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MORGAN Daniel Patrick

Researcher (chargé de recherche), Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), laboratoire SPHERE (UMR 7219), Université Paris Diderot.

Contact me : daniel.ptrk.morgan [at]

- Collective projects
- Academic career
- Publications
- Communications (since 2016)
- Organisation and service (since 2015)
- Popularisation

Research topics

I work on the history of the astral and mathematical sciences, religion, ritual, sports, and intellectual and manuscript culture in ancient China, at the heart of my work being a period – that of the decline, fragmentation, and reconsolidation of empire between the first and seventh century CE – and the very question of fragmentation and the construction of unity.

Incubated in the ERC project Mathematical Sciences in the Ancient World (SAW), my research aims to problematise monolithic discourses about the history of the exact sciences in China and to furnish a robust alternative based on plurality and the individual. In short, my goal is to decompose the ‘science’ and ‘civilisation’ that are so often the subject of such studies into their constituent elements – into actors’ categories, legends, literary genres, public institutions, communities of experts, and individual practitioners –
so as to reveal the ways in which these elements come together, pull apart, and evolve in parallel. Once broken down, for example, ‘Chinese science’ gives way to the distinct categories actually used by our historical subjects – e.g. tiānwén (‘heavenly patterns’), (‘sequencing’), suàn (‘calculation’), and hemerology (calendar divination), the latter of which was clearly distinguished from the sciences of heaven and numbers. None of these fields developed in a vacuum, of course, but it is only in recognising the nature of their circumscription that we can understand what passed from one to the other. Given the number of contemporary figures who worked across these domains, the phenomenon of polymathy gives us a natural vector by which to examine the transfer of ideas between them. The question of polymathy brings us also to that of the mental universe of the polymath, asking how the individual acted to reconcile and compartmentalise the diverse épistémès within which they worked both within and beyond the history of science.

Two examples suffice to clarify what this looks like.

The first is my collaborative work with Karine Chemla on the bamboo manuscript Suàn shù shù (Writings on Mathematical Procedures) from Zhangjiashan tomb no. 247 (sealed ≥ 186 BCE). Our graphological analysis of the manuscript has revealed two scribal hands alternating both between and within textually and codicologically integral units of the manuscript, and that one of these hands also appears in four of the seven other texts in this tomb library – texts on medicine, philosophy, law, and the personal journal of the deceased. Previously treated as an arbitrary collection of mingqi – funerary ‘fakes’ – and divvied up between modern academic specialties, this corpus unveils the red thread of its unity in the light of graphology: the unity of its having belonged to and having been created by this one particular man. Read as such, the written traces of that hand help us to identify its interactions with the other members of the community of hands present in this tomb and to reconstruct something of the identity of this man through archaeology, manuscript studies, medicine, philosophy, law, and mathematics.

The second is my research on the historiography of the astral sciences in the pre-modern period. Faced with our post-modern sensibilities on the subject of ‘empiricism’ and ‘progress’, I am interested in the question of how to treat similar concepts as the appear at the centre of medieval discussions about the history of astronomy: the obsessional pursuit of predictive ‘tightness’ () as ‘verified’ by ‘experience’ (yàn) and the ‘accumulation’ ( / lèi) of knowledge realised through a chain of historical ‘awakenings’ (). That these ideas are found on the other side of the cordone sanitaire that we have erected around the Occident and modernity is interesting, but more interesting is the question of where this comes from and what it implies for our historical subjects. As to ‘tightness’, I trace the conceptual vocabulary of accuracy and the ‘rules of the game’ involved in its ‘verification’ by public trial to the model established by the ritual archery competition – the ‘Big Shoot’ (dà shè), a competition run by the very same bureau as that charged with astronomical testing. As to the ‘awakening’ and ‘accumulation’ of human knowledge, I examine the way in which certain figures equally famous with the history of science and the history of religion write on said subject across separate magisteria. ‘Progress’, it turns out, was very much a religious preoccupation, and ‘scientific progress’, it turns out, posed a theological dilemma: that man could attain ‘what the ancient [Sages] had yet to learn’ (Monk Yīxíng, 683–727). Each arrived at their own solution, and the compromises, priorities, and conflicts that this intractable dilemma forced reveal a great deal of the complexity of the individual’s mental universe.

For a complete bibliography, including abstracts and documents for download, click here.

