• Studies in the History of Natural Sciences NO.4 2012

  Systematic Interpretation of the Meaning of Chinese Twelve Star  

  Orders and Twenty-eight Mansions 

  CHEN Jiujin 

  (Institute for the History of Natural Sciences, CAS, Beijing 100190, China 

  According to the literal meaning of the division of stars, this paper gives a systematic interpretation of the essential meaning of Chinese Twelve Star Orders and Twenty-eight Mansions. The paper points out that there are many errors in the ancient astrologers’ explanations of the meaning of these star names, and demonstrates the idealistic essence of Chinese astrology and the continual development of the knowledge contained in traditional star names and the constellations.  

  The Lack of Error Ideas in the Calculation of the Traditional 

  Chinese Calendar 

  WANG Yumin 

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

  In the light of the theory of modern error and approximate calculation, this article organizes and analyzes the lack of error ideas about the traditional Chinese calendar. On the basis of the marked features of the calendar using fractional, mysterious number and the grand origin, the article firstly disserts that the Chinese traditional calendar is an exploration activity of grasping the “perfect” celestial body motion. And secondly, it concludes that the Chinese traditional calendar always lacked a unified understanding of observational accuracy, model precision and calculating accuracy. Thirdly, according to the error analysis of the main astronomical instruments of past dynasties, it is found that the method of measuring the length of winter solstice shadow to define tropical year is a backward technology, comparing with measuring the summer solstice in early stage. Lastly, the article analyzes the deviation of calculating accuracy of a number of calendars through some ancient calculating cases, especially the Shoushi Calendar. 

 

  The Theory of Solar Motions in the Chongzhen Lishu Series 

  CHU Longfei, SHI Yunli 

  (Dept. of the History of Science and Scientific Archaeology, University of Science and Technology of China,  Hefei 230026, China) 

  In the late Ming Dynasty, Western astronomy was first introduced into China, and culminated in the compilation of the Chongzhen Lishu (崇祯历书, Chongzhen Reign Treatises on Calendrical Astronomy). Since solar motion is very important in a system of calendrical astronomy, it underwent continuous revisions from the Chongzhen Lishu to its two later re-editions, Xiyang Xinfa Lishu (西洋新法历书, Treatises on Calendrical Astronomy According to New Methods from the West) and Li xiang kao cheng (历象考成, Thorough Investigation of Calendrical Astronomy). This paper first analyses the overall differences of the three versions of the solar theory, and then concentrates on the solar models used in the whole series and explores their rationalities. Finally, the paper examines the change of the basic parameters in the solar theory and their effects on its accuracy, and analyzes the accuracy of the three versions of solar theory. Our results indicates that although the continous revision made the solar theory more coherent, they contributed little to the improvement of the actual accuracy of the theory itself. 

 

  An Explanation of the Original Plant of ‘Mulan’ in Ancient Books 

  LIAO Wenfang 

  (Institute of History and Tourism, Guangxi Normal University, Guilin 541001, China)  

  As a precious building material and medicinal plant, ‘Mulan’ was often mentioned in books before Tang Dynatsy. After then, literature about ‘Mulan’ became less and was confused with other plants. Today, ‘Mulan’ was considered as a species of Magnoliaceae. However, the biological characteristics and medical value of ‘Mulan’ described in ancient literature is materially different from those plants in Magnoliaceae considered as ‘Mulan’. Based on the literature analysis of ‘Mulan’ in ancient books, the reason of misinformation about ‘Mulan’ is discussed. Based on the morphological and ecological characteristics, ‘Mulan’ was verified as Cinnamomum burmannii Bl., a species of Cinnamomum Trew in Lauraceae. 

   

  Research on Ye Tang 

  HUANG Xuechao 

  (Center for Historical Goegraphy StudiesFudan UniversityShanghai 200433China) 

  Ye tang smelting is a kind of large-scale iron smelting in the Six Dynasties. By analyzing the meaning of ye tang and the location of ye tang smelting, the nomination, existing form and administrative measures of ye tang smelting can be known. Ye tang smelting is the product of air-blasting with use of a water raft suited to local conditions. The precise emergence of Ye tang smelting which can now be figured out began in the Wu Dynasty and its decline began in the Song Dynasty of the Southern Dynasties. Moreover, by studying ye tang, we can get a new understanding on the change of management system of iron smelting during the Han and the Jin Dynasties, the innovation and spread of shuipai, and the formation and development of East Lake.  

 

  A Study of Zhurong Zuoli : Artillery Handbooks in Late Ming 

  ZHENG Cheng 

  ( Institute for the History of Natural Sciences, CAS, Beijing 100190, China ) 

  In the last 25 years (16201644) of Ming dynasty, several Chinese books of European artillery were compiled on the basis of Western literature. This paper concentrates on a long lost but recently discovered manuscript of Zhurong Zuoli, which sheds light on a series questions about the authorship, the background for translating and editing the book, the hidden sources of its contents and its connection with other Chinese books on artillery. The unique narratives about the manufacture of iron cannon and fortification building are discussed, together with a reflection of an interesting phenomenon of the emergence and evolution of Western and Chinese technical traditions.  

 

  My Research Approaches and Expectations on Natural History Studies: 

  Interview with Fan Fa-ti 

  FAN Fa-ti1, YUAN Jian2 

  1. Department of History, State University of New York at Binghamton, USA;  

  2. Institute of Global Ethnology & Anthropology, Minzu University of China, Beijing 100081, China 

  Through a discussion with Mr. Fan Fa-ti, Associate Professor, this interview tells some special experience in his science history studies. Around his representative work British Naturalists in Qing China: Science, Empire, and Cultural Encounter, Fan Fa-ti also gives us some good ideas about his research approaches on science history, topic selection of thesis and some related research methods, then presents some expectations on the future studies, and finally introduces his recent researches. 

 

  Ninety Years after the “Miracle”: A Review of Michael Bliss’  

  The Discovery of Insulin 

  LI Ang 

  Institute for the History of Natural Sciences, CAS, Beijing 100190, China 

  The discovery of insulin was one of the most important scientific breakthroughs in the early 20th century and its story raised a lot of intriguing questions. The Discovery of Insulin by the Canadian historian Michael Bliss published in 1982 provides a thorough narration of the process of discovering insulin. This essay intends to make Chinese readers familiar with the history of the discovery of insulin with a review of the book of Bliss, as well as a memorial dedicated to the 90th anniversary of this great discovery.