Evidence of this Sun worship was found in northern China, where carved petroglyphs were found. Petroglyph is a fancy name for a carving or inscription on a rock. The image of the Sun showed up in these carvings more than any other image. In the rock paintings of southwestern China, the Sun god is represented as a man, showing that they perceived the Sun god to have a human form. Bronze drums were also found in the southwest displaying both Suns and toads! Toads were often worshipped together with the Sun in southwest China.
In present-day China, the Sun is still worshipped by a minority of people. In the past, ceremonies greeted the Sun in the morning and saw it off at night. Today, some people in northern China sprinkle tea toward the Sun in the morning, and pray to it three times before eating breakfast. In the mountains of northeastern China, people hold ceremonies for the Sun on the first day of the lunar year. Some people throughout China still swear by and pray to the Sun.
In Greek culture, the Sun was named Helios and represented a human form. This was because the Greeks gave everything a human form, including social institutions. The most well-known connection that the Greeks had to the Sun is found in their mythology. Click on the Sun below and you'll find some fantastic myths about the Sun!
Look at Japan's flag above. What does that big red dot remind you of? If you guessed the Sun, you're right! The image of the Sun has long been linked to Japan. In fact, the name "Japan" is translated to something like "the source of the Sun." The Sun is always portrayed as red and round in Japanese culture, sometimes with symmetric rays.
The Sun means a lot to the Japanese. The main meaning that it carries for them is the idea of transformation. The Sun is thought to reflect, control, and express changes in values and aspirations. It is seen as a sign of prosperity and renewed life. Many Japanese believe that the mirror shows truth in everything because it reflects the Sun's pure light!
Adoration and respect for the Sun is expressed in many different ways throughout the country. Traditional Japanese wash their faces and hands and then clap and bow toward the Sun. Village men have been known to gather in a house to wait for Sun on unlucky days. Often dancing and prayer-chanting takes place for the first days of spring and autumn. Some follow the Sun through the course of the day, across the sky from east to west. Sake, a Japanese beverage of fermented rice, is often presented to the rising Sun on the New Year. Prayers and incense are also offered.
The Sun has also played a large part in the politics of Japan. Just the eastern position of Japan in Asia has gained it power and prestige because the Sun rises in the east. This helps explain why Japan is often called the land of the rising Sun. The image of the Sun was often seen in military contexts in the 18th and 19th centuries. The use of this image came back in World War II electrifying the nation. War protestors did not appreciate this, and worked to get the symbol of the Sun changed back to its natural state.
The value of the Sun became associated with a strong work ethic because of the custom of rising early to worship the Sun when it enters the sky. This is reflected in the Japanese practice of calisthenics, a type of aerobics. It is done in the mornings that is very popular now.
Social movements also took on the imagery of the Sun. In the early 20th century, the women's movement did this by saying that the genius of women was the hidden Sun. The aim of the movement then became "bringing the Sun out of its cave." The movement strove for the oppression of women to be lifted so that they could freely express themselves, and their genius.
A bronze drum
A petroglyph of the Sun
The use of tea
Helios, the Greek Sun god
A Japanese temple
A Japanese woman in a kimono
The Sun played a very important part in the lives of the ancient Egyptians. In the earliest times, it was feared and dreaded because of its mysteriousness. The continuous rising and setting of the Sun was also looked upon as representing the cyclical nature of life.
Sun worship is more popular in Egypt than in any other country. The well-known Sun god Ra is the god that the Egyptians worship more than any other God. He has been portrayed in many forms, such as a child rising from a lotus, a bird, a cat, and a lion. This is because he got confused with other deities that were worshipped by the Egyptians. (If you've ever seen the movie Stargate, you have seen a very interesting imterpretation of Ra!) The usual representation of Ra, however, is one of a hawk's head wearing the Sun's disk with a serpent wrapped around it.
Early rulers claimed that they had descended from the Sun, giving them the power that they needed to be rulers. Kings had the title of Son of Ra, which also gave them power.
The Sun was exalted in the religion of the Egyptians as it was the central object that they worshipped. The worship of Ra was univeral through Egypt, and they believed that each person's soul was always with the Sun.
An Egyptian temple
Did you know that the Sun is a big part of many cultures around the world? From thousands of years ago to the present, the Sun has been important to many different people in many different ways. Here you can learn about the importance of the Sun in people's lives. Just click on a country's flag below to begin exploring the many visions of the Sun from around the world.