• Sky-Gazing and Season-Granting: Astronomy in Ancient China
  • Update Time: 2014-02-26

IAU XXVIII General Assembly, 20-31 August, 2012, Beijing, China

Special Event: Public Lecture

by Prof. Sun Xiaochun (Institute for the History of Natural Sciences, CAS)

Time: 12:30 – 13: 45, 21 August and 12:30 -14:00, 29 August, 2012

Room: IAU GA, CNCC 311 A+B, Beijing, China

Sky-Gazing and Season-Granting:

Astronomy in Ancient China

The most advanced science in ancient China, and the one which seems to throw the most light on the Chinese civilization, is astronomy. The recently discovered Taosi site is perhaps the earliest astronomical observatory in China, dated 4000 years before present. The Chinese had invented many astronomical instruments, culminating with the invention in the eleventh century of the Water-powered Astronomical Observatory which assembled observation, demonstration, and time-reporting into one automatic system. Calendar-making was one of the top priorities of the Chinese rulers. The Chinese calendar provided numerical methods for predicting celestial events such as eclipses and planetary motions. By the eleventh century the accuracy in the prediction of planetary motions reached in China the same level as that in the sixteenth century Europe. Portent astrology was of utmost importance to the state because it indicated the ruler’s performance in governing.  That is why the Chinese had maintained the longest continuous records of celestial phenomena, some of which prove to be unique and invaluable data for modern astronomy. Sky-gazing and season-granting were the two major themes of ancient Chinese astronomy, which constituted an eternal Chinese agenda for bringing Heaven and Man into a harmonious unity.