Collective projects

2016–present Sub-project leader, NSSFC project Zhongguo lifa tongshi yanjiu 中國曆法通史研究, directed by Qu Anjing 曲安京, Northwestern University, Xi’an. [site NSSFC]
2016–present Member, PSL project Table Analysis Method for the History of the Astral Sciences (TAMAS), directed by Matthieu Husson, CNRS-SYRTE. [site]
2013–2016 Member, ERC project Mathematical Sciences in the Ancient World (SAW), directed by Karine Chemla, Agathe Keller, and Christine Proust, CNRS-SPHERE. [site]

Academic career

2015–present Researcher (chargé de recherche), Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), laboratoire SPHERE (UMR 7219), Université Paris Diderot.
2013–2015 Research postdoc associated with the European Research Council project Mathematical Sciences in the Ancient World (SAW), attached to laboratoire SPHERE.
2006–2013 PhD, University of Chicago.
2011–2012, Mellon Research Fellow, Needham Research Institute, Cambridge.
2000–2003 BA, University of Washington, Seattle.


2017 Astral Sciences in Early Imperial China: Observation, Sagehood and the Individual, Cambridge University Press. [Cambridge Core] [halshs-01563546]

Collective volumes

2019 Monographs in Tang Official History: Perspectives from the Technical Treatises of the Book of Sui, ed. Daniel P. Morgan and Damien Chaussende, with the collaboration of Karine Chemla.

Articles in peer-reviewed journals

2019 ’No Comment: Remarks on the Source, Selection, Reliability, and Function of Non-Terrestrial Events Recorded in the Hou Hanshu "Benji" (Basic Annals)’, Monumenta Serica, 67.1: 57–83. [Taylor & Francis Online] [halshs-02156079]
2018 (w/ Karine Chemla) ‘Writing in turns: an analysis of scribal hands in the bamboo manuscript Suan shu shu 筭數書 (Writings on Mathematical Procedures) from Zhangjiashan tomb no. 247’, Bamboo and Silk 1: 152–190. [Brill Online] [halshs-01577808]
2016 ‘The Planetary Visibility Tables in the second-century BC manuscript Wu xing zhan 五星占’, East Asian Science, Technology, and Medicine 43: 17–60. [EASTM] [JSTOR] [halshs-01379180]
2016 ‘Sphere confusion: a Textual reconstruction of instruments and observational practice in first-millennium CE China’, Centaurus 58.1–2: 87–103. [Wiley Online Library] [halshs-01374805]
2016 (w/ Karine Chemla) 「也有輪着寫的:張家山漢簡『筭數書』寫手與編序初探」 (There is also writing in turns: Initial investigation of the hands and compilational order of the Han bamboo manuscript Suan shu shu from Zhangjiashan), Jianbo 簡帛 12: 235–251. [halshs-01347036]
2015 ‘What good’s a text? Textuality, orality, and mathematical astronomy in early imperial China’, Archives internationales d’histoire des sciences 65.2: 549–572. [Brepolis Online] [halshs-01362429]
2011 「從周家臺『日書』與馬王堆『五星占』談日書與秦漢天文學的互相影響」 (A Discussion of the reciprocal influence between daybooks and Qin-Han astronomy from the Zhoujiatai Daybook and the Mawangdui Wu xing zhan), Jianbo 簡帛 6: 113–137. [halshs-01333543]

Book chapters

waiting ’By Process of Elimination: Diversity and Evolution in the Language of Basic Operations in First-Millennium Li 曆 and Suan 算 Mathematics’, in Mathematical Practices in Relation to the Astral Sciences, ed. Matthieu Husson and Agathe Keller.
waiting ’Les derniers jours du défunt: l’Empire et l’individu vus des calendriers récemment excavés des tombes du début de la Chine impériale’, in Calendriers d’Europe et d’Asie, eds. Alain Arrault, Olivier Guyotjeannin and Perrine Mane. [halshs-01782687]
waiting ’Remarks on the mathematics and philosophy of space-time in early imperial China’, in Designing the expanse: the exercise of the spatial imagination in pre-modern China, ed. Garret Olberding (Leiden: Brill). [halshs-01490864]
MS submitted ’Calling out Zheng Xuan (127–200 CE) at the crossroads of ritual, maths, sport and classical commentary’, in Mathematical Commentaries in the Ancient World, ed. Karine Chemla, Mark Geller, and Glenn Most. [halshs-01343877]
2019 ‘Heavenly patterns’, in Monographs in Tang Official History, ed. Daniel P. Morgan and Damien Chaussende. (Submitted to volume organisers 21 June 2014). [halshs-01404116]
2019 (w/ Howard L. Goodman) ‘Numbers with histories: Li Chunfeng on harmonics and astronomy’, in ibid. [halshs-01341886]
2016 ‘Mercury and the case for plural planetary traditions in early imperial China’, in The Circulation of Astronomical Knowledge in the Ancient World, ed. J.M. Steele (Leiden: Brill), pp. 416–450. [halshs-01333536]

