What is the significance of Nine Heavens?

I've read a few novels and the concept of Nine Heavens pops out quite often. What is the significance of this Nine Heavens that some authors likes to use it?

Comments

  • Interesting question.

    First of all, what exactly does Nine Heavens mean?

    The concept the sky includes nine components origins from traditional Chinese cosmology, and there are two opinions about what type of components are. One assumption suggests the sky includes nine positional parts as the chessboard consists of numerous squares, while the other hypothesis proposes that the sky should include nine layers with Matryoshka doll pattern. According to Lüshi Chunqiu, an encyclopedic text compiled around 239 BC, the sky consists of nine districts in the form of chessboard model, and each district has its specific name. However, scholars of astronomy and philosophy support the nine layers hypothesis, which is somewhat similar to Ptolemaic system. The nine layers hypothesis finally defeats the former chessboard assumption, and Nine Heavens (九天, or equally 九霄) becomes Nine Layers of Heavens (九重天). When Ptolemaic system spread to Asia around the Age of Exploration, Chinese astronomer indigenized Ptolemy’s work and the nine layers got their names. If someone declares the nine layers are Moon, Mercury, Venus, Sun, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, 28 Mansions and the Ancestral layer, remember that these names are immigrant rather than local.

     

    The second question, why novel authors tend to use the concept of Nine Heavens?

    To be short, the reason is that they are familiar with this concept. As it is known to all, the novel one wrote would inevitably be corresponding to the books he has read and to the things he has experienced. These authors essentially absorbed nutrients from plenty of Chinese masterpieces, i.e., “the sky includes nine heavens (圜则九重)… at the boundary of the nine heavens (九天之际)” by Qu Yuan, a famous poet, “is it the milky way descending from the nine heavens? (疑是银河落九天) ” by Li Bai, another well-known poet, “the general who is skilled in attack flashes forth from the topmost heights of nine heavens (善攻者动于九天之上)” by Sun Wu, a military tactician, and “it is possible to grasp the moon from nine heavens (可上九天揽月)” by Mao Zedong, a powerful statesman. It is no doubt that the authors would be inspired as these written works refer to the concept over and over again.

     

    And next, why nine? Why not eight, five or something else?

    Generally, nine is the best number.

    As we know, the number 13 is thought unlucky in some cultures, and it is easy to understand the fact that different numbers have specific meanings and hints. In Chinese culture, ten is usually thought to be perfect. However, in a famous myth, once there were ten suns upon the sky causing the earth scorch. People suffering from blazing atmosphere were saved by Houyi, the heroic archer, who shot down nine suns of the ten. It is suggested that ten is a number too perfect to be used even by the formidable immortals as suns. Instead of ten, nine becomes the largest number people use to convey the meaning of many accordingly, showing their humbleness to the ultimate truth. For example, a paramount mathematical book is named The Nine Chapters on the Mathematical Art, and a splendid poem collection is named The Nine Songs.

     

    Based on the duality from Daoism, 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, these odd numbers are classified as Yang (strong, warm, active, bright, and creative), while the even numbers 2, 4, 6, 8 are sorted as Yin (yielding, cool, passive, dark, and implicative). It is no doubt that nine gets much attention and favor as the largest Yang number. The powerful minister who seeks to usurp to the throne, will force the king to award him with the nine bestowments before the so called voluntary abdication. Here the nine bestowments stand for the ceremony of the highest rank.

     

    An additional aspect is about the correspondence. Chinese people believe that there are some corresponding relationships between the sky and the earth, and between the sky and the human beings. In ancient times, the well-field system with chessboard pattern was carried on in the Chinese civilization. As the agricultural land divided into nine parts, usually within a village or a town, people started to enlarge this model to the province, to the nation, and even to the entire cosmos correspondingly. The nine components pattern was conducted, forming the nine provinces system of the nation, the nine nations hypothesis of the continent, and of course the nine heavens of the sky. Yu the Great’s casting bronze into nine ritual caldrons to symbolize the nine provinces, is one of the examples of correspondence. Moreover, “the sovereign of nine and five”, which means the king of the nine provinces and five elements, is the alias of the Chinese emperor. In such a way, the factors of the sky, the earth and the human beings are linked together.


