Heavenly Dog Devours Sun (Total Solar Eclipse of 2009 July 22)

On Wednesday July 22, if you are in China, you could witness the longest total solar eclipse in over a century. The total solar eclipse will be visible within a narrow corridor that traverses through northern India, eastern Nepal, northern Bangladesh, northern tip of Myanmar before going through central China and the Pacific Ocean.

Totality (of the solar eclipse) will be visible in many cities in China – Chengdu, Chongqing, Wuhan, Hangzhou and Shanghai, as well as over the Three Gorges Dam.

In China, total eclipsed duration and start time is

  • Chengdu – three minutes and 16 seconds at 09:13am
  • Chongqing – four minutes and six seconds at 09:15am
  • Wuhan – five minutes and 25 seconds at 09:27 am
  • Hangzhou – five minutes and 19 seconds at 09:37 am
  • Shanghai – five minutes at 09:39 am

A solar eclipse occurs when the moon passes between the Sun and the Earth, fully or partially covering the Sun from our view on Earth. Total solar eclipse (where the Sun is fully covered) is a rare and spectacular natural phenomenon, which many people travel to observe or photograph the event.

Eclipses have always brought in people’s minds a sense of curiosity and mystery. In ancient times, solar eclipses have been attributed to supernatural causes. Unaware of their astronomical explanation, people became frightened by these occurrences when the Sun seems to disappear in the middle of the day.

Different cultures have created their own explanations to this phenomenon. In Norse mythology, the wolflike giant Sköll follows the Sun waiting for his chance to devour it. In ancient Egypt, the evil god Set was thought to have leapt into the eye of the Sun god, Horus.

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.



tiān gǒu shí rì
天    狗    食  日 – directly translated as ‘heavenly dog devours sun’. refers to a Solar Eclipse. n.

rì shí
日  食 – a shorter term for Solar Eclipse. n.

tài yáng
太   阳 – Sun n.

tiān wén xué
天    文    學 – Astronomy   n.

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