100 Days Until Totality Blog Series: 77 Days Left – Ancient Chinese Solar Eclipses

Eclipses were an important part of other ancient cultures as well. The ancient Chinese used to think that a dragon had come to eat the Sun during a solar eclipse. The word that they used for eclipse was “chih” (食) which also means “to eat”. Witnesses of an eclipse would bang drums and pans and even fire cannons to try and scare the dragon from the sky. The eclipse was also believed to be an omen for the future of the emperor. On October 22, 2134 BCE two Chinese astrologers failed to predict an oncoming eclipse and were beheaded for their mistake. In 719 BCE Chinese astronomers began keeping detailed accurate records of solar eclipses. Their records helped modern day scientists predict our eclipses more accurately. The eclipses records also helped prove that the Earth’s rotation is slightly slowing down. By about 20 BCE Chinese astronomers figured out that eclipses were caused by the Moon not a hungry dragon.

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