The Far Side of Astronomy - Culture

Note of thanks to Sherene.. :)

Cang Long of the East - Chinese

In ancient Chinese star maps, there is a constellation of a huge dragon. It would appear every year at spring's evening in the eastern sky. That was how it got its name “Cang Long of the East” or it was also known as the “Qing Long xing” (Green Dragon Star).  “Da jiao” (Arcturus in Bootes) together with “Jiao xiu” (Spica in Virgo) make up the 2 horns of the dragon, “Cang long”. Antares in Scorpio (Xin Xiu) is the heart of the Great Dragon. k Scorpii and l scorpii are known as “Che Shui xing”, the Water Carrier Stars. The story of the Water Carrier Stars involves a lady and her sister-in-law who are searching for their lost hairpin in the “Yin He”, Milky Way.

Antares’ earliest name was “Da Huo” (Great Fire). It was recorded in a 3,000 year-old historical text. There was a record of a super luminous star beside the Great Fire. In about 10BC when the first Chinese Fire Department was set up, observations of the Great Fire star were linked to the length of seasons for the benefit of farmers.

The Green dragon, “Cang Long” occupies the eastern horizon when the Big Dipper is overhead. In Chinese mythology, it represents the essence of all divine creatures. Scorpius which represents the body of the curled up dragon. Antares is the heart of the Dragon. Spica and Arcturus form the dragon’s two long horns. 

The White Tiger, “Bai Hu” occupies the western horizon when the Big Dipper is right overhead. It represents the essence of all beasts. It is actually the constellation of Orion seen through the eyes of the ancient Chinese. Betelgeuse, Bellatrix, Rigel and Saiph are the limbs of the Tiger. 

The Red Phoenix “Zhu Niao” or “Zhu Que Xing” is a group of faint stars to the south of the Big Dipper. This constellation represents the essence of all birds. It is made up of a few faint stars near the Hydra constellation. the west most seven stars are perceived to be the curved beak of a bird. The southeastern group of faint stars represents its feathers.

“Xuan Wu” is the image of a black turtle intertwined with a snake. It is made up of a group of constellations to the north of the Big Dipper. It represents the essence of all reptiles. Five average luminosity stars form the shape that resembles that of a turtle shell. Ursa Major itself represented the chariot of the God of Gods. He lives in the center of the heavenly court and drives his chariot around the sky to monitor the movement on Earth. 

Another ancient Chinese constellation known as the Yellow Dragon, was believed to be the reincarnation of the emperor, Xuan Yuan. Leo formed part of the constellation and Regulus was the dragon’s head.


The Buffalo Boy and the Weaver Girl - Chinese

It is a celebrated event for the seventh day of the seventh lunar month when the famous Buffalo Boy and the Weaver Girl meet on the Magpies’ Bridge. It was the story of how the Weaver Girl, a fairy from heaven, came to Earth and fell in love with a mortal man, the Buffalo Boy. They got married and she gave birth to a boy and a girl. When the Heavenly Mother came to know of this, she forced the Weaver Girl to return at once to Heaven. The Buffalo Boy, carrying his children in two baskets (the 2 brighter stars to the left and right of Altair), went in search of his wife. The Heavenly Mother then used her hairpin to draw out a part of the "Yin He" (the Milky Way) to create a storm so as to keep them apart. A group of magpies took pity on the couple and formed a bridge for them to meet each year on that special day. It is rumoured that Altair and Vega appears closest on this fateful day. Altair in Aquila is the Buffalo Boy. Vega in Lyra is the beautiful Weaver Girl. Deneb in Cygnus is part of the Magpies’ Bridge. These three stars form the Summer Triangle.


Recordings of Supernova 1054AD - Chinese

In the Song Dynasty’s historical text, “Song Shi”, there were recordings of a Guest Star that appeared suddenly in the fifth month of the year of “Zhi He Yuan”. It rose in the East and was known as the Guardian of the Heavenly Gate. It was even brighter than Aldebaran in Taurus and was visible in the morning. It was also white in color. After 23 days, it started to dim until it was no more. This occurred in 1054AD in the constellation of Taurus. The remnants of this supernova is now known as the “crab nebula” (M1).


Churning The Ocean of Milk : The Story of Creation in The First World Age - Hindu

 Attempting to curdle the lost elixir of immortality out of the milky waters of primordial time, the gods and demons collaborated by engaging in a cooperative tug-of-war using the monstrous serpent, Vasuki, coiled around the massive peak of the great mythical mountain, Mandara. They swiveled the snaky rope back and forth to agitate the mountain and emulsify the sea. It started to slip and sink into the creamy ooze on the ocean floor. Vishnu acted quickly to preserve their investment by transforming himself into Kurma, the cosmic tortoise, and submerged himself under the mountain and supported it upon his shell. With a world-turtle to steady the churn-stick mountain, the gods and demons kept on whipping up the ocean for over a thousand years. In time, precious things emerged from the clotting waters: the sun, the moon, the goddess of fortune, the goddess of wine,  the first apsara, the tree of celestial paradise,  the magic cow, the white horse, the milk-white elephant, the bow, the conch of victory, and more, including the beverage of eternal life.


