Heavenly numbers : astronomy and authority in early imperial China /

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Bibliographic Details
Author / Creator:Cullen, Christopher, author.
Edition:First Edition.
Imprint:Oxford, United Kingdom ; New York, NY, United States of America : Oxford University Press, 2017.
Description:xiv, 426 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm
Subject:Astronomy -- China -- History.
China -- History -- 221 B.C.-960 A.D.
Format: Print Book
URL for this record:http://pi.lib.uchicago.edu/1001/cat/bib/11672713
Hidden Bibliographic Details
Notes:Includes bibliographical references (pages 399-413) and index.
Summary:"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 centers on the activity of the individual human beings who observed the heavens, recorded what they saw, and made calculations to analyze and eventually make predictions about the motions of the celestial bodies"--
Review by Choice Review

This work explores the role of astronomy in early imperial China from 221 BCE to the fall of the Han dynasty in 220 CE. Rulers of this period believed that signs in the heavens conveyed important information about the way government should be conducted; consequently, they typically employed large staffs of astronomers. Unlike in the West, extensive written records were kept. As Cullen (Needham Research Institute, Cambridge Univ.) points out in the introduction, "From the world of Ptolemy we have a number of books that were successful enough to survive, but from early imperial China we have an archive." Cullen paints a fascinating story of the progress of astronomical thought, exploring the connection between astronomy and politics, quoting extensively from the astronomers themselves, and sometimes comparing their ideas to those of Western astronomers. The writing style is both engaging and scholarly, with many original calculations and a 14-page bibliography. It is illustrated with excellent figures and often includes the original Chinese. This is an essential book for libraries with collections on Chinese astronomy and the history of astronomy in general. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All academic levels. --Timothy Barker, emeritus, Wheaton College (MA)

Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.
Review by Choice Review