The Mathematical Astronomies’ Exchange and Cooperation between Medieval Islam and China on the Silk Road
Islamic Astrology and the Zodiac in China: a preliminary study in Ming-yi Tian-wen-shu
The zodiac is one of the basic concepts of the Western astronomy and astrology, which is significantly different from the Twelve Chen (Chinese zodiac) and the Twenty-eight Stars of the Chinese traditional astronomy. The names of their characters had been gradually introduced in the second half of the sixth century by Buddhist texts, the Buddha and Taoism basically transformed its image and used in the Tang and Song Dynasties (the 7th-13th centuries).
For a long time, the zodiac’s popularity in China has been regarded as being influenced by Jesuits in the late Ming Dynasty and early Qing Dynasty. And the studies in the zodiac has generally based on the Literature on City of Hei-shui Hidden in Russia or China, Dun-huang Manuscripts, Zheng-tong Taoist Canon (especially the Ling-tai Sutra) and Zang-wai-dao-shu. However, as far as recent research is concerned, the zodiac, especially the Capricorn Palace (Mo-xie Gong 磨蝎宫), has played an important role in the divination of the horoscope astrology during the Song Dynasty, and the records of the zodiac in the Hui-hui Li-fa and Ming-yi Tian-wen-shu (Introduction to Astrology) have not received their deceived attention.
Having analyzed the detailed information in A diagram explaining the application of Profection (Dang-sheng Liu-nian Xiao-xian Xing-tu 当生流年小限星图) in Ming-yi Tian-wen-shu, and the main characters of the Zodiac in the medieval Islamic positional astrology, the paper has revealed the relationship between the Islamic and Chinese Zodiacs and outlined the development of the concept of Zodiac in the 13th century on the Silk Road.
Records of Sun, Moon, and Planets in Ming Shilu
More than six thousand celestial events were recorded in the Ming Shilu, official chronicle history book of the Ming Dynasty. There are 336 records of eclipses and 2622 records of the Moon and planets occulting or approaching stars. The records of solar and lunar eclipses cover most actual visible eclipses in the capital. Some eclipses were visible from other countries due to inaccurate forecasts. The eclipse records echoed with many records of rescue ceremonies in the Ming Dynasty. The error rate of the lunar or planetary approaches or occultations, 4.1%, is the best of past dynasties. The errors should be mainly caused by process of data compilation and book copying. From the relative records, it can be seen that the names of the stars in constellation are slightly different from tradition names.
The Solar and Lunar Theories in Qizheng Tuibu
From the eighth to the fourteenth centuries, most of the advances in astronomy were achieved by scholars in the Middle East, North Africa, Moorish Spain, and China. This work crossed religious and ethnic boundaries, with contributions from, among others, Arabs, Iranians, and Turks, and from Muslims, Jews, Christians and Chinese. In particular, Medieval Islamic astronomers began to appreciate the inadequacies of the parameters used in the Almagest. This led to numerous attempts to improve on Ptolemy’s values so as to produce more accurate tables, and also a much greater interest in the theoretical aspects of Ptolemy’s geometrical schemes.
From the thirteenth to the seventeenth centuries, Islamic astronomy, including astronomical tables, instruments, and astrological materials had been gradually introduced into China. In the Yuan Dynasty (1206-1368) the Arabs (they must, in fact, have been largely Persian and Central Asians) played a role in Chinese science and technology quiet similar to the Indians in the Tang Dynasty (618-907). Then the Persian astronomer, Jamāl al-Din ibn Muhammad al-Najjari (Zhamaluding), devised for Khubilai Khan in the year of 1267 a new calendar, the Wannian Li (the Calendar for the forever), which was afterwards lost, and in any case failed in competition with the Shoushi Li of Gou Shoujing (1231-1316), of which the Ming Calendar Datong Li, started in 1364, was but a slightly modification. In the beginning of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), a Royal Muslim (Huihui) Astronomical Bureau was set up in parallel with the ordinary Astronomical Bureau, to which, however, after a couple of years it became subordinate. In 1382, Tianwenshu (Introduction to Astrology, Official Translation by the Imperial Edict of the Ming) consists of abundant data on positional astronomy, together with much astrological materials which were highly appreciated by the first Emperor of the Ming Dynasty. A great deal of computation must have need, however, for the solar and lunar eclipses, planetary conjunctions to the Muslim methods, supplemented and re-issued as the Qizheng Tuibu (Calculations of the Motions of the Seven Luminaries) by Bei Lin (1429-1490) in 1477, which had been used as reference calendar to Datong Li in the Ming Dynasty for more than 270 years and still played a critical role in the quarrel between Islamic and Jesuit astronomies in the beginning of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911).
Having based upon the historical research achievements, the paper has revealed the main astronomical parameters, including the daily mean motions of the seven luminaries, the solar and the planetary apogees moving with the same motion (1 in 60 Persian years of 365 days unvarying), the lunar node (0;3,10,38,27,46,45∕d), the calculating function for the solar equation with the eccentricity of 2;6,27,58,19,12 in parts and the maximum of the solar equation 2;0,47, the calculating functions for the lunar equations of center, of anomaly and for the Increment and Minor Proportion in Qizheng Tuibu. Furthermore, the table for the above-mentioned ten parameters for the beginning of the Hijra era and from the 600 H (1261 AD) to the year 1440 H in intervals of 30 years were given, the distinguish between the motion of the fixed stars (1 in 66 Persian years) and that of the solar and planetary apogees was recognized in Qizheng Tuibu, of which the notable progress in the recognition was attributed to Ibn al-Shātir (1304-1375) by S. Mohammad Mozaffari in 2017.
