• Studies in the History of Natural Sciences NO.4 2009

Studies in the History of Natural Sciences  NO.4 2009 

The cosmology from Tai Yi Sheng Shui(Tai Yi Generates Water)and the Milesians

WANG Jichao

(Hubei Provincial Museum, Wuhan 430077, China)

Abstract Tai Yi Sheng Shui (Tai Yi Generates Water), which gives a description of Taoist cosmology, has been thought to be lost long ago. Thus, it has raised a lot of discussion since it was found from the bamboo slips unearthed in a Chu tomb in Guodian, Jingmen city, Hubei Province in 1993, for its important role in Chinese ideological history. 

This thesis compares ancient Chinese cosmology with its Western counterpart, the Milesians in Greece, and finds that there are many differences between the two cosmic theories, mainly lying in the order of emergence and ultimate purpose of the universe. The ultimate purpose of the cosmology of “Tai Yi Sheng Shui” is politics, while that of the Milesians, the pure stroma of the cosmos origins. As a result, these differences between Eastern and Western universe theories may influence the direction of natural philosophy and science in their developing history.

Key words Tai Yi Sheng Shui, cosmology, the Milesians

Election of Members of the Second Research Council of Academia Sinica in 1940

GUO Jinhai

(Institute for the History of Natural Science, CAS, Beijing 100010, China)

Abstract The election of members of the Second Research Council of Academia Sinica, which was directed by the academy's First Research Council, was a re-election activity of the council in the rear area during the Anti-Japanese War period. Mainly based on the investigation of archives, this paper expounds the whole story of the election and analyses its impact. The First Research Council enacted a quite thorough and democratic electoral procedure on the basis of the Regulations of the Research Council of Academia Sinica before the election. And the sufficient preparatory work for the election was carried out by the Preparation Committee of the Election of Members of the Second Research Council. After the primary election attended by professors in national universities and colleges and election committees, the First Research Council examined the candidates' qualifications and held the final elction. Both the examination and the final election were strictly carried out according to the electoral procedure and qualifications of members of the Research Council. Finally, the author points out that the election was more progressive than the election of members of the academy's First Research Council. And it not only made an active impact on the success of the first election of members of Academia Sinica, but also served as a link between past and future in the historical process that Academia Sinica accomplished its academic system.

Key words Academia Sinica, Research Council, election of members of Research Council, scientific institutionalization

The Measuring Method for Grain and the Concept of Specific Gravity for Its Different Kinds During the Zhou-Qin Period

XIAO Can, ZHU Hanmin

(Yuelu Academy,Hunan University,Changsha 410082,China)

Abstract There are some contents related to the conversion between volume and weight in the Qin bamboo slips on calculating kept in Yuelu Academy. After a preliminary analysis on the contents, the authors think that the measuring method of volume was used to measure grain. There were some records on the conversion between volume and weight in the book of calculating. Water was perhaps considered as the standard constant in the conversion between volume and weight, in which the concept of specific gravity was in practice.

Key words Qin bamboo slips, calculating, the measuring method for grain, specific gravity

Methods of Area Calculation in the Mathematical Books and the Land System of Mid-Ancient China

CHEN Wei, ZOU Dahai

(Institute for the History of Natural Science, CAS, Beijing 100010, China)

Abstract By comparing the problems concerning area calculation among several mathematics book with each other and analyzing the land policies in the Mid-Ancient Period, this article points out that the Wucao Suanjing seeks extensiveness more than accuracy in the methods of area calculation, and this characteristic is closely related to the Equal Field System (Juntian System), which made the fields to be frequently measured and frequently divided into smaller ones as well. These methods became more exact and classified in such subsequent mathematical books as Dunhuang Suanjing and Xiahou Yang Suanjing. When the latter book was compiled, the Equal Field System had declined. The article indicates that social elements can influence not only the objects dealt with mathematics, but also influence the expression of the mathematical texts.

Key words Wucao Suanjing, Dunhuang Suanjing, Xiahou Yang Suanjing, methods of area calculation, the Equal Field System (Juntian System), social context of mathematics

Research on Records of the Brightness of Stars and Its Variations in Ancient China

WANG Yumin

(Beijing Ancient Observatory, Beijing Planetarium, Beijing 100005, China)

Abstract With a comprehensive study about records of the brightness of stsrs and its variations, this articles analyses the records of the bright gradient of stars and proves that there were also similarly 6-grade brightness classification in ancient China. Contrasting the present variables with ancient asterisms that contains “vanished” records, the article concludes that what these descriptions refer to are not the discovery of variables, but all atmospheric extinction phenomena. The article also analyses the records of ancient brightness of the three famous variables—β Per, δ Cep and o Cet, then proves there were no reliable bright variations records about them in ancient China. The earliest record of variable in China is ζ Gem in 1396, from the book History of the Ming Dynasty, which was 200 years earlier than the earliest record of variable in the west.

