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21: CHAPTER XX. On the Sun

CHAPTER XX. On the Sun (Shuo-jih). 

The Literati say that the sun, when he becomes visible in 

the morning, comes forth from darkness, and that, when he disappears in the evening, he re-enters darkness. The Yin fluid of 

darkness is obscure, they say, therefore the sun disappears in it, 

and becomes invisible. 

In reality the sun neither leaves nor re-enters darkness, but 

how can we prove that? 

Night is darkness; its fluid is also obscure.1 But if a fire is 

made during the night, its light is not extinguished by the night. 

The darkness of night is the darkness of the north. The setting 

sun, which rises in the morning, is the kindled fire. The light of 

a fire, kindled at night-time, is not extinguished, that shows that, 

when the sun sets in the evening, a fluid 2 cannot be the cause of 

his disappearance. 

Observing the sun-rise and the sun-set in winter, we remark 

that, in the morning, lie rises in the south-east, and, in the evening, 

he sets in the south-west. The south-east and the south-west are 

not the region of the Yin or darkness.3 How then can it be said 

that the sun proceeds from and reverts to darkness? Furthermore, 

the stars notwithstanding their smallness remain visible, and the 

sun is extinguished in spite of his greatness? The reasoning of 

the scholars of to-day is thoughtless and shallow. 

They again say that the shortness of the days in winter, and 

their length in summer are also brought about by the Yin and the 

Yang. In summer, the Yang fluid abounds, and the Yin fluid falls 

short. The Yang fluid shines with the same splendour as the sun. 

Consequently, when the sun comes forth, there is nothing to obscure him. In winter, the Yin fluid is dusky, and overshadows 

1 Night is here taken as something positive, something like a black veil, or 

dark air, not as the absence of light, which does not cause the disappearance of the 

sun, but is its consequence. 

2 The dark fluid of night. 

3 According to Chinese symbolism the Yin principle of darkness corresponds 

to the north. 

On the Sun. 259 

the sun-light. Therefore, although the sun rises, he remains dark 

and invisible. Thus in winter the days are short. The Yin is 

paramount, and the Yang is scarce, just the reverse of what takes 

place in summer. 

However, if we consider the question seriously, we will find 

that the Yin and the Yang are not responsible for the length or 

the shortness of the days. This is made evident by the northern 

stars. The Yin of the north is the Yin of the sun. The Yin of 

the north does not overshadow the sparkling of the stars, why 

then should the Yin in winter obfuscate the brightness of the sun? 

Hence those who speak about the Yin and the Yang miss the truth. 

As a matter of fact, in summer the sun stands in Gemini, in 

winter in Aquila.1 Aquila is far from the pole, therefore the curve 

described by the sun is short. Gemini being near the pole, the 

solar curve is long then. In summer the sun proceeds northwards 

as far as Gemini, in winter southwards as far as Aquila. Therefore the extreme solar points in winter and summer are called 

"winter"' and "summer limit." 2 Because in spring and autumn 

those extremes are not reached, one speaks of "vernal" and 

" autumnal division." 3 

Some people hold that in summer, when the Yang fluid 

abounds, it is in the south, and that in consequence heaven rises 

and becomes high. In winter the Yang fluid decays, and heaven 

sinks down, and becomes depressed. When heaven is high, the 

course of the sun increases in length, and the days are lengthened; 

when heaven is low, the solar curve decreases, and the days are 


Now, if owing to the exuberance of the solar Yang fluid, 

heaven rises in the south, and the course of the sun is lengthened, 

the same increase ought to take place in regard to the moon. In 

summer, when the days are long, the sun rises in the north-east, 

but the moon in the south-east. In winter, when the days are 

short, the sun rises in the south-east, whereas the moon rises in 

the north-east. If in summer heaven were raised in the south, 

sun and moon ought equally to rise in the north-east, and, if in 

winter heaven were lowered, sun and moon should both rise in 

the south-east. It results from this, that in summer heaven does 

1 Literally: Tung-ching 东井, the " Eastern Well," and Chien-nu 牵牛; 

the " Herdsman." 

2 至 . The two solstices. 

3 分. The two equinoxes. 

260 Lun-hêng: C. Physical. 

not rise in the south, and that in winter it is not depressed. On 

the contrary, in summer, when the days are long, the stars from 

which the sun rises are in the north, and in winter, when the 

days are short, these stars are in the south. 

The following question may be raised. In summer, in the 

fifth moon, when the days are long, the sun stands in Gemini, 

which are near the pole, therefore the course of the sun is long. 

Now, we see that in the fifth moon the sun rises in the sign Yin 1 

and sets in Hsü.2 The solar curve being so long and far from 

men, how is it that we see the sun rise in Yin and set in Hsü? 

When the sun stands in Gemini, he is very near to men. Gemini 

are near the pole, hence, when the pole turns round, they ought 

to remain always visible.3 Provided that Gemini are by the side 

of the pole, ought we not to have no night, but continuous day? 4

Some scholars assert that sun and moon have nine different 

courses, therefore, they say, the sun in his course is near or far, 

and day and night are long or short. — However, in the fifth month 

day-time makes up 11/16 and night-time 5/16, and in the sixth month 

the day is 10/16 and night 6/16. From the sixth month to the 

eleventh month every month the day decreases by 1/16 That means 

that to the course of the sun every month 1/16  is added. In the 

lapse of a year the sun takes 16 different courses on heaven and 

not 9 only. 

Another idea is that heaven is high in the south and depressed 

in the north. When the sun rises into the higher region, he becomes visible, and when he sets into the lower one, he disappears. 

