be there to witness it!

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