Key words brightness, magnitude, variations of brightness, variables

A Discussion on the Time Systems in Qin and Han Dynasties


(Department for the History and Philosophy of Science,Shanghai Jiao Tong University,Shanghai 200240,China)

Abstract Based on the inscribed wooden and bamboo slips excavated from Xuanquan Zhi of Dunhuang,this article believes that besides the 16-hours time system, a 32-hour time system which varied with the seasons was put into practice during the Han Dynasty. Dealing in the light of some bamboo slips of Qin Dynasty, the article deems that the Qin Dynasty once utilized a 16-hour time system whose daytime and night were each equally divided at the ratio 11 to 5. After reviewing the history of the 12-hour time system, it indicates that the 12-hour time system failed to be popularized appropriately until the Tang Dynasty. Relying on the above conclusions, the article sums up and reflects on the evolution of time systems during Qin-Han period.

Key words time metrology, 16-hour time system, 32-hour time system, 12-hour time system, inscribed wooden and bamboo slips of Qin and Han Dynasties

A Primary Discrimination for the Description about Trajectory Knowledge in Chinese Military Books of Late Ming and Early Qing

YIN Xiaodong

(Capital Normal University, Beijing 100048, China)

Abstract From 16th to 19th century there is an intensified intercommunion for the technology of artillery-making and applying for guns between West and China through introducing science and technology by Jesuits. During this transmission, western knowledge of ballistic was introduced and combined with traditional Chinese knowledge and experiences, and this was reflected with concentration in the military books of Late Ming and Early Qing. This paper especially differentiates and analyses the description for trajectory knowledge in military books during this period from the aspect of terminology. Through analyzing the descriptions about devices for aiming, ballistic curve, and explanation for flight, the paper manifests that China of Late Ming and Early Qing inherited qualitative description for traditional cast weapon with gun-powder, as well as absorbed western technology and theory for trajectory, hoping that it might be of help to reflect the development and the evolution of Chinese ballistics after the introduction of western ballistics into China since 16th century.

Key words trajectory knowledge, military books, description, late Ming and early Qing

The Diffusion of Medical Knowledge in Song Dynasty

YAN Ruixue

(Center for Social Studies of Science,Peking University,Beijing 100871,China)

Abstract There is a wide diffusion of medical knowledge through the medium of medical works. This paper describes the phenomenon of the diffusion of medical knowledge, analyses the social and personal factors which impact diffusion and discusses its limitations. The conclusion is: 1) The medical works in Song Dynasty paid attention to pragmatism and mainly faced to the general public. 2) The diffusion and the medical works promoted and magnified each other. 3) The social function of medicine and the need of “self-care” had important impact on the diffusion. 4) At the same time of the diffusion, the negative assessment of “self-care” appeared. Those who live their lives on medicine still receive more recognition.

Key words Song Dynasty, medical knowledge, medical works, diffusion

The Special Purpose of Ancient Alloy Composition and Surface Treatment: A Preliminary Discussion on the Motive for Ancient Metal Technology


(Lab of Archaeological Science, School of Archaeology and Museology, Peking University, Beijing 100871, China)

Abstract The magnitude and variation of some ancient alloy compositional elements, including copper, tin, lead, arsenic, and antimony, are used to indicate the level of alloying development and smelting technique to reveal the course of progress made in technology. However, the contents of these alloy elements are much higher than that of the usual bronze alloy or rich in the surface, which is difficult to get a reasonable elucidation through the technology itself. These unusual phenomena can be understood from the point of view of visual effect—the pursuing for the color of metals and alloys by investigating the archaeological materials based on tin, lead, arsenic, and antimony collected from all over the world, which will be helpful for identifying the ideological factor hidden in the metal technology to initiate the humanistic thinking in the history of metal technology.

Key words ancient alloy, surface treatment, visual, ideology

Understanding of the Darwinian Revolution

ZHANG Zengyi

(School of Humanities and Social Sciences, Center for Science, Technology and Society, Beijing Institute of Science, Beijing 100081, China)

Abstract For 50 years, the Darwinian revolution has been one of the most interested topics in history and philosophy of science in the West. This paper describes three versions of the Darwinian revolution by analyzing the three books with the phrase ‘the Darwinian revolution’ in their titles. It would be helpful for people to recognize the complicated processes of the formation of Darwinism and its reception, and its influence on the making of modern synthesis, and to reconsider the role of what non-Darwinian thought played in the Darwinian revolution. To some extent, the paper also shows a tendency of historiography of the Darwinian revolution, which is from focusing on Darwin's thought to considering the Darwin's scientific circle, and to thinking of the influence of non-Darwinism.

Key words Darwin, Darwinism, evolutionism, Darwinian revolution