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From Simple English Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Chinese Bronze script character for tiān.
Chinese name
Literal meaningheaven(s)
Vietnamese name
Vietnamese alphabetthiên
Chữ Hán
Korean name
Japanese name

Tian (Heaven, 天) is a very old idea in Chinese culture. It was important in Chinese stories, ideas and religion a long time ago. During the Shang dynasty (17th to 11th centuries BCE), the Chinese people worshiped a god called Shàngdì, which means "Lord on High". During the Zhou dynasty, the same god was called Tiān. For many centuries, worshiping Heaven was a big part of the official religion in China.

Taoism and Confucianism talk about Tiān (天), which is the part of the universe that is up in the sky, and is often called "Heaven." They also talk about Dì (地), which is the part of the universe that is on the ground and is often called "Earth." These two things are connected and work together.[1]Taoism and Confucianism talk about Tiān and Dì. Tiān is in the sky and is called Heaven. Dì is on the ground and is called Earth. These two parts of the world make up the Three Realms. The middle part is where people live. The lower part is where demons and ghosts are found.[2]

Character[change | change source]

The word "Tiān" means heaven in Chinese. The modern character for "Tiān" is made up of two parts, "dà" which means "big" or "great", and "yī" which means "one". In the past, the character for "Tiān" was made to look like a person with a big head. Some old characters even show the person with their arms stretched out, looking big and important. The ancient characters for "Tiān" also had a round or square head, or a head marked with one or two lines. This might suggest that the original meaning was "a powerful deity", not just the sky.[3]

Usage in words[change | change source]

Tiān (天) is part of many Chinese words. Here are some important ones:

  • Tiānmìng (天命) meaning "Mandate from Heaven", "God's will", "fate", "destiny", and "lifespan".
  • Tiānwèn (天问) which is the "Heavenly Questions" part of the book called Chǔ Cí.
  • Tiānzĭ (天子) meaning "Son of Heaven", a special title for the "Emperor" or "Chinese ruler". (There are 28 words with Tiānzĭ in the book Shī Jīng.)
  • Tiānxià (天下) meaning "all under heaven", "the world", "the earth", and "China".
  • Tiāndì (天地) meaning "heaven and earth", "the world", and "the universe".
  • Xíngtiān (刑天) a mythological hero who fought against Heaven, even though he was beheaded.
  • Tiānfáng (天房) which is the Chinese name for Mecca, the holy city for Islam. (Tiān is used to mean Allah.)

Related pages[change | change source]

Sources[change | change source]

  1. Woodhead, Linda; Partridge, Christopher; Kawanami, Hiroko (2016). Religions in the Modern World (Third ed.). New York, NY: Routledge. pp. 147–148. ISBN 978-0-415-85881-6.
  2. Woolf, Greg (2007). Ancient civilizations: the illustrated guide to belief, mythology, and art. Barnes & Noble. p. 212. ISBN 978-1-4351-0121-0.
  3. Schuessler (2007), p. 495