Fung Kam Wing
The Marāghah Observatory and the Transmission of Illustrated Islamic Treatises on Scientific Instruments to China, 1250-1560
Construction work beginning on 4th of Jumāda al-ūlā, A.H. 657 (29th December, 1259), the Marāghah Observatory of Ilkhanate was a scientific institution with a library to be completely built by the end of 1261 or the beginning of 1262. The Ilkhanate khan Hulāgū (1218-1265) and Nāsir al-Dīn al-Tusī (1201-1274), head of the observatory, were both ambitious to develop the observatory, as well as its library, into an academic centre comparable to Bayt al-Hikma (House of Wisdom) of Baghdad, the renowned centre of learning established by the 4th caliph al-Ma’mūn ibn Harun (813-833) of Abbāsid Dynasty of the Muslim Empire. To accomplish the mission, Hulāgū and Nāsir al-Dīn al-Tusī collected over 40,000 volumes of books or manuscripts of Greek, Roman and Islamic astronomy, mathematics and mechanical water clocks from Mosul, Baghdad, Khorasan, Syria and Al-Jazīra. When Islamic scientific works were later spread to China between Mongolian Yuan and mid-Ming, there were numerous illustrated manuscripts or books on scientific instruments. Wang Shidian 王士點 (?-1359?) and Shang Qiweng 商企翁 (fl. 1341-1367) edited Yuan mishujian zhi 元秘書監志 (Records of the Imperial Secretariat of the Yuan Dynasty, 1342-1363) has recorded a detailed bibliographical listings of 242 volumes of Islamic books and related instruments being preserved in the Islamic astronomical bureau (Huihui sitiantai 回回司天臺) at the Mongolian upper capital Shangdu 上都 (now in Inner Mongolian Autonomous Region) in the tenth month of the tenth year of the Ziyuan 至元 reign (1273), include 9 books on astronomical instruments and 2 on horological devices. This paper attempts to give a succinct account on the transmission route of Islamic astrolabes and mechanical horological devices into China based on existing books and objects of Islamic scientific instruments. It will also discuss Muslim scholar Zhou Shuxue 周述學 (fl.1530-1558) and his work.
From Scientific Understanding to Cultural Fantasy: The Chinese Image of Arabic Astronomy in the Ming and Qing Era
From the very beginning, the Chinese-Islamic system of calendrical astronomy was adopted as “a reference system” of the orthodox Chinese system Datong li 大统历 (Grand Union System of Calendrical Astronomy), and organized the translation of a book entitled Huihui lifa 回回历法(Chinese-Islamic System of Calendrical Astronomy). The book contains pre-calculated tables and algorithms for the calculation of celestial motions, but does not include any knowledge about the underlying theory that is essential to Western astronomy, nor the knowledge concerning the history of cultural background of this astronomy. When a group of Chinese astronomers with Confucianist background tried to study the “calendar principles” of the Huihui lifa, the shortage of the first part of knowledge led them to a series of misunderstandings and misconceptions, whereas the lack of the latter part of knowledge gave rise to a cultural fantasy about the “Chinese origin of the calendar in the Western areas”. Later, on basis of astronomical knowledge that was systematically introduced from Europe by Jesuit astronomers in China, Chinese astronomers such as Mei Wending finally attained a correct understanding of the scientific principles of the Huihui lifa. Under a special cultural psychology and socio-political condition, the cultural fantasy continued to ferment and eventually expanded into a whole set doctrine of “Chinese origin of Western learnings” which prevailed for a long period of time in the Qing dynasty.
Traditional Archery Technology and Culture Exchange between Medieval Islam and China on the Silk Road
In the past 3000 years, archery has played a distinctive role in the Chinese culture. Records of archery activities can be found on the inscriptions on bones or tortoise shells of the Shang Dynasty. Traditional archery is one of the “Six Arts”—rites, music, archery, charioteering, calligraphy and mathematics–proposed by Confucianism which were always valued equally in various dynasties. There is such a saying, “Practicing archery together is a way of learning; by practicing archery, one can learn rites ”. People consider the stance the archers assume and the rules they follow as part of standard rites, which confirms the saying “archery can show one’s virtues”. The “shooting rites” flourishing in the Zhou Dynasty has been maintained for thousands of years, which has exerted a great influence upon such Asian counties as Korea and Japan.
In the Tang Dynasty, archery was listed as one of the subjects for the imperial exam to select military leaders. In the Yuan Dynasty, with the development of the exchange along the Silk Road, the archery skills and culture were a significant part of the exchange between the east and the west civilizations. The shooting skills of a certain region were taken to foreign states due to wars or trades. The cultural and material remnants have been discovered in numerous museums along the Silk Road. In the Qing Dynasty, the mounted archery was even regarded as a vital means of conquering other nations. The skills of different regions have been exchanged in different eras, hence they exerted mutual influences. Up to now, such a valuable traditional skill has been in decline. However, under the influence of Chinese traditional culture, Mongolia, Korea and Japan have all valued archery, taking it as a great means of keeping fit. In other countries along the Silk Road, due to the fact that people have lost their interest in some part of the traditional culture influenced by the western materialistic culture, the industry of making bows and arrows are also in decline either because of the loss of traditional crafts or materials. What delights us is that the traditional archery skills and culture have been on the path of revival with historical effort to revive the traditional culture in the past decade. Therefore, it is of historical significance to researching on traditional archery technology and culture exchange between Medieval Islam and China on the Silk Road based on document and bow-arrow which collected at China and Islam museum and restored by author today.