Heaven is believed to be like a reclining umbrella, which is shown 

by the fact that the pole, as seen from us, is in the north. The 

pole is the centre of the world. Since it is north from us, heaven 

must evidently resemble a reclining umbrella. 

If to illustrate the shining of the sun the analogy of a reclining 

umbrella be used, heaven must really have the shape of an umbrella. The polar star in the north of the upper part would correspond to the top of the umbrella, the south in the lower part 

would be like the stick of the umbrella, but where would that 

be? An umbrella reclining on the earth cannot turn round, but 

raise it straight, and it rotates. Now, provided that heaven revolves. 

1 This cyclical sign denotes ENE3/4N on the compass and corresponds 

to Gemini. 

2 Hsü = WNW3/4N and Aquarius. 

3 Turning round with the pole. 

4 The sun turning round the pole in Gemini and never disappearing. 

On the Sun. 261 

its northern edge cannot touch the earth, for how could it revolve, 

if it knocked against the earth? We see from this that heaven 

cannot be shaped like a reclining umbrella, and that the sun rising 

or setting does not follow the elevation, and the depression of 


Some people maintain that the northern edge of heaven sinks 

down into the earth, and that the sun following heaven enters 

into the earth. The earth being massive, obscures him, so that 

men cannot see him. But heaven and earth are husband and wife. 

They unite in one body, heaven is in earth, and earth joined to 

heaven. Their fluids mix and produce things. The north is Yin. 

When both are coupled, and their fluids mingle, it is in the north 

therefore,1 but does heaven revolve in the earth? If not, the earth 

in the north would be depressed, 2 and not even. 

Let us suppose that heaven really is revolving in the earth. 

On digging up the earth ten feet deep we find springs. Does then 

heaven revolving in the earth plunge into the water, and then 

come out again? If the north were depressed and not level, the 

Nine Streams 3 ought to flow north without ever filling it up. In 

reality heaven does not revolve in the earth, nor does the sun 

become obscured, because he follows heaven. Heaven is quite as 

level as earth, and the sun rises, and sets, being turned round 

along with heaven. 

Heaven appears to us in the shape of a bowl turned upside 

down. Therefore the sun rising and setting looks like coming from 

and entering into the earth. When the sun rises, he is near, when 

he sets, he is far, and becomes invisible, hence the term setting or 

entering. When in his rotation the sun appears in the east, he is 

near, hence we say that he is rising or coming out. But what 

proof have we? If you attach a moonlight pearl to the bow over 

a cart, and turn the cart round, the pearl will also turn. 

To men heaven and earth seem to unite at a distance of no 

more than ten Li. That is the effect of the distance, for they do 

not come together in fact. When we behold the sun setting, he 

does not set either, it is also the distance. At the time, when the 

sun sets in the west, the people living there will perhaps say that 

he is culminating, and looking from the point, where the sun is 

setting, eastward to our world, heaven and earth may appear to 

1 The north is Yin, which is synonymous with female, here the female organ. 

2 Viz. by heaven knocking against it in its rotation. 

3 The Nine Streams regulated by Yü. See Mayers Pt. II, No. 267. 

262 Lun-Hêng: C. Physical. 

the beholder joined together. Our world is in the south,1 therefore 

the sun rises in the east, and disappears in the northern regions. 2 

If the sun rose in the north, he would set in the south, 3 for everywhere, what is near seems to rise, and what is far, to set. In reality there is no setting, but it is the distance. 

If standing on the shore of a big lake, you look out to its 

limits in the four directions, they are blended with heaven. As a 

matter of fact, they are not blended, but the distance gives this 

impression. Through distance the sun seems setting, and through 

distance the lake seems to be blended with heaven. It is the same 

in both cases. The lake is bordered by land, but we do not see 

it, for to the observer it looks, as if it were blended 4 with heaven. 

The sun also looks like setting. All this is brought about by distance. 

The height of Mount T'ai equals that of heaven, and is lost 

in the clouds, yet from a distance of one hundred Li the mountain 

does not appear as big as a clod of earth. At a distance of one 

hundred Li Mount T'ai disappears, how much more the sun, whose 

distance from us is counted by ten thousands of Li! The example 

of the T'ai-shan gives an explanation. 

Let a man take a big torch, and walk at night on a level 

road, where there are no gaps. He will not have walked to a 

distance of one Li from us, before the light of the fire is gone out.5

It does not go out, it is the distance. In the same manner the sun 

revolving westward and disappearing does not set.6 

The following question may be asked: — Heaven is level as 

much as the earth. Now, looking up to heaven and regarding the 

movements of the sun and the moon, it seems as though heaven 

were high in the south and low in the north. 7 How is that to 

be explained? 

1 See above p. 255. On p. 263 Wang Ch'ung says that our world lies in the 

south-east of the universe. 

2 The sun sets in the west and passes through the north, before he rises 

again in the east. 

3 To people living in the east of the universe i. e. below the farthest eastern 

limit reached by the sun in his course, the sun would appear to rise in the north. 

to culminate in the east, and to set in the south. 

4 The context requires that we should read 属 blended instead of 望 look 

out of the text. 

5 The light becomes invisible for those who look after him. 

6 The great distance makes the sun invisible. 

7 Because the sun and the moon, which are supposed to be attached to 

heaven and revolving with it, rise on the southern hemisphere, and go down on 

the northern. 

On the Sun. 263 

The answer is this: — Our actual world 1 is lying in the south-east. Seen from below, Heaven looks, as if it were elevated, and 

the courses of the sun and the moon are south of us. Now, our 

world lies beneath the courses of the sun and the moon, therefore 

it seems to us, as if in their motions they rose in the south, and 

descended in the north. How shall we account for that? 

