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Accueil > Publications > Ouvrages parus > Ouvrages des membres de SPHERE : 2015–... > Astral Sciences in Early Imperial China : Observation, Sagehood and the Individual

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

Daniel Patrick Morgan (CNRS, SPHERE)

As an answer to monolithic modern narratives about ‘Chinese thought’ and ‘Chinese science’, this book examines the astral sciences (tianwen and li) of the early imperial period (circa 221 BCE – 800 CE) as a study in the fundamental disunities of Chinese 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 such unifying narratives, or ‘legends’, as recounted by early imperial subjects : the first two, smacking of antiquity, are the ‘observing of signs’ and ‘granting of seasons’ by sage kings of the ancient past ; the other two, smacking of modernity, involve the pursuit of ‘tightness’ (accuracy) and historical ‘accumulation’ (progress) to this end. Juxtaposing the neat idealism of legend with the messy realities of practice that it obscures, the author aims to reveal how such narratives were told, imagined, reimagined, and negotiated over time and in response to evolving tensions. Whether or not ‘empiricism’ and ‘progress’ are real, the author argues that we must consider the real effects of these and similar legends as believed in and acted upon in the history of astronomy in China.

’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

: : Cambridge University Press 
: : July 2017 
: : 257 pages 
: : isbn 9781316488270


Introduction, pp 1-8

1 - The World Below, pp 9-49

2 - Observing the Signs, pp 50-94

3 - Granting the Seasons, pp 95-139

4 - Reverent Accordance with Prodigious Heaven, pp 140-176

5 - What the Ancients Had Yet to Learn, pp 177-212

6 – Conclusion, pp 213-224

Appendix Co-ordinates, pp 225-228

Abbreviations, pp 229-229

Bibliography, pp 230-251

Index, pp 252-257