Our family has embarked on virtual travels to various countries and regions. To explore these countries and their cultures, we have followed along with the festivals, cooked and eaten traditional foods, learned of traditional handicrafts with hands on exploration, along with many activities to immerse ourselves. Chronicled here are some of these activities.

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Thursday, May 30, 2013

Chinese Myth: The Legend of the Ten Suns (Book review & Sun related activities)

Xi He & Her Ten Suns
According to Chinese mythology, there were once ten suns, one for every day of the Chinese week. Each day, their mother would send one of her sons from the Valley of the Light in the East off to march for the day to Mount Yen-Tzu in the West. In this way, each sun walked across the earth for one day a week. The suns became bored of spending the day alone, and rebelled by choosing to walk across the earth together. The earth could not bear the intensity of the heat, and it, and its people, began to die. The emperor pleaded to Di Jun, the suns' father, to call back his sons. Di Jun tried but was ignored by his sons, and therefore called upon Hou Yi, the best archer to discipline his sons. Finding it impossible to reason with them, and not being able to bear to see the earth die, Hou Yi shot nine of the suns, leaving one to light the earth.

The legend of the Ten Suns is one of the oldest Chinese Myths, dating from the Shang dynasty (1523 BC - 1027 BC). There are several versions that differ only slightly, and it's the beginning of Hou Yi's many adventures in Chinese mythology (he features prominently in the moon festival, coming up in the fall).

Ten Suns: A Chinese Legend retold by Eric A. Kimmel

The legend is retold in this book with colorful illustrations and easy to follow story telling. All three of us enjoy reading myths and legends in story book format, and this book does not disappoint. It's also a great introduction to Hou Yi's character, a hero who will come up again in Chinese mythology (a little reminiscent of Hercules in Greek mythology). It's a great book to read at the end of the day, as the sun goes down. 

7 Ways to Explore the Sun

With summer fast approaching (where did the time go?), why not follow up from reading this book by exploring the sun. Two years ago, we spent a summer day filled with sun related activities. I didn't take pictures of them all (as it turns out), but below are some descriptions, and links, if you'd like to try them out.

The ten suns began their long daily walk in the east, and you can rise with them and paint the dawn. 

Painting the sunrise. This was our year ''in France'', and in impressionist style, we painted au plein air. We packed our art supplies, tables and chairs in the trunk the night before, and in the morning, I had hot chocolate prepared for them. We hopped into the car, and drove a few minutes looking for a spot where we could truly see the sun rise. The girls painted for nearly 30 minutes, and were constantly surprised at how quickly the sun rises, and the skyline changes. Along with a canvas, paint, and paintbrushes, don't forget a bottle of water, a small dish, and a rag to rinse the paintbrushes between colors.

You can also follow the suns' westward march

Trace your shadow. Mark a spot on pavement or any surface you can use chalk on by tracing your feet. On an hourly basis, stand on the same spot, and have someone trace your shadow (in a different color if you have the chalk). Watch as your shadow shifts, shortens and grows. Notice your shadow at noon, and compare it to the early morning. The shorter your shadow is, the more intense the sun is.

Make a sundial. We made a very simple stick sundial. We cut twelve sticks (for the hours of 8am to 6pm), a longer one to be used as the gnomon (the upright stick that casts a shadow) and eleven shorter sticks to mark the hours. Each stick was painted with a band of yellow paint - to make it cheery, and to see the time marked on it better. We stuck the longer stick in the ground, in a sunny spot, and beginning at 8am, following the shadow cast by our gnomon, we planted one of the shorter sticks after writing the time on it with a permanent marker. We set the kitchen timer to go off every hour, and when it went off, we headed for our sundial and added another stick. Once the time was set with a stick, we headed to our shadow spot and traced Elle's shadow (above). Learn Play Imagine has a tutorial for a simple sundial here and you can also find a free printable and directions to make a sundial at BBC.

And see what you can do when you harness the heat and rays of the sun.

Brew sun tea. Gather some herbs and edible plants, a good handful, crush them a bit with your hands, and place in a jar. Mints, thyme, lemon balm, are all nice herbs to use. You can also use a couple bags of your favorite tea. Fill jar with water, and cover with cheesecloth (to keep the bugs away). Set out in a spot that gets sun for 3 to 5 hours, and let it brew. Strain and enjoy, with ice and maybe a little bit of sugar.

Make sun prints. This activity takes longer than a day for the full effect, but you might notice a small difference by the end of the first day. Take some colorful construction paper, and create a pattern or design over it with odds and ends - bottle caps, foam shapes, rocks, leaves, etc. Leave in the sun. As the paper sits in the sun, it begins to get sun bleached, however when you remove your objects, you should see the image of the shape as that part of the paper retained its color. You can see a picture of how this looks at Cafe Mom.

Make a solar oven and cook your lunch. We warmed up english muffin pizzas (the cheese melted well) in our ovens and finished off with smores for dessert. 

Find instructions to make a shoe box solar oven with this Instructable.

Make cyanotype prints. To do this project, you'll have to buy special cyanotype paper, which are sold at most photography stores and some craft stores. The results look spectacular, and it's very simple. You place shapes on the paper, and expose the paper to sunlight. You can find a tutorial and the science behind it at the ArtClub.

Related products (affiliate links):

I've linked up this post to these great blog hops of reviews and activities for Children's books at Children's Bookshelf, the Kid Lit Blog Hop, and Read.Explore. Learn

You can find more multicultural activities at the Culture Swap
Books are a wonderful way to experience new worlds and ideas. Our house is filled with books, most of which are borrowed from our public library. Public libraries are an incredible resource, making books accessible to everyone, and we highly encourage everyone to discover theirs. If you are hoping to build your own home library, I've made it easy by linking book titles to Amazon.com. Please note that I have become affiliated with them, which means that if you make a purchase, you are also supporting this website.


  1. This book is new to me. Thanks for the suggestion.

    1. Hope you get a chance to read and enjoy :)

  2. Thanks for posting this. This book is new to me as well, but I love the look and sound of it. My daughters love affair with Chinese myths started when she was 10, now she is 25 and speaks fluent Mandarin, lives part time in China. All because of the myths she read as a child.

    1. Thank you for sharing that with me - I hope the fables and myths we read will inspire my daughters in their future endeavors.

  3. I had never heard of the legend of the ten suns. Thanks so much for sharing the story as well as the fun activities in the Kid Lit Blog Hop. It's nice to see what you are up to! :)

  4. The book you featured looks wonderful. I absolutely love all the ways you explore the sun. Thank you for linking this post up to Read.Explore.Learn. I will be sharing this post.

    1. There's something about the sun... have found more things to do this summer to explore it and looking forward to it.
      Thanks for hosting the link up - I love activities related to books, and its fun to see what others are doing, and being inspired by them.

  5. Thank you for introducing me to this tale! I also LOVE all of your sun activities! My son is just beginning to understand the concept of the sun's movement across the sky during the day, so I can't wait to try some of these activities with him! Thank you for linking up at the Culture Swapper.

    1. Thanks Leanna - hope you and monkey have fun exploring the sun :)

  6. You've been featured on this month's Culture Swapper! http://alldonemonkey.com/2013/07/01/july-culture-swapper/


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