If heaven were elevated in the south, the southern stars should 

be elevated likewise. However, we see them going down. Is then 

heaven again depressed in the south? The celestial bodies which 

are near appear high, those which are distant, low. To people 

north of the pole it seems high, and the south they regard as 

low. The same holds good for the regions east and west of the 

pole. All regard as high, what is near, and as low, what is iar 

from them. 

He who from beneath the Northern Passes 2 looks up, sees the 

polar constellation above him. The north of the Hsiung-nu is the 

border-land of the earth. Seen in the north, heaven still appears 

high in the north and low in the south, and sun and moon in 

their courses ascend heaven there also. For a man standing on 

Mount T'ai it is high, whereas ten Li from its foot it appears low. 

The height of heaven is like that of Mount T'ai as seen by men. 

The four quarters and the centre, which are level, are of the 

same height, if, therefore, heaven seems to be depressed at the four 

cardinal points, this must be an illusion caused by the distance. 

Heaven does not only seem depressed there, but joined to the earth. 

Some savants hold that at sunrise and sunset, in the morning 

and in the evening, the sun is near, and that while in the zenith 

he is far away. Conversely, others maintain that the sun in the 

zenith is near, whereas at sunrise and sunset he is a long way 

off. Those who believe that the sun is near, when he rises or sets, 

and far off, when he culminates, have remarked the large size of 

the sun rising or setting, and his smallness at noon. We find that 

things are large, when they are near us, and small, when seen from 

a distance. Therefore the rising and setting sun is considered to 

be near, and the sun in the zenith to be far distant. Those who 

believe that at sunrise and sunset the sun is far off, and at noon 

near us. have on the other hand made the observation that at noon 

the sun is warm, and that he is cool, while rising or setting. When 

a fire comes near us, we feel hot. whereas, when it is at a distance. 

1 i. e. China. 

2 In Mongolia. 

264 Lun-hêng: C. Physical. 

we feel cold. Hence the idea that the sun at noon is near, while 

he is at a distance, when he is rising or setting.1

Both views are well-founded, and it has not yet been ascertained, which is right, and which is wrong. If we consider the 

question seriously, we arrive at the conclusion that the sun in the 

zenith is near, and at sunrise and sunset far off, as the following 

experiment will show. Place a pole upright in a room. The room 

is 30 feet high. The pole placed vertically under the roof-beam 

knocks against the latter above, and reaches to the bottom below. 

The beam then is 30 feet distant from the bottom. When the pole 

is inclined a little sidewards, its top diverges sidewards, and cannot 

touch the beam anymore, because the distance from the bottom is 

more than 30 feet. 

When the sun is culminating, he just reaches the highest 

point on heaven, exactly like the pole standing upright so, that 

the distance from the bottom measures 30 feet. The sun rising or 

setting is deflected to our right or left like the pole inclining to 

one side, whereby the distance from the bottom exceeds 30 feet. 

We learn from this that the sun in the zenith is near, and the 

rising or setting sun more distant. 

Let again a man be seated in the central hall of a house, 

and another walk on its roof. When he has reached the centre 

of the house, he is just above the man seated, and the distance 

from the man on the roof to the man sitting in the house, is 

30 feet. When he is at the eastern or the western corner of the 

roof, his distance from the man in the house is greater than 30 feet. 

The sun in the zenith is like the man standing in the middle 

of the roof, when the sun is just rising or setting, he resembles 

the man at the eastern or western corner. The sun in the zenith 

is near us, therefore warm, at the time of his rising or setting, he 

is far, and consequently cool. However, when the sun stands in 

the zenith, he is small, whereas at sunrise and sunset he is large. 

That is because, when the sun is culminating, the brightness of 

daylight 2 makes him appear small, and when the sun is rising or 

setting, daylight is fading, and he looks larger in consequence. In 

the same manner a fire looks small at day-time, but big at night. 

What is shown by fire, can be proved by the stars also. The stars 

1 This problem is already enunciated by Lieh Tse V, 9 who makes two lads 

expose it to Confucius. They ask the Sage to decide between the two antagonistic 

views, but he is unable to give a satisfactory reply. 

2 Wang Ch'ung seems to think that daylight is distinct from the light of 

the sun. 

On the Sun. 265 

are not visible during the day, because the brightness of the day 

eclipses them. At night there is no light, and the stars become 

visible. Now the sun and the moon are stars. When the sun approaches the horizon, and is about to set, his light fades, and he 

appears bigger. 

The scholars argue that in the morning the sun rises from 

Fu Sang,1 and in the evening sets in Hsi Liu. 2 Fu Sang is the 

eastern region, Hsi Liu the western desert, both are the confines 

of heaven and earth, and the places where the sun and the moon 

use to rise and set. 

I beg to put the following question: — Every year in the second and the eighth months the sun rises exactly in the east, and 

sets exactly in the west. 3 We might say then that the sun rises 

in Fu Sang, and sets in Hsi Liu. But in summer, when the days 

are long, the sun rises in the north-east, and sets in the north- 

west. 4 In winter, when the days are short, the sun rises in the 

south-east and sets in the south-west. In winter and summer rising 

and setting take place in four different corners. In which place 

exactly are Fu Sang and Hsi Liu situated then? The above statement, therefore, is true for spring and autumn, but not for winter 

and summer. Yet, after all, the sun does not rise in Fu Sang nor 

set in Hsi Liu for the reason that he revolves with heaven and is 

visible, when near, and invisible, when far off. While he is in 

Fu Sang or Hsi Liu, the people there, from their standpoint, will 

say that the sun is in the zenith. At other times it may appear 

from Fu Sang and Hsi Liu, as though the sun were rising or setting. When he is above people's heads, they call it noon, when 

he is on one side, they call it morning or evening. How can the 

sun under these circumstances rise in Fu Sang, and set in Hsi Liu? 