Book reviews

2019 Christopher Cullen, Heavenly Numbers: Astronomy and Authority in Early Imperial China, Oxford University Press, 2017, Historia Mathematica, 46: 96–99. [ScienceDirect] [halshs-01715313]
2017 Christopher Cullen, The Foundations of Celestial Reckoning: Three Ancient Chinese Astronomical Systems, Routledge, 2017, East Asian Science, Technology, and Medicine 46: 232–236. [EASTM] [halshs-01671223]
2014 David W. Pankenier, Astrology and Cosmology in Early China: Conforming Earth to Heaven, Cambridge, 2013 (589 pp.), Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies 77.2: 404–406. [Cambridge Core] [halshs-01345753]


2016 Li Liang 李亮, ‘Arabic Astronomical Tables in China: Tabular layout and its implications for the transmission and use of the Huihui lifa’, East Asian Science, Technology, and Medicine 44: 21–68.
2016 Ma Biao 馬彪, ‘Biao 表 in early Chinese manuscripts and the question of pangxing 旁行 and xieshang 邪上’, East Asian Science, Technology, and Medicine 43: 123–148.

Other publications

in press ‘Astronomes et mathématiciens’, in Dictionnaire des individus et groupes humains dans la Chine du haut Moyen Âge, ed. François Martin and Damien Chaussende. [halshs-01422940]
in press ‘Jiang Ji 姜岌 (fl. 384) – Astronome des Qin Antérieurs’, in ibid. [halshs-01411933]
in press ‘Li Yexing 李業興 (484-549) – Astronome, érudit, devin et homme d’État des Wei du Nord et de l’Est’, in ibid. [halshs-01413900]
in press ‘Liu Hong 劉洪 (fl. 167-206) – Astronome et historien des Han de l’Est’, in ibid. [halshs-01412040]
in press ‘Liu Hui 劉徽 (fl. 263) – Mathématicien des Cao-Wei’, in ibid. [halshs-01421120]
in press ‘Liu Xiaosun 劉孝孫 († 594/597) – Astronome des Qi du Nord et des Sui’, in ibid. [halshs-01417738]
in press ‘Liu Zhuo 劉焯 (544-610) (Shiyuan 士元) – Érudit, astronome, éducateur et mathématicien des Sui’, in ibid. [halshs-01418322]
in press ‘Xu Yue 徐岳 (fl. 226) (Gonghe 公河) – Astronome et mathématicien érémitique des Han et des Cao-Wei’, in ibid. [halshs-01419373]
in press ‘Xun Xu 荀勖 (ca. 220-289) (Gongceng 公曾) – Lettré, musicologue, paléographe et homme d’État des Cao-Wei et des Jin’, in ibid. [halshs-01420914]
in press ‘Yang Wei 楊偉 (fl. 226-237) – Astronome et secrétaire impérial des Cao-Wei’, in ibid. [halshs-01413340]
in press ‘Yu Jicai 庾季才 († 603) (Shuyi 叔弈) – Astrologue de la cour des Liang, des Wei de l’Ouest, des Zhou du Nord et des Sui’, in ibid. [halshs-01412182]
in press ‘Yu Xi 虞喜 (fl. 307–46) (Zhongning 仲寧) – Astronome et érudit érémitique des Jin de l’Est’, in ibid. [halshs-01411943]
in press ‘Yuan Chong 袁充 (544-618) (Defu 德符) – Astrologue, astronome et fonctionnaire des Chen et des Sui’, in ibid. [halshs-01417739]
in press ‘Zhang Zhouxuan 張冑玄 († 605/617) – Astronome des Sui’, in ibid. [halshs-01417740]
in press ‘Zhao Shuang 趙爽 (fl. 314) (Junqing 君卿) – Mathématicien érémitique des Jin’, in ibid. [halshs-01419515]
in press ‘Zhen Luan 甄鸞 (fl. 535-570) (Shuzun 叔遵) – Mathématicien, polémiste bouddhiste, astronome et haut fonctionnaire des Liang, des Qi du Nord et des Zhou du Nord’, in ibid. [halshs-01422833]
in press ‘Zu Chongzhi 祖沖之 (429-500) (Wenyuan 文遠) – Astronome, mathématicien, inventeur et érudit des Liu-Song et des Qi du Sud’, in ibid. [halshs-01412936]
in press ‘Zu Geng(zhi) 祖暅(之) (fl. 504-525) (Jingshuo 景爍) – Astronome, astrologue, ingénieur civil et gentilhomme de la cour des Liang’, in ibid. [halshs-01412938]
2009 「『禘』與『祫』的來歷與周禮的復原工程」(The Origins of the di and xia sacrifices and the reconstruction of Zhou rites (
2009 「『天子建州』中所見反印文、未釋字及幾點臆斷」(The Reverse Impressions and unrecognized Graphs seen in The Son of Heaven Builds in the Realm and several points of supposition thereupon), Bamboo and Silk Manuscripts (

