Chinese Astronomers, Ancient

Chronologists consider the Chinese to be excellent spectators and recorders of celestial occurrence anywhere in the world. Chinese were following these events before the Arabs. Celestial names were subsequently grouped in twenty-eight mansions which have been established on oracle bones exposed at Anyang,.  These existed since the Chinese Bronze Age (middle Shang Dynasty). The mansion (xiù) classification’s core seems to become clear during the reign of the ruler Wu Ding (1339-1281 BC). This is placed on the Biblical Timeline with World History starting in 1500 BC.

The early Chinese Astronomers used the so called Circumpolar stars as a reference point of the universe which is not the same as the Indo-Europeans who based observation upon rising and setting ecliptic celestial bodies.

The first Chinese Astronomers main work was to register time; they announced what was the first day of the month and forecast lunar eclipses. Astronomers were often beheaded when their forecast was wrong. During Emperor Huang Ti’s time, Chinese Astronomers divided the sky into 10 stems and 12 branches round the horizon so that it offered a 60-year cycle. The Early Chinese mostly used the Big Dipper constellation which is relative to the pole star in early evening.

Role of Astronomical Observations in Early China

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Timekeeping. Due to the inconsistent cycle of the sun and the moon, the Chinese lunisolar calendar was inter calculated.

Emblem of a dynasty. Astronomers and astrologers habitually made a new Chinese calendar in every period of rise and fall of dynasties associating their observations with those events.

Astrological prediction.  Guests stars (unexpectedly surfaced along with the fixed stars) such as the Crab Nebula observed in 1054, commonly known as SN 1054, were cautiously noted by astronomers. Early astronomical observations of occurrence of comets and supernovae are occasionally used in modern astronomical studies.

Famous Early Chinese Astronomers Chinese Astronomers made great contributions to the astronomy of today. The following are the great Chinese astronomers:

Zhan Heng. Also known as Pingzi (78-139), he was an astronomer, mathematician, and a geographer. According to him, “the sky is like a hen’s egg and is as round as a crossbow pellet. For what Zhan Heng said, he created the celestial globe from his belief that the world is round. He invented the first armillary sphere which is made of bronze.

Zhang Sui. An astronomer and Buddhist monk of the Tang dynasty, Zhang Sui (683-727). Zhang Sui was the first to describe proper stellar motion, or the apparent motion of stars across the plane of the sky relative to more distant stars.

Tsu Ch’ung Chi. A mathematician and an astronomer who arrived at the precise time of the solstice through measuring the shadow of the sun at noon on days around the solstice (430- 501).

Guo Shoujing. An inventor, mathematician as well as an astronomer who used his engineering skills to develop his apparatus to measure celestial bodies. Guo Shoujing developed the Shousi calendar system in 1280 AD. He developed the calendar using the polynomial equations to the 4th order which is the utmost level ever used in astronomy and calendar computation.

Hua Luogeng. A mathematician and astronomer in Jintan, Jiangsu (1910 – 1985). He wrote more than 300 papers and monographs. Several succeeding theorists in China including the distinguished Chen Jingrun who obtained the best result with regards to the binary Goldbach conjecture have been influenced by his book on additive prime number theory.


Chinese Records & Investigations of Astronomy

2137 BC. Chinese book published which recorded the earliest known solar eclipse

2000 BC. Chinese determined that Jupiter needs 12 years to complete one revolution of its orbit.

1400 BC. A time when the Chinese recorded the regularity of the solar and lunar eclipses and they recorded the earliest Solar prominence and the 2 novas.

1200 BC. The development of the Chinese constellations by recognizing the star and dividing  the sky into 28 regions.

1100 BC. The spring equinox was determined.

776 BC. The first reliable forecast of a solar eclipse.

613 BC. The Haley Comet was recorded during the Spring and Autumn anals.

532 BC. A nova was recorded in the Records of Grand Historian.

28 BC. The first records of sunspot

185 AD. The earliest record of Super Nova of RCW 186.

1054 AD. The Crab Nebula, Messier’s M1 was first noted by Chinese as supernova guest star.

1088 AD. Shen Kuo introduced the idea of a magnetic compass to facilitate navigation. He also established in his Dream Pool Essays concepts that contradicted the flat earth theory using lunar and solar eclipse as proofs of the spherical earth theory.


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2 thoughts on “Chinese Astronomers, Ancient

  1. I read there was a record dated March 5 9BC where it was stated “In the second month of the second year (of Jian Ping), the comet was out of Altair for more than 70 days. Could this be the star that the Magi followed?

    1. Puppis A is the supernova the Magi followed. Search — Star of Bethlehem.

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