The Literati again assert that heaven is revolving from right 

to left, 5 and that the sun and the moon in their courses are not 

attached to heaven, but have each their own movement. It might 

be objected that, in case the sun and the moon had their proper 

movements, and were not attached to heaven, the sun would proceed 

one degree, and the moon thirteen. After their rise, both ought 

to go on and turn from west to east, how is it that nevertheless 

1 Fu Sang has been identified with Sakhalin. 

2 Hsi Liu must be the Mongolian Desert. 

3 At the equinoxes. See above p. 258. 

4 Vid. above p. 259. 

5 From right to left, facing the polar star which remains motionless and round 

which heaven revolves from east to west (cf. p. 267). 

266 Lun-Hêng: C. Physical. 

they commence to turn westward? They are attached to heaven, 

and follow its movements during the four seasons. Their movement 

may be compared to that of ants crawling on a rolling mill-stone. 

The movements of the sun and the moon are slow, whereas heaven 

moves very fast. Heaven carries the sun and the moon along with 

it, therefore they really move eastward, 1 but are turned westward. 

Perhaps the following question might be raised: — The sun. 

the moon, and heaven have their movement each, but the number 

of degrees which they traverse is not the same. To what can their 

velocity be compared, if referred to the things of this world? 

I would reply that heaven makes one circumvolution every 

day. The sun moves on one degree equal to 2,000 Li, of which 

he makes 1,000 during the day-time and 1,000 during the night. 

The unicorn^ also runs 1,000 Li during the day, therefore the 

speed of the sun is very much like the pace of the unicorn. 

The moon moves on 13 degrees. 10 degrees being equal to 

20,000 Li, and 3 degrees to 6,000, the distance made by the moon 

in one day and one night is 26,000 Li, which is like the flight of 

a wild duck. 

Since heaven turns round 365 degrees, the multiplication gives 

730,000 Li. This movement is very fast, and there is nothing like 

it. It can be compared to the rotation of a potter's wheel or the 

speed of an arrow, shot from a cross-bow. 

But although the rotation of heaven be so very fast, it appears to us slow, because heaven is so high, and far away, for 

distant objects in motion look motionless, and things shifting their 

place, stationary, as the following observation will show. If any 

body is on board a ship, sailing with the wind, in a river or on 

sea, her speed is fast, while she is near the shore, and slow, while 

she is far off. The ship's real speed remains the same, its quickness or slowness merely depending on the distance from which she 

is seen. 

When we look- up to heaven. its movement does not appear 

as quick as that of the unicorn. With the sun over it the unicorn 

hastens on, but when darkness falls, the sun is in front, why? 

1 Their own movement being from west to east, opposite to that of heaven. 

2 The Kilin, by Europeans usually called unicorn, whose prototype seems to 

have been the giraffe. The giraffe gallops like the fastest horse. The swiftest horses 

are likewise said to make 1,000 Li a day. 

On the Sun. 267 

Because the unicorn is near, whereas the sun is far. Distance 

conveys the impression of slowness. and proximity that of speed. 

If a journey extends over 00,000 Li, it is difficult to form an adequate idea of the real movement. 

The Literati assert that the sun moves one degree, and heaven 

365 during one day and one night, that heaven turns to the left, 

and the sun and the moon to the right, and that they meet heaven. 

The following- question may be asked: — The movements of 

the sun and the moon depend on heaven, they move, attached to 

heaven, not straight on. How shall we describe it? The Yiking 

says: — "The sun, the moon, and the stars rely on heaven. Fruits, 

grasses, and trees rely on earth." Relying means that they are 

attached. The movement attached to heaven is like that of men 

walking round on the earth. The simile is like that of the ants 

crawling on the rolling mill-stone. 

There is the question: — How do we know that the sun does 

not detach himself from heaven, nor move straight on independently? 

If the sun could do so, he ought to turn eastward of himself, and 

not share heaven's movement to the west. The movement of the 

moon is the same as that of the sun, both being attached to heaven. 

This is proved by a comparison with the clouds. 

The clouds are not attached to heaven, they always remain 

in their place. Provided the sun and the moon were not attached 

to heaven, we would expect them to keep their places likewise. 

From this it is evident that the sun's movement is connected with 

that of heaven. 

Another question arises: — The sun is fire. On earth fire does 

not move, why then does the sun move on heaven? 

The fluid attached to heaven has motion, that attached to 

the earth has not. If fire be attached to the earth, the earth does 

not move, consequently the fire does not move either. 

Some one might object, how could water move, if the fluid 

attached to earth had no motion. The reply is that the water 

1 Yiking, 30th diagram (Li), Legge's transl. p. 237. — Our text slightly differs. 

It adds " and the stars," and writes " fruits " instead of " grains." 

208 Lun-Hêng: C. Physical. 

flows eastward into the ocean, because the north-western region is 

high, and the south-eastern low. It is the nature of water to seek 

the low places, whereas fire will rise. If the earth were not high 

in the west, the water would not run eastward either. 

We will have to meet another objection as to how men, being- 

attached to the earth, can move, if the fluid attached to the earth 

is motionless. 

Human actions and desires all have an aim. Since purpose 

is at the root of human nature, man works and strives. 

The ancients were plain and simple-minded. Though on the 

frontier of a neighbouring country they heard the cocks crow and 

the dogs bark, they never had any intercourse with that country. 

