Astronomy and mythology
Astronomy and Mythology in Ancient Japan
Stars that played a significant role in the lives of common citizens in Japan were often given the distinction of being called Yowatashi Boshi or passing the night stars. This phrase was applied to prominent star groups which would appear in the East at sunset and set with the dawning sun. Orion is certainly one of the most noticeable Yowatashi Boshi in the sky.
In most every culture, it is easily recognized and continues to grab the attention of children and adults throughout the long winter nights. The grouping of stars that form the constellation, most especially the three belt stars or Mitsu Boshi have played a major role in Japan's cultural heritage with the sky.
As one of many groups of stars with which Japanese formed associations, Orion is a particularly rich "case study" in the ways in which Japanese historically made the sky a part of their lives. In the case of Orion, Japanese have seen few if any individual gods or heroes or even mythological creatures within the constellation as a whole but rather icons of common knowledge or use and symbols of specific cultural values and attributes.
While some star lore reflects a kind of national "consciousness", there is no singular Japanese interpretation of the star patterns but rather a variety of objects, memorialized events, seasonal markers, symbols of religious value, and legends based on particular geographical regions and functional needs of ordinary citizens.
Mysterious ancient star chart shows foreign skies C/NET - July 20, 2015
The astronomical chart on the ceiling of the Kitora Tomb. Agency for Cultural Affairs The Kitora Tomb, located near the village of Asuka in Japan's Nara Prefecture, is known for gorgeous, colorful paintings at the four cardinal points of the compass. A black tortoise guards the north of the ancient tumulus, which has been standing since the seventh or eighth century. A red phoenix stands at the south, a white tiger at the west and a blue dragon at the east. The ceiling of the tomb is decorated differently, with a map of the night sky, charting 68 constellations, with the stars picked out in gold leaf. Three concentric circles are drawn with vermilion, showing the movement of celestial objects, one of which is the sun.Kitora Tomb Star Chart is Declared the Oldest in the World
The Japanese Agency for Cultural Affairs have announced that a star chart discovered in ancient Asuka in the countrys Nara Prefecture, is based on much older celestial observations made in China, The Asah Shimbun has reported. The star chart was discovered in the Kitora Tomb in Asuka village in 1998, a site dated from the late 7th century to early 8th century, making it the oldest existing star map of its kind in the world. It features 68 constellations in which the stars are depicted using gold discs. The movement of celestial objects is also represented in the form of three concentric circles with another circle depicting the movement of the sun. The Polar Star is depicted at the center.
Analysis of digital images showed that the most likely observation sites were those located on the 34th parallel north, including the ancient cites of Changan (modern Xian) and Luoyang, both of which were capitals of Chinese dynasties governing the middle reaches of the Yellow River.
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Soma and Nakamura believe the observations were made several hundred years before the Kitora Tomb was constructed. Soma thinks it may have been between 240 and 520 AD, while Nakamura prefers a time period of 120 to 40 BC. Using this as a basis, Kazuhiko Miyajima, a former professor of East Asia astronomy history at Doshisha University, has suggested that the star chart depicts the sky in 65 BC, in either Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea, or Seoul, the capital of South Korea.
The Kitora Tomb is located in an ancient tumulus near the village of Asuka and was first discovered in 1983. Experts believe it dates to some point between 7th and early 8th Centuries AD. The tomb consists of a small stone chamber just over 1 meter (3.3 feet) high, 1 meter (3.3 feet) wide and around 2.4 meters (7.9 feet) long.
The walls are orientated to the four cardinal points of the compass and images on them depict the Black Tortoise of the North, the Azure Dragon of the East, the Red Bird of the South and the White Tiger of the West. These representations are accompanied by additional zodiacal images consisting of human figures with animal heads. The murals were discovered when probes were inserted into the tomb in 1983. A second probe inserted in 1998 found more images and the star chart painted on to the ceiling.