Communications (since 2016)

2019.06.27 ’On the Eighth-century Manuscript Omens of the Dark Signs for the Five Prefectures of the Western Qin and Regional Traditions in the Chinese Astral Sciences’, international workshop Natural Sciences and Technologies in Manuscripts and Artefacts, National Keklidze Center for Manuscripts, Tbilissi. [halshs-02169060]
2019.06.10 ’Don’t Listen to the Sceptics: Li Chunfeng (602–670) on Why Solar Eclipses are Still Omens’, international conference Eclipses in China and Mesopotamia: A Comparative Workshop, University of Science and Technology of China, Hefei. [halshs-02116057]
2019.04.10 ’Mapping Regional Traditions in Chinese Astronomy and Mathematics, 311–618 CE’, On cultures of scientific practice in ancient mathematical sciences, Université Paris Diderot. [halshs-02021447]
2018.12.06 ’A Radical Proposition on the Origins of the Received Mathematical Classic The Gnomon of Zhou (Zhoubi 周髀)’, The Second International Conference on History of Mathematics and Astronomy, Northwestern University, Xi’an. [halshs-01900269]
2018.06.27 ’Report on Personal Palaeography Initiatives, Qin-Han China (221 BCE–220 CE)’, international workshop On Discerning Scribal Hands, Universitãt Heidelberg. [halshs-01796321]
2018.05.14 「日曆在秦漢墓葬文獻集體字跡分析中的潛能」(The potential of calendars in Qin-Han funerary corpus handwriting analysis), invited talk at the Center for Bamboo and Silk Manuscripts 簡帛研究中心, Wuhan University. [halshs-01780068]
2018.05.11 ’La modernité : une problématique ancienne ? Perspective d’un bonze du Haut Moyen Âge chinois sur la perfection de l’âme, le salut de l’homme et le progrès scientifique en astronomie’ 「今」是古有的问题:从中国中古时期看灵魂的觉悟、人类的救济和天文学的进展史, inter-university delegation conference Récits et figures du ciel, Wuhan University. [halshs-01719045]
2018.04.17 ’On Iconographic and Diagrammatic Irregularities in the Representation of Constellations in Han (206 BCE–220 CE) Tomb Art’, international workshop Visualization of the Heavens and Their Material Cultures, Max-Planck-Institut für Wissenschaftsgeschichte, Berlin. [halshs-01714768]
2017.10.26 ‘Remarks on the Foreign/Expatriate Leadership of the Tang Astronomical Bureau’, International Conference on Traditional Sciences in Asia 2017: East-West Encounter in the Science of Heaven and Earth, Kyoto University. [halshs-01497804]
2017.10.05 ‘Les derniers jours du défunt : l’Empire et l’individu vus des calendriers récemment excavés des tombes de l’aube de la Chine impériale’, international conference Calendriers d’Europe et d’Asie, École nationale des chartes, Paris. [halshs-01497257]
2017.09.13 ‘Remarks on the source, selection, reliability, and function of the non-terrestrial events recorded in the Hou Han shu 後漢書 "Benji" 本紀 Imperial Annals’, international workshop Hou Han shu 後漢書, CRCAO – Collège de France, Paris. [halshs-01497223]
2017.08.03 ’Calling out Zheng Xuan (127–200 CE) at the crossroads of ritual, maths, sport and classical commentary (version 2)’, Commentaries on Mathematical Texts in a Comparative Perspective, Max-Planck-Institut für Wissenschaftsgeschichte, Berlin. [halshs-01561354]
2017.07.26 (w/ Karine Chemla) ‘Should headings of sections in Writings on mathematics 筭數書 (before ca. 186 BCE) be interpreted as a curriculum?’, 25th International Congress of History of Science and Technology, Rio de Janeiro. [halshs-01406453]
2017.05.27 ‘Remarks on the mathematics and philosophy of space-time in early imperial China’, international conference Designing Space: the Exercise of the Spatial Imagination in Pre-Modern China, University of Pittsburgh. [halshs-01490864]
2016.11.16 ‘On the potential of corpus-based handwriting analysis: a refined analysis of the Zhangjiashan tomb library’, workshop Scribal Hands and Scribal Practices in Manuscripts from Warring States and Early Imperial China, Universität Heidelberg. [halshs-01368873]
2016.10.28 Shu shu 數術: When an actor’s category became an observer’s category, why, and what we can do about it’, international conference Writing Histories of Ancient Mathematics: Reflecting on Past Practices and Opening the Future, Université Paris Diderot. [halshs-01360195]
2016.10.06 ‘Sur lattes de bambou et planchettes de bois: les premiers calendriers annuels en Chine (IIIe siècle avant notre ère – IIe siècle après notre ère), leurs usages et fonctions’, atelier Calendriers d’Europe et d’Asie: supports, usages et fonctions, École française d’Extrême-Orient, Paris. [halshs-01368860]
2016.09.22 ‘Doors open and shut: the bureaucratic insulation of the astral sciences in imperial China and the first waves of foreign influence’, 7th International Conference of the European Society for the History of Science, Prague. [halshs-01360103]
2016.08.26 ‘Calling out Zheng Xuan (127–200 CE) at the crossroads of ritual, maths, sport and classical commentary’, Workshop ‘Commentaries’, Max-Planck-Institut für Wissenschaftsgeschichte, Berlin. [halshs-01577827>]
2016.06.07 (w/ Alan Levinovitz) ‘Virtue on trial: Ritual archery competitions and astronomical testing in early China’, international conference Astral Sciences, Mathematics and Rituals, Université Paris Diderot. [halshs-01333703]
2016.05.12 (w/ Lisa Indraccolo) ‘What is normal and what is right: Grand Matron Cao and the women of the astral sciences in China, 1st – 4th cent. CE’, seminar Femmes et savoirs: espaces, frontières, marges, EHSS & Centre Alexandre-Koyré. [halshs-01333883]
2016.03.03 ‘First-millennium Chinese mathematical literature as a case study in polysemy and semantic drift’, guest lecture, Universität Zürich. [halshs-01341840]
2016.02.05 ‘Remarques sur “la vérification” de “l’étroitesse”: sports de tirs et concours de précision dans l’astronomie mathématique en Chine ancienne’, assemblé général SPHERE, Université Paris Diderot. [halshs-01341842]
2016.01.22 ‘A Sphere unto itself: the Death and medieval framing of the history of Chinese cosmography’, seminar Exploring 19th and 20th centuries historiographies of mathematics in the ancient world, Université Paris Diderot. [halshs-01341843]