Somebody will ask perhaps, why the stars do not move, if 

the fluid attached to heaven is in motion. I reply that the stars 

are fixed in heaven. Heaven moves, and since they are turned 

round along with heaven, they move also. 

An opponent might urge that human nature is based on purpose, and therefore acts, but how could heaven move, since its 

principle is absence of purpose? — Heaven's movement consists in 

the spontaneous emission of fluid. The fluid being emitted, things 

are produced of themselves, but the fluid is not emitted on purpose, in order to produce things. Without movement the fluid can- 

not be emitted, and unless the fluid be emitted, things cannot be 

created. It is different from the movement of man. The movements of the sun, the moon, and the five planets all consist in the 

emission of fluid. 

The Literati hold that there is a three-legged raven in the sun, 

and a hare and a toad in the moon. However, the sun is the 

heavenly fire which does not differ from the fire on earth. In the 

fire on earth there are no living beings, how could there be a raven 

in the heavenly fire? There are no living creatures in the fire, 

when they enter it, they are burnt to death. How could a raven 

remain unscathed? 

The moon is water.' There are living beings in the water, 

but not hares or toads. When a hare or a toad remain long in 

the water, they inevitably die. The sun and the moon are attached 

to heaven Just as shells and oysters swim in the deep, evidently 

1 Again the misleading symbolism. The moon represents the female principle, Yin, to which water corresponds, whence the naive deduction is made that 

the moon is water. 

On the Sun.  269 

because they belong to the same fluid. Are perhaps that what we 

call a hare and a toad, shells or oysters? 

And let us ask the Literati whether the raven, the hare, and 

the toad are living or dead. If they be dead, and remain for a 

long time in the sun and the moon, they must become charred, 

decay and putrefy. If they be alive, where are they at the time 

of a total eclipse of the sun or, when on the last day of a month 

the moon totally disappears? 

The raven, the hare, and the toad must be the fluid of the 

sun and the moon, as the intestines of man, or the heart, and back- 

bone of animals are the fluid of these creatures. It is still possible 

to examine the moon, but, when we look at the sun, our eyes are 

dazzled, and we cannot make out what fluid really pervades the 

sun, yet we should be able to distinguish an object in the sun, 

and call it a raven? In fact, we cannot see the entire body of a 

raven, and we should remark that it has three legs? This is certainly not true. 

Moreover, we hear the Literati speak of many animals, why 

then is there only one raven in the sun, and one hare and a toad 

in the moon? 

The savants maintain that the eclipse of the sun is caused 

by the moon. They have observed that the eclipses of the sun 

always fall on the last and the first day of a month. At that 

time the moon is united with the sun, therefore she must eclipse 

him, they think. Many eclipses of the sun have occurred during 

the " Spring and Autumn " period. The Classic records that on 

the first day of such and such a moon the sun has been eclipsed, 

but it does not follow that the moon has any thing to do with 

these eclipses. If the chroniclers had known that the sun was 

eclipsed by the moon, why have they been silent on this point, 

and did not speak of the moon? 

They say that, when an eclipse of the sun takes place, the 

Yang is weak and the Yin strong. When a man possesses great 

strength, he can subdue others in this world. Now, on the last 

day of a month, the light of the moon is extinguished, and, on 

the first day of the new moon, it is gone so to say, which is the 

highest degree of weakness. How could it vanquish the sun, for 

the eclipse of the sun is said to be caused by the moon? If, in 

an eclipse of the sun, the moon is believed to eclipse it, where is 

the moon? The eclipse is not caused by the moon, since the moon 

herself is destroyed. If we regard the sun from the same point 

of view as the moon, his light at an eclipse is destroyed of itself. 

270 Lun-hêng: C. Physical. 

On an average, an eclipse of the sun occurs every 41 or 42 

months, and an eclipse of the moon, every 180 clays. These eclipses 

have their fixed time, and these changes do not always take place. 

When they happen, it is through the spontaneous action of the 

fluid. The last and the first day of a month recur very often, but 

does the moon cause an eclipse then? The sun being in his full, 

the change is brought about by his shrinking together. Must we 

suppose something that consumes (eclipses) the sun? What consumes the mountains or the earth, when the mountains collapse 

and the earth shakes? 

Some say that, when the sun is eclipsed, the moon covers 

him. The sun being above, the moon below, her shadow falls on 

the sun's body. When the sun and the moon are united, but the 

moon is above, and the sun below, the moon cannot cover the 

sun, whereas, when the sun is above, and the moon underneath 

him, she casts her shadow on him. The light of the moon then 

covers the light of the sun, hence the expression: — eclipse.1 The 

shadow of the moon is like that of the clouds which cover the 

sky in such a way that the sun and the moon are invisible. 

Provided that both unite with their extremities, they must 

eclipse one another, and if both, when they come together, are 

joined like two pieces fitting one into the other, the sun must disappear as a matter of course. That the sun and the moon meet 

on the last and the first day of the month is a very common celestial phenomenon, but it is wrong to say that at an eclipse the 

moon covers the light of the sun for the following reason: — 

In case that, when the sun and the moon unite, the moon 

covers the light of the sun, the edges of the two luminaries must fall 

together at the beginning of the eclipse, and they must change 

their places, when the sun comes out again. Now, let us suppose 

that the sun stands in the east, the moon in the west. The moon 

moves quickly eastward, where she falls in with the sun. She 

covers the edge of the sun, and after a short time she passes the 

sun and proceeds eastward. The western edge of the sun has 

been covered first, its light must then come back. The eastern 

edge has not yet been overshadowed, it will be eclipsed next. 

q The Chinese expression is "to consume," "to eat"(食 or 蚀) the 

popular belief the sun at an eclipse is being devoured by the " heavenly dog," an 

idea perhaps derived from India. In Wang Ch'ung's time it must not yet have been 

current, for otherwise he would most likely not have omitted to mention and controvert it. 

