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Astral Sciences in Early Imperial China
Observation, Sagehood and the Individual


  • Date Published: August 2017
  • availability: Available
  • format: Hardback
  • isbn: 9781107139022

£ 88.99

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About the Authors
  • Challenging monolithic modern narratives about 'Chinese science', Daniel Patrick Morgan examines the astral sciences in China c.221 BCE–750 CE as a study in the disunities of scientific cultures and the narratives by which ancients and moderns alike have fought to instil them with a sense of unity. The book focuses on four unifying 'legends' recounted by contemporary subjects: the first two, redolent of antiquity, are the 'observing of signs' and 'granting of seasons' by ancient sage kings; and the other two, redolent of modernity, involve the pursuit of 'accuracy' and historical 'accumulation' to this end. Juxtaposing legend with the messy realities of practice, Morgan reveals how such narratives were told, imagined, and re-imagined in response to evolving tensions. He argues that, whether or not 'empiricism' and 'progress' are real, we must consider the real effects of such narratives as believed in and acted upon in the history of astronomy in China.

    • An interdisciplinary study connecting astronomy, myth, mathematics, ritual, religion, sports, historiography and manuscript studies
    • Employs a non-binary perspective avoiding rudimentary distinctions of 'East versus West' and 'ancient versus modern'
    • One of the first Western-language histories of astronomy in China to focus on the period c.221 BCE–750 CE
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'A magisterial work that elevates the study of astral sciences in early imperial China to a wholly new level. This book is a must-read for anyone interested in the history and development of Chinese calendrics, astronomical instrumentation, and the official and intellectual milieus in which practitioners worked and reflected on their craft.' D. W. Pankenier, Lehigh University, Pennsylvania

    'There is much to praise about this book … It brings together technical and theoretical brilliance and presents a bold new vision of the history of the astral sciences in early imperial China. More important, it provides readers with a nuanced understandingof the varied and changing ways that the premodern Chinese investigated the skies.' Miranda Brown, Isis

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    Product details

    • Date Published: August 2017
    • format: Hardback
    • isbn: 9781107139022
    • length: 268 pages
    • dimensions: 235 x 157 x 16 mm
    • weight: 0.55kg
    • contains: 29 b/w illus. 19 tables
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. The world below
    2. Observing the signs
    3. Granting the seasons
    4. Reverent accordance with prodigious heaven
    5. What the ancients had yet to learn
    6. Conclusion
    Pre-1850 texts and epigraphic sources, by titles
    Secondary sources

  • Author

    Daniel Patrick Morgan, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), Paris
    Daniel Patrick Morgan is a researcher at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, (CNRS) Laboratoire SPHERE (Sciences, Philosophie, Histoire), Université Paris Diderot, having previously graduated from the University of Chicago. From 2013 to 2016, he was a member of the European Research Council project, Mathematical Sciences in the Ancient World (SAW). Trained as a sinologist, his research focusses on manuscript culture and the history of science in Ancient China.

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