Episode 93: How Far Is The Sun?

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Today we will tell a story about the perspective of a kid towards the question how far is the sun.

The story is from the book A New Account of the Talks of the World 世说新语, complied and edited during the year 420 ~ 479 of the Northern and Southern dynasties 南北朝.

In the book, it says the Emperor Ming of Jin 晋明帝, the second emperor from the Jin dynasty 晋朝, from the year 299 to the year 325 was really smart since he was a kid and due to this his dad Emperor Yuan of Jin 晋元帝 extremely liked him.

When he was around 6 or 7 years old, he was sitting oh his dad’s lap in the palace. Someone came from the city ChangAn 长安and after hearing what was going on now, Emperor of Yuan started to cry. His little son asked his dad the reason he cried. The emperor replied that due to the war, the capitol was occupied by XiongNu 匈奴,the nomadic groups of Inner Asia. That’s the reason the family fled to the east. The homeland was taken over by the invaders that they couldn’t go back.

Then the Emperor his son , “do you think the city ChangAn is further or the sun is further?” The son said, “the sun is further. People visit ChangAn and come back. But I’ve never heard about people came back from the sun.” the emperor was surprised to the answer from a 6 year old kid.


The next day, the emperor had a meeting with all the ministers and generals and told them about the conversation he had with his son the day before. The emperor asked his son again, “do you think the city ChangAn is further or the sun is further?” The son answered, “the sun is closer.” The emperor was embarrassed in front of everyone there and asked him, “how did you say something different from yesterday?” The son answered, “we can see the sun when we look up but we can hardly see the ChangAn. ”


The purpose of this story was to record how smart Emperor of Ming was as a preschool age kid. But the answers made sense during that time of the history. The kid understood the situations.The first answer that the sun is further, the son wanted to comfort the father. The second answer in front of all the ministers and generals because they were still enjoying the luxurious life and warned them they were forced to leave the homeland. The homeland is further than the sun cause it is hard to go back during the war.


世说新语 A New Account of the Talks of the World

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