On the Sun. 271 

Thus we see that during an eclipse of the sun the light of the 

western edge is extinguished, and that, when the sun comes back, 

the light of the western edge returns. Then the moon goes on, 

and covers the eastern edge, while the western edge returns. Can 

we say then that the sun and the moon are joined together, and 

that one covers and overshadows the other? 1 

The scholars assert that the shape of the sun and the moon 

is quite round. When they look up to them, they appear shaped 

like a peck, or a round basket. Their shape is a regular circle, 

they are not like the fluid of a fire seen from afar, for a fluid is 

not round. — In reality the sun and the moon are not round, they 

only appear so through the distance, as will be seen from the 

following: —The sun is the essence of fire, the moon the essence 

of water. On earth fire and water are not round, why should 

they be round in heaven alone? The sun and the moon in heaven 

are like the Five Planets, and the Five Planets like the other stars. 

The stars are not round, only their radiance appears round, because they are so far from us. This will become evident from the 

following fact: — During the "Spring and Autumn" period stars 

fell down in the capital of Sung.2 When people went near to 

examine them, they found that they were stones, but not round. 

Since the stars are not round, we know that the sun. the moon, 

and the planets are not round either. 

The scholars discoursing on the sun, and the mechanics hold 

that there is only one sun, whereas in the " Tribute of Yü " and in 

the Shan-hai-king it is stated that there are ten suns. Beyond the 

ocean in the east there is the "Hot Water Abyss," 3 over which 

rises Fu-sang. The ten suns bathe in the water. There is a huge 

tree. Nine suns remain in its lower branches, while one sun stays 

on the upper branch.4 Huai Nan Tse also writes in his book 

about ten suns which were shining. During the time of Yao the 

ten suns came out together, and scorched everything, whereupon 

1 Wang Ch'ung here speaks of a partial eclipse. That the shadow of the 

moon ill most eases covers only, part of the sun cannot invalidate the right view, 

which Wang Ch'ung rejects on unsufficient grounds. 

2 Ch'un-ch'iu, Duke Hsi 16th year (Legge, Classics Vol. V Pt. 1, p. 170). 

3 T'ang-ku. 

4 Shan- hai-king chap. 9, p. 1v. 

272 Lun-hêng: C. Physical. 

Yao shot at them.1 Hence they never were seen together anymore on the same day.2 

Commonly the "celestial stems'' 3 are called suns. From the 

first to the last stem there are ten suns. There are ten suns, as 

there are five planets. Intelligent people and disputing scholars 

are at a loss, how to find out the truth, and do not wish to 

decide in favour of either opinion. Thus the two antagonistic 

statements are transmitted without criticism, and neither of the 

two opinions meets with general approval. Yet, if we examine 

the question thoroughly, there are not ten suns. 

The sun is like the moon. If there be ten suns, are there 

twelve moons? There are five planets, but the five elements: 4 — 

metal, wood, water, fire, and earth all burn with a different light. 

Should there be ten suns, their fluids ought to be different. Now, 

we do not discover any difference in the light of the sun, and we 

find that his size is the same at different times. If there were 

really different fluids, the light would certainly be different. If, 

on the other hand, the fluid is identical, it must be united into 

one sun, and there cannot be ten. 

We see that with a sun-glass fire is drawn from heaven, the 

sun being a big fire. Since on earth fire is one fluid, and the earth 

has not ten fires, how can heaven possess ten suns? Perhaps the 

so called ten suns are some other things, whose light and shape 

resembles that of the sun. They are staying in the " Hot Water 

Abyss," and always climb up Fu-sang. Y ü and Yi 5 saw them, 

and described them as ten suns. 

Some people have measured the light of the sun, and calculated his size. They found the diameter to be 1,000 Li long. 

Provided that the rising sun is the sun on the Fu-sang tree, this 

tree must overhang 10,000 Li to cover the sun, for the diameter 

of one sun being 1,000 Li, ten suns will require 10,000 Li. 

Heaven is more than 10,000 Li distant from us. 

When we look up at the sun, his brilliancy is so dazzling, 

and his glare so bright, that it becomes unbearable. If the rising 

1 According to other accounts Yao ordered his minister Yi, a famous archer, 

to shoot at the suns, of which he destroyed nine. 

2 The appearance of ten suns is mentioned in many ancient works: — in 

Chuang Tse, the Li-sao, the " Bamboo Annals," the Tso-chuan, etc. 

3 The ten cyclical signs. 

4 The five elements are considered to be the substances of the Five Planets, 

which have been named after them : — Metal Star (Venus), Wood Star (Jupiter), etc. 

5 Cf. p.330. 

On the Sun. 273 

sun was the sun from the Fu-sang tree, Yü and Yi would not have 

been able to recognise him as the sun. A look at one sun would 

have sufficed to dazzle the eyes, how much more so, if there were 

ten suns. When Yü and Yi saw the suns, they appeared to them 

like pecks and round baskets, therefore they called them suns. 

The fires looked like pecks and baskets, but an object seen at a 

distance of 60,000 Li appears different from one looked at and 

examined quite near. Consequently what Yü and Yi saw they took 

for suns, but were not suns. 

