• Studies in the History of Natural Sciences NO.2 2003

Studies in the History of Natural Sciences  NO.2 2003




Studying the Taoist Canon : Reminiscence and Reflection……HO Peng Yoke

【Abstract】 The Taoist Canon contains a vast amount of material pertaining to the history of science and technology. Since the year 1958 when the writer began his collaboration with Dr. Joseph Needham on the Science and Civilisation in China project, he has engaged himself deeply in the study of the Taoist Canon, touching on alchemy theory, alchemical apparatus, aqueous solutions, elixir poisoning, etc. Having gained from his long years of study, he narrates his experience and reflects on the subject in this paper. In December 2001 he began writing a new book in English entitled Explorations in Daoism that would encompass the daring of alchemical texts, collations and restoration of alchemical texts from fragments among other topics.




Further Research on the Ancient Dobby Machine in China……ZHAO Hansheng

【Abstract】 In ancient China, treadles and heald frames could be added to a dobby machine. However, people doing research on textile history have different views about the loom with 120 treadles as stated in Xi Jing Za Ji ( Miscellaneous Records of the Western Capital). Judged from its shedding mechanism and warp's tensile deformation, the loom can still shed normally when using 120 treadles and heald frames. And according to Xi Jing Za Ji, the origin of the loom can be proved but not assumed so that the loom with 120 treadles must have appeared in history. Such a loom needs two workers operating together and the efficiency is quite low. As a transitional machine in a special period, it nevertheless had an active effect on the development of jacquard looms.




Study on the Huihui Lifa Collected by Nanjing Library……TAO Peipei

【Abstract】 The Huihui Lifa hand-copied in the Qing dynasty was recently found among the collection of Nanjing Library. In this version of Huihui Lifa, there are ten tables which were left out in other versions of Mingshi system, as well as the complete jiaci fa text and two attached examples. jiaci fa is the peculiar conversion of date in Huihui Lifa of Mingshi system. In Mingshi, the text of jiaci fa is not complete and has an error. That makes scholars feel puzzled. This article studies the correctness of jiaci fa in the Huihui Lifa collected by Nanjing Library. It points out that the jiaci fa in the version can get correct result. The article also makes a deduction on the probable compiler of the Huihui Lifa kept in the Nanjing Library.




Xing Yunlu ' s Determination of the Length of Tropical Year Revisited……SHI Yunli, WANG Miao

【Abstract】 According to ancient sources, the late Ming Dynasty astronomer Xing Yunlu (fl.1596-1625) once set up a gnomon of sixty chi (around 14.715 meters) high, measured its shadows and hence arrived at a length value of tropical year that turns out to be the most exact ever obtained by astronomers up to his time. As it is generally thought , the main cause for his achievement of this value lies in the fact that he applied the highest gnomon ever used by ancient astronomers, which greatly diminished the systematic errors involved in shadow measurements. In contrast to this imagination, however, we are going to show in the present paper that the results of shadow measurements reported by Xing Yunlu are surprisingly inaccurate, and there were totally different reasons for him to acquire his length value of tropical year. In fact, he had somehow arrived at a value with a similar exactitude more than ten years before his practical measurement with the sixty chi gnomon. Based on that value he revealed the inexactness of the out of date official system of calendrical astronomy and campaigned for its reform. After his opinion and campaign were severely criticized and suppressed by the official Bureau of Astronomy, he deliberately arranged the high gnomon measurement to enhance the weight of his argument, since this measurement was trusted by ancient astronomers as the most sound and necessary base for the determination of the solar motion. However, for astronomical reason, the method he used to derive the length value of tropical year from shadow measurements only has a limited reliability in his time. Therefore, he had to adjust the measured results so that he could get from them the desired value of tropical year. It remains that the problems about how he originally achieved such an exact value and why he was so confident of its reliability are till open.




The Circulation of Western Mathematics at the Court during the Kangxi Period ——A Case Study of the Compilation of the Suanfa Zuanyao Zonggang by Antoine Thomas……HAN Qi; Catherine JAMI

【Abstract】 The compilation of Shuli Jingyun (Essential Principles of Mathematics, 1722) can be traced back to 1689 when two French Jesuits, Jean-Francois Gerbillon (1654-1707) and Joachim Bouvet (1656-1730), and a Belgian one, Antoine Thomas (1644-1709) took up the task of tutoring the Kangxi Emperor in mathematics. Much research has already been done on the role of Gerbillon and Bouvet. This article focuses on the contribution of Antoine Thomas. It provides evidence that the Chinese treatise Suanfa Zuanyao Zonggang (Outline of the Essentials of Calculation) was to a large extent based on Thomas' Latin treatise, the Synopsis Mathematica (1685) . The source for significant portions of Shuli Jingyun is thus identified. Moreover, a first exploration of the various extant manuscripts of Suanfa Zzuanyao Zonggang throws further light on the circulation of Western mathematics in China during the Kangxi reign.




An Exploration on the Feature of Tongue Picture and Medical Standpoint in the Traditional Medicine of China and Japan……LIANG Rong

【Abstract】 Tongue diagnosis is a clinical technique based on the observation of changes of tongue color. During the propagation of books on tongue diagnosis, the color of tongue pictures was replaced gradually by written description in China while the tongue pictures were colored gorgeously in Japan. It shows the difference of medical standpoint between Chinese and Japanese medicine according to the analysis on the different attitude to tongue picture. Chinese medical staffs believe that it would be an obstacle to exploring medical knowledge if in bondage of a specific picture, but Japanese medical staffs claim that it was an experimental method of "seen by eye, touched by hand" to study and i-dentify diseases.




New Collations of the Two Paragraphs "Yi Yuan Cai Fang" and "Yi Fang Cai Yuan" in the Unearthed Mathematics Book Suanshu Shu……DUAN Yaoyong;ZOU Dahai

【Abstract】 The two paragraphs " Yi Yuan Cai Fang" and " Yi Fang Cai Yuan" are difficulties in the unearthed mathematics book Suanshu Shu. This paper analyzes the successes and failures of the collations given by several scholars. Based on the advantages of other scholars, the authors provide their new collations according to the proposition that one bamboo strip was lost and the ancients misconstrued that the two problems were converse.




Analysis on the Background to the Establishment of the National Science Foundation of USA……ZHU Jianhong

【Abstract】 The historical background to the establishment of the National Science Foundation (NSF) of USA is briefly analyzed. The explorations on governmental support and management on pure sciences, especially the debate between Vannevar Bush and Harley Kilgore and its effect on the setting up of NSF, are discussed. The establishment of NSF is an inevitable result of the development of modern science and the interaction between the scientific communities and the federal government .




A Review on J. Holton's Science and Anti-Science……YUAN Jiangyang

【Abstract】 In reviewing J. Holton' s Science and Anti-Science and its Chinese edition translated by Prof. Fan Dai-nian, the author remarks on some of the articles in this book and Holton' s "thematic approach ". Apart from the endeavor of philosophers of science who seek for a standard criterion to divide science and non-science, J. Holton suggests a historical approach to discern between good and bad science, between harmful and non-harmful antiscience or non-science. He points out that ideas of anti-science or non-science could be bad and harmful if and only they are combined with social power and become movements on a large scale.