Organisation and service (since 2015)


2018.04.12 Lifa 101: Reading Chinese Astronomical Procedure Texts, a two-day crash course in reading early Chinese texts in astronomy and mathematics organised with Michelle Malina McCoy and Dror Weil at the Max-Planck-Institut für Wissenschaftsgeschichte, Berlin. [halshs-01740322]
2016.06.07 Two-day international conference, Astral Sciences, Mathematics and Rituals, organised within the framework of the project SAW with Agathe Keller, Hirose Shō, Karine Chemla and Matthieu Husson, Université Paris Diderot. (link)
2015.11.25 One-day international workshop, Workshop on Zhangjiashan tomb 247, organised within the framework of the project SAW with Karine Chemla (CNRS-SPHERE), Alain Thote (EPHE-CRCAO) and Olivier Venture (EPHE-CRCAO), Université Paris Diderot. (link)
2015.03.19 Two-day international workshop Astral Sciences, Mathematics and Rituals, organised within the framework of the project SAW, with A. Keller and Hirose Shō, Université Paris Diderot. (link)

Editorial work

2017–present Member of the editorial committee of the series ’Why the Sciences of the Ancient World Matter’, Springer.
2016–present Éditeur anglophone, Études Chinoises.


2018.05.16 (w/ Pierre Chaigneau) ’L’astronomie antique : pour l’amour du ciel ?!’, public talk at the Pint of Science, Paris. [halshs-01780153]
2018.05.15 Radio interview by Céline Loozen, ’La Méthode Scientifique’, France Culture. [France Culture]
2015–present Member of the Comité scientifique et culturel Cosmovisions, a collaborative exhibition between Universcience (Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie and Palais de le Découverte) and Museo de las Ciencias de la Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México.