To the ancient Egyptians, the sun, which rose from the eastern sky and set in the west, was born every morning and died in the evening to enter a dark underworld of the dead, then reborn in the eastern sky the following morning. In China, it was believed that ten suns, each placed on the back of a bird, rose daily to create a cycle of ten days. The origin of this belief is unknown, though the early Chinese understood that the sun’s power increased and decreased throughout the year and how these fluctuations transformed nature. They also knew that water was indispensable for all life. For the Egyptians, predicting and preparing for abundant water supplies and fertile soil from the Nile’s deluge were crucial. And from early on, they established irrigation facilities to control water in the various Mesopotamian cities and had flood control during times of harvest. The legendary Chinese sage, king Yu is famous for his controlling the floods of the Yellow River and thus inherited the throne from King Shun. Both the sun and water are crucial for all life, though too much can cause menacing droughts and floods, hence, ancient peoples have used their knowledge and prayed to the gods to predict and control natural phenomenon.
In autumn, the grains and fruits, which received the blessings of the sun and water, bear their harvest to sustain life. These harvests are gathered and eaten. And the earth reaped of its crops and the bare mountains bare with leaf-fallen trees appear as if dead, but in spring, the seeds asleep in the ground bring back to life and the trees grow green again.
With this cyclical worldview, people in ancient times were moved by the sacred existence that embodied the forces that created all life. And throughout the world, they created resurrection tales of a goddess who symbolized the earth’s reproductive powers and her husband or child who was destined to die. In Japan, images of a mother goddess were not created after the Yayoi period (c. 200 B.C.−250 A.D.), however, various forms represented abundant harvests and fertility. Later, Buddhism incorporated early remnants of an earth goddess into its pantheon (such as in compassionate images of Jizô or fierce ones of King Enma), and pre-Buddhist beliefs towards nature came to be deeply enrooted in age-old Japanese customs of viewing flowers in spring and hiking in the mountains to enjoy crimson leaves in autumn.