Among the things of heaven and earth many resemble one 

another in substance, yet they are not the same in fact. Beyond 

the ocean in the south-west there is a pearl-tree.1 It has pearls, 

but they are not fish-pearls.2 The ten suns are like pearls of the 

pearl-tree. The pearls of the pearl-tree look like pearls, but are 

not real pearls. Thus the ten suns look like the sun, but are not 

real suns. Huai Nan Tse having read the Shan-hai-king wrongly 

asserted that for a Sage ten suns were lighted, and made the random 

statement that at Yao's time ten suns rose together. 

The sun is fire, the " Hot Water Abyss " water. Water and 

fire annihilate one another. Therefore the ten suns bathing in the 

" Hot Water Abyss " should have been extinguished and destroyed. 

Fire burns trees, Fu-sang is a tree. When ten suns rested upon 

it, it ought to be parched and scorched up. However, in spite 

of the bath in T'ang-ku the light did not become extinguished, and 

though the suns ascended Fu-sang, its boughs were not scorched 

or parched. The ten suns are like the sun which rises to-day, yet 

they cannot be tested by the five elements.3 Hence we infer that 

they were not real suns. 

When Yü and Yi beheld ten suns, it cannot have been night- 

time, but must have been day. When one sun rose, the other nine 

must have been left behind, how could they rise all ten together? 4 

It must have been like dawn before the sunrise. 5 

Furthermore, heaven turns and passes through a certain number 

of degrees. If the various suns follow this movement, and turn 

1 Presumably a coral-tree in the Persian Sea is meant. 

2 The Chinese imagine that pearls or the produce of fish, not of shells 

or oysters. 

3 If they were of the same stuff as our sun, viz. fire, they would have been 

extinguished in water, and have burned the wood of the Fu-sang tree. Since they 

did not do that, they cannot have been real suns like ours. 

4 The one sun in the upper branches of the Fu-sang tree must have risen 

prior to the nine others still lingering in the lower branches. 

5 As far as the nine suns are concerned, which were still below the horizon. 

274 Lun-hêng: C. Physical. 

round with heaven, how could they remain in the branches of 

Fu-sang or in the water of the "Hot Water Abyss?" In case they 

stay back, they miss the movement, and differences in the movement 

would bring disharmony. If, therefore, the rising sun be different 

from the ten suns, they only resemble suns, but are not suns. 

" During the ' Spring and Autumn ' period on the hsin mao 

day, in the fourth month of summer, in the seventh year of Duke 

Chuang at midnight the common stars were invisible, and stars fell 

down like rain." 1 

Kung Yang in his commentary asks: — What does "like rain" 

mean? It is not rain. Then, why use this expression? " The unrevised Ch'un-ch'iu " says, " It rained stars, which previous to approaching to within a foot of the earth departed again." The Sage 

corrected this, and said, "The stars fell down like rain."2 

" The unrevised Ch'un-ch'iu" refers to the time, when the Ch'un- 

ch'iu was not yet revised. At that time the Chronicle of Lu had 

the following entry: — "The stars fell down like rain. They came 

near the earth at a distance of over a foot, and then departed 

again." The Sage is Confucius. Confucius revised it, and said " The 

stars fell like rain." His idea was that on the earth there are 

mountains, hills, and high buildings, and he was afraid lest the 

statement about the stars coming near the earth at a distance of 

over a foot should not be true.3 Therefore he made an alteration, 

and said " like rain." Being like rain they came down from above 

the earth. The stars also fall down from heaven and depart again. 

On account of this similarity he says "like." Although there was 

the notice that the stars came near the earth at a distance of over 

a foot, he merely said "like rain." The expression "falling" which 

he uses refers to those stars. Though he assigned them their places, 

and fixed the text, he speaks of the falling stars in the same way 

as the Chronicle does. 

When from the plain we look up at Mount T'ai, and behold 

a crane on its summit, it appears to us as big as a crow, and a 

crow, like a sparrow. It is the height of Mount T'ai and its distance which cause us to lose the true estimate of the size of things. 

1 Cf. Ch'un-ch'iu (Legge, Classics Vol. V, Pt. I, p. 70). The seventh year of 

Duke Chuang of Lu is 686 b.c. 

2 A quotation from Kung yang's commentary to the Ch'un-ch'iu. 

3 Had the distance of those meteors not been more than one foot from the 

surface of the earth, they would inevitably have collided with the elevations of the 

earth, such as mountains, buildings, etc. Therefore Confucius omitted the remark of 

the original text. 

On the. Sun. 275 

The distance of heaven from earth amounts to upwards of 60,000 Li, 

which is not only the height and the distance of the summit of 

]Mount T'ai. The stars are fixed to heaven. When we examine 

them, we do not obtain a correct idea of their nature, for the conditions, under which we see them, are still more unfavourable than 

those, under which we look at the crane or the crow. By calculations we find that the size of the stars must be a hundred Li. 

Their brilliancy is so strong, that they shed light. If, nevertheless, 

they appear to us only as big as a phoenix egg, we have lost the 

true estimate by distance. 

Let us suppose that the falling stars are in fact stars falling 

from heaven, then we would not be able to recognise them as stars, 

when they approach the earth, because during their fall their size 

is not the same as that which they have in heaven.1 Now, as long- 

as we see the falling stars in Heaven, they are stars, if they are 

not, they are made up of air. We see ghosts having the semblance 

of dead people. In reality it is but air condensed into those forms, 

not real dead people. Thus the falling stars are in reality not 

shaped like stars. Confucius correctly calls them falling, which means 

that they are not stars, and rightly characterises them as being 

like rain, i. e. they are not rain, both features being opposed to 

the real nature of stars. 

