Heavenly Numbers: Astronomy and Authority in Early Imperial China

ISBN : 9780198733119

Christopher Cullen
432 ページ
156 x 234 mm

This book is a history of the development of mathematical astronomy in China, from the late third century BCE, to the early 3rd century CE - a period often referred to as 'early imperial China'. It narrates the changes in ways of understanding the movements of the heavens and the heavenly bodies that took place during those four and a half centuries, and tells the stories of the institutions and individuals involved in those changes. It gives clear explanations of technical practice in observation, instrumentation, and calculation, and the steady accumulation of data over many years - but it centres on the activity of the individual human beings who observed the heavens, recorded what they saw, and made calculations to analyse and eventually make predictions about the motions of the celestial bodies. It is these individuals, their observations, their calculations, and the words they left to us that provide the narrative thread that runs through this work. Throughout the book, the author gives clear translations of original material that allow the reader direct access to what the people in this book said about themselves and what they tried to do.


1 The astronomical empire
2 Li in everyday life: dates and calendars
3 The Emperor's Grand Inception, and the defeat of the Grand Clerk
4 The Triple Concordance system & Liu Xin's 'Grand Unified Theory'
5 The measures and forms of heaven
6 Restoration and re-creation in the Eastern Han
7 The age of debates
8 Liu Hong and the conquest of the moon
9 Epilogue


Christopher Cullen read Engineering Science at Oxford, and later did a PhD in Classical Chinese at SOAS, University of London. He taught in the Department of History at SOAS, and became Deputy Director, then Director, of the Needham Research Institute, Cambridge. He has served as editor of the Science and Civilisation in China series founded by Joseph Needham, and edits the Needham Research Institute monograph series.