    To sum up, nine is the largest number with humbleness, the noblest number, and the magic number indicating the correspondence of the sky, the earth, the human, and the ultimate truth.




  • Interesting question.

    First of all, what exactly does Nine Heavens mean?

    The concept the sky includes nine components origins from traditional Chinese cosmology, and there are two opinions about what type of components are. One assumption suggests the sky includes nine positional parts as the chessboard consists of numerous squares, while the other hypothesis proposes that the sky should include nine layers with Matryoshka doll pattern. According to Lüshi Chunqiu, an encyclopedic text compiled around 239 BC, the sky consists of nine districts in the form of chessboard model, and each district has its specific name. However, scholars of astronomy and philosophy support the nine layers hypothesis, which is somewhat similar to Ptolemaic system. The nine layers hypothesis finally defeats the former chessboard assumption, and Nine Heavens (九天, or equally 九霄) becomes Nine Layers of Heavens (九重天). When Ptolemaic system spread to Asia around the Age of Exploration, Chinese astronomer indigenized Ptolemy’s work and the nine layers got their names. If someone declares the nine layers are Moon, Mercury, Venus, Sun, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, 28 Mansions and the Ancestral layer, remember that these names are immigrant rather than local.

     

    The second question, why novel authors tend to use the concept of Nine Heavens?

    To be short, the reason is that they are familiar with this concept. As it is known to all, the novel one wrote would inevitably be corresponding to the books he has read and to the things he has experienced. These authors essentially absorbed nutrients from plenty of Chinese masterpieces, i.e., “the sky includes nine heavens (圜则九重)… at the boundary of the nine heavens (九天之际)” by Qu Yuan, a famous poet, “is it the milky way descending from the nine heavens? (疑是银河落九天) ” by Li Bai, another well-known poet, “the general who is skilled in attack flashes forth from the topmost heights of nine heavens (善攻者动于九天之上)” by Sun Wu, a military tactician, and “it is possible to grasp the moon from nine heavens (可上九天揽月)” by Mao Zedong, a powerful statesman. It is no doubt that the authors would be inspired as these written works refer to the concept over and over again.

     

    And next, why nine? Why not eight, five or something else?

    Generally, nine is the best number.

    As we know, the number 13 is thought unlucky in some cultures, and it is easy to understand the fact that different numbers have specific meanings and hints. In Chinese culture, ten is usually thought to be perfect. However, in a famous myth, once there were ten suns upon the sky causing the earth scorch. People suffering from blazing atmosphere were saved by Houyi, the heroic archer, who shot down nine suns of the ten. It is suggested that ten is a number too perfect to be used even by the formidable immortals as suns. Instead of ten, nine becomes the largest number people use to convey the meaning of many accordingly, showing their humbleness to the ultimate truth. For example, a paramount mathematical book is named The Nine Chapters on the Mathematical Art, and a splendid poem collection is named The Nine Songs.

     

    Based on the duality from Daoism, 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, these odd numbers are classified as Yang (strong, warm, active, bright, and creative), while the even numbers 2, 4, 6, 8 are sorted as Yin (yielding, cool, passive, dark, and implicative). It is no doubt that nine gets much attention and favor as the largest Yang number. The powerful minister who seeks to usurp to the throne, will force the king to award him with the nine bestowments before the so called voluntary abdication. Here the nine bestowments stand for the ceremony of the highest rank.

     

    An additional aspect is about the correspondence. Chinese people believe that there are some corresponding relationships between the sky and the earth, and between the sky and the human beings. In ancient times, the well-field system with chessboard pattern was carried on in the Chinese civilization. As the agricultural land divided into nine parts, usually within a village or a town, people started to enlarge this model to the province, to the nation, and even to the entire cosmos correspondingly. The nine components pattern was conducted, forming the nine provinces system of the nation, the nine nations hypothesis of the continent, and of course the nine heavens of the sky. Yu the Great’s casting bronze into nine ritual caldrons to symbolize the nine provinces, is one of the examples of correspondence. Moreover, “the sovereign of nine and five”, which means the king of the nine provinces and five elements, is the alias of the Chinese emperor. In such a way, the factors of the sky, the earth and the human beings are linked together.


    To sum up, nine is the largest number with humbleness, the noblest number, and the magic number indicating the correspondence of the sky, the earth, the human, and the ultimate truth.




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