The Tso-chuan remarks on the above quoted passage of the 

Ch'un-ch'iu, "On the Hsin-mao day, in the fourth moon during the 

night the common stars were not visible, because the night was 

bright. The stars fell like rain i. e. together with rain." This remark that the stars were invisible owing to the brightness of the 

night tallies with a passage in the Yiking 2 to the effect that at 

mid-day the Dipper 3 is visible. If during the day the Dipper is 

visible, it must be dark, not bright, and if during the night the 

stars were invisible, the night must have been bright and clear. 

The facts were different, but the idea is the same, and it is consistent with truth. 

The Tso-chuan says " together with rain," which is tantamount 

to " combined." On the hsin-mao day the night was bright, therefore the stars were invisible, but this brightness shows that there 

was no rain. The rain fluid is dark and obscure, how could there 

be brightness than? There being brightness, rain is impossible, 

how could the stars fall " together with rain ? " Consequently the 

1 The meteors never measure a hundred Li. 

2 Yiking, 55th diagram (Feng), Legge's transl. p. 336. 

3 A constellation. 

276 Lun-hêng: C. Physical. 

expression " together with rain " is wrong. Moreover, if it be said 

that the night was so bright, that the stars became invisible, how 

could the stars falling together with rain be seen? 

"On the wu-shên day of the first month in the 16th year of 

Duke Hsi five stones fell down in Sung'' 1 The Tso-chuan remarks 

that they were stars. Since falling stones are called stars, those 

stars are believed to have become stones by falling. The stars 

falling in the hsin-mao night were stars, but in reality stones then. 

If the stars falHng in the hsin-mao night were like those stones, 

the earth had high buildings, which must have been smashed. 

Although Confucius omitted to mention that the stars came near the 

earth as far as one foot, there certainly has been a certain distance 

from the earth, and the historiographer of Lu, who saw the event 

with his own eyes, would not have said so at random. 

According to the Tso-chuan the stars fell down together with 

rain. As rain collects on the earth, the stones must have done so 

likewise, but, since, when they touched the earth, they did not 

demolish the buildings, it is evident that they were not stars. 

Besides, on what does Tso Ch'iu Ming base his statement that the 

stones were stars? When the stones came down, their fall was 

very light, but why must they have fallen down from heaven? 

During the Ch'in epoch three mountains disappeared. Partly 

they were not dispersed, but collapsed, where they stood, which 

must have caused a great noise. Perhaps at that time the mountain 

of the I Ti went off its base, and came down in Sung. When the 

people of Sung heard the stones fall, they called them stars, and 

when Tso Ch'iu Ming had examined them, he also gave them this 


The substance of the stars is identical with that of the various 

things and like that of the sun and the moon. The so-called Five 

Planets are the light of the substance of the five elements. The 

Five Planets and the other stars all have the same light, therefore I am afraid that we miss the truth, if we regard the fixed 

stars alone as stones. In reality the stars which fell during the 

hsin-mao night were like rain, but they were not stars, just as the 

ten suns in the " Hot Water Abyss " resembled the sun, but were 

not real suns. 

The Literati also maintain that the expression that rain comes 

from heaven means that it positively falls down from heaven, However, 

1 Quoted from the Ch'un-ch'iu (Legge Vol. V, Pt. I, p. 170). The event took 

place in 643 b.c. 

On the Sun. .277 

a discussion on this subject leads us to the conclusion that rain 

comes from above the earth, but not down from heaven. Seeing 

the rain gathering from above, we simply say that it comes down 

from heaven. As a matter of fact, it comes from above the earth. 

But how can we demonstrate that the rain comes from the earth, 

and rises from the mountains? The Commentary to the Ch'un-ch'iu 1 

says, " It breaks through the stones one to two inches thick, and 

gathers. That in one day's time it spreads over the whole Empire, 

is only the case with the T'ai-shan."2 — From the T'ai-shan it rains 

over the whole Empire, from small mountains over one State, the 

distance depends on the height. As regards the forthcoming of 

the rain from the mountains, some hold that the clouds carry the 

rain with them. When the clouds disperse, the water falls down, 

and is called rain. Thus the clouds are rain, and rain, clouds. 

When the water comes forth, it is transformed into clouds; they 

condense, and become rain, and, when they are compressed still 

more, coagulate into dew. When garments are moistened as with 

rain, it is not the effect of the clouds, but of the rain which they 


Some persons will refer to the Shuking which says, " When 

the moon follows the stars, there is wind and rain," 3 and to the 

Shiking, where we read that " The moon approaches the Hyades, 

which will bring heavy showers of rain." 4 They all believe that 

according to these passages of the two Classics it is not heaven 

which is causing the rain. How is that? 

When the rain comes from the mountains, the moon passes 

the stars, and approaches the Hyades. When she approaches the 

Hyades, it must rain. As long as it does not rain, the moon does 

not approach, and the mountains have no clouds. Heaven and 

earth, above and below, act in spontaneous harmony. When the 

moon approaches above, the mountains are heated below, and the 

fluid unites. The fortuitous connexion between the various fluids 

and bodies is due to spontaneity. Clouds and fog show that 

there is rain. In summer it becomes dew, in winter frost. Warm 

it is rain, cold, snow. Rain, dew, and frost all proceed from earth, 

and do not descend from heaven. 

1 Kung Yang's Commentary, Duke Hsi 31st year. 

2 The highest peak in Shantung. 

3 Shuking, Hung-fan, Pt. V, Bk. IV, 38 (Legge Vol. III, Pt. II, p. 342). 

4 Shiking Pt. II, Bk. VIII, Ode 8 (Legge Vol. IV, Pt. II, p. 422). 

278 Lun-hêng: C. Physical.