Constellations associated with Gods - Chinese

Three star groupings are pretty common and are mostly associated with gods in the heaven. For example, from Orion's belt, a constellation of the three gods which represent happiness, wealth and health known as “Fu (Alnilam) Lu (Alnitak) Shou (Mintaka)”. “Fu” was the star in the middle with “Lu“ on the right and “Shou“ on the left. “Fu xing” rises from the eastern horizon and its position in the sky indicates the True East. 


Proverb - Malay

Does the sun notice when you curse it? Does the moon notice when the dog howls at her?


The Golden Nail - Mongolian

To the Mongols, the north celestial pole was the “golden nail” that held the sky in place. The circumpolar motion of the northern stars provided the essential pattern of cosmic order attributed to “Erketu Tengri” (Mighty Heaven), the highest power in heaven. By analogy, the sky exerted pressure on all nature, particularly through 99 subordinate powers in heaven, also called “Tengri”. Erketu Tengri and his officers controlled the order and the destiny of the universe. Among them were counted the four gods of the world’s corners, the five gods of the world’s winds, the Sun, the Moon, the planet Venus, the Pleiades, and more.


The Solar Eclipses

In ancient China, solar eclipses were regarded as warnings from Heaven. Therefore, the predictions of solar eclipses must be highly accurate. There was a tale about an astronomer who lived 4,000 years ago by the name of Yi He who was beheaded because he missed out a solar eclipse in his predictions. It was said that from then on, the Chinese court astronomers were very careful in their work. 

Because the sun’s rays are so glaring, except during eclipses, no one could look at it directly. About 1BC, a man by the name of Jing Fang adopted a unique way of observing eclipses. He put a basin of water in his yard and observed the eclipse through its reflection in the water  to avoid direct contact of the Sun with his eyes. people later improved on his method by replacing water with oil which further reduced the glare of the Sun’s rays. In 13AD, an astronomer of the Yuan Dynasty invented a semicircular globe called “Yang Yi”. On the inside, there are markings to measure the eclipse with accuracy. Because there were many specialized observers of solar eclipses, ancient China has left behind a huge number of records on eclipses. According to statistics, up till the Qing Dynasty, there are about 1,000 records of Solar Eclipses.  

In Thailand, Hindu believers hoard black joss sticks and jelly as offerings to Rahu, the mythical Sun-devouring demon. Black sacrificial chickens were also given. In Angkor Wat, Cambodia, villagers gather with cooking pots for frenetic clanging to frighten the monster into releasing the sun. Fear of Rahu and of the anger of the sun god, Surya, persists also in India. Some soak garlic cloves in olive oil to protect their eyes during partial eclipse. Gurus exhort pregnant women to shun the eclipsed sun’s baleful light. Only beggars expect to benefit, for alms of eclipse-tainted goods are believed to redeem the giver.



Observations of sunspots in early China were only possible if there was a fog or mist. The Chinese depicted a three-legged raven which inspired saying “Zhi Zhong You Cun Niao” (A three-legged raven within the Sun). Thus from then, they referred to the Sun as the Golden Raven, “Jing Wu”. The oldest known documentation of the sunspots was around 140BC in the book “Hui Nan Zi – Jing Shen Shun”. The sunspots were referred to as birds in the Sun.  In “Han Shu - Wu Xing Zhi”, published around 28BC, Astronomers gave an even more detailed description of sunspots. It not only specified the date of the appearance of sunspots but also their shape. In recent years, the Chinese astronomers found documentations of hundreds of sunspots in historical texts dated some 2,700 years ago. 


Saturn -Thai

In Thai mythology, “Phra Sao” is the Planet-god Saturn, “the God of Fickle Fortune”. Like the classical Saturn-Kronos, he is the father of the gods whose wrath will cause terrible misfortune. Prayers are due to him when he approaches one’s Zodiacal sign, and it is advisable to perform sacrifices. “Phra Sao” can humble the proud. Only he can cause the fall of tyrants.

Retour EarthStar Continuum
Mailto Lin


Phonetic Pronounciations

Yin He = [yin - her] (this applies to all "He" words. The general term used in Chinese and Japanese to denote galaxies now.

Phra = similar to Prague without the "g" sound.