Thursday, August 04, 2005

The Dragon That Tried To Eat The Sun

On a day very long ago 2 Imperial Chinese Astronomers named Hsi and Ho were beheaded. Let’s take a look at why…

Many years ago, over 1200 years before the birth of Christ, the Emperor of China and his people watched the sky and were terrified. What they saw shocked them. Well the fact is that what they THOUGHT they saw shocked them. For, as they watched the sun, they believed they were watching a gigantic hungry dragon tried to eat it.

At first only a small bite was taken out of the side of the brightly blazing sun. Then another and a quarter of the sun was gone! Before long more bites consumed half the sun and finally the whole of the sun was gone. There was nothing left but a circle of white light around a black space where the sun had once been.

The frightened but very resourceful Emperor, knew just what to do. He ordered all of his subjects to take to the streets, he ordered that they all run around in the strange twilight shouting, screaming, beating drums, and clanging pots. He ordered his military to fire off fireworks and bang gongs. The Emperor believed that all of the commotion would surely frighten off the dragon.

Before long the dragon was indeed startled and it moved away. Lo and behold the sun was indeed saved! The Emperor, now much more angry than terrified ordered that the Imperial Chinese Astronomers, His and Ho should be beheaded for failing to warn him in time of the dragon’s approach.

Astronomers have long enjoyed the anonymous rhyme that has become their epitaph;

Here lie the bodies of Hsi and Ho,
whose fate, though sad was visible;
being killed because they did not spy
the eclipse wh
ich was invisible

So how long ago was the first solar eclipse observed? Who knows, but according to the Shang Oracle bones, which are inscribed turtle shells and animal bones, the Chinese recorded the above incident in the year 1217 B.C.

The Chinese later decided that the sailing moon had briefly hidden the moon and that a dragon had not tried to eat it. This ‘correction’ was not made until the year 654 A.D.

Who knows how long ago the first eclipse took place but one thing is certain, there are many ancient myths and stories that were used to explain the events. I invite you to keep an open mind and keep walking in this big weird world of ours!

I’m Average Joe


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