The Tianyuan Jade Calendar in Verse Prose on the Auspicious and Unusual Signs


The author of this calendar is unknown. Traditionally it was attributed to Liu Ji (1311–75), an early Ming military strategist and statesman. This copy was issued in the 13th year (1477) of the Chenghua reign of the Ming. Several other editions were made, such as the one printed in 1619, a number of which are held by the National Central Library in Taiwan. Presented here is a one-juan handwritten copy, a rare early manuscript that is slightly damaged. The work lists 60 items, with four-character headings, such as “Heaven, Earth, Rain, and Snow,” “Auspices of the Sun,” “Good and Ill Fortunes of the Moon,” “Jupiter,” “The Calamities of the Five Stars,” “Meteors and Shooting Stars,” “Astrological Signs of Military Triumphs,” “Astrological Signs of Good and Ill Luck,” “Rainbows,” and “Wind Divination.” The text of the manuscript is written on pages with black silk woven column lines, called Wu si lan (black silk column lines). The frame is about 26.2 centimeters high and 17.2 centimeters wide. At the head of the volume is a preface; at the end is a notation indicating that a Mr. Li made the copy in his studio in the 13th year of the Chenghua reign. The work has three square-shaped seal impressions, denoting ownership by the library and two private collectors. It shows the influence of traditional beliefs regarding the interaction between the heavens and humans and the principles for selecting auspicious dates. Calendars such as these recorded natural and geographical phenomena and the changes of the sun, the moon, the five planets, the comets, shooting stars, clouds, fogs, rainbows, and the wind, which then were used to offer prognostications about people and events. The material in the calendars was collected from astrological works from various sources, such as Shang shu (The book of documents), Hong fan (Great plan), Sui shu (Book of Sui), Kaiyuan zhan jing (Treatise on astrology of the Kaiyuan era), and others. Some calendars focused on state and military affairs, with less attention paid to the fate of individuals. During the Qianlong reign (1736–95), this particular calendar was considered to contain heresy and was placed in the catalog of banned and destroyed books.

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Physical Description

1 juan, 1 volume ; 26.2 x 17.2 centimeters


  • Only preface, table of contents, and 1st page of the juan are included in the WDL presentation.

Last updated: January 3, 2018