Calendar Compendium Following the New Western Method


Xu Guangqi (1562–1633), a scholar and official, was a native of Shanghai. He came into contact with Christianity in 1596, later met the Jesuit missionaries Matteo Ricci and João da Rocha in Nanjing, and was baptized in 1603 under the name Paul. After receiving a jin shi degree in 1604, Xu became a bachelor in the Hanlin Academy. From 1604 to 1607 he worked continuously with Ricci, translating works on mathematics, hydraulics, astronomy, and geography, among them Euclid’s Elements, entitled Ji he yuan ben. In 1628 Xu was recalled from retirement to the court and later was appointed to take charge of a newly established Calendrical Bureau. In 1630 he was made president of the Board of Ceremonies, and finally became grand secretary of the East Hall and the Wenyuange Imperial Library. He was canonized as Wending. This work was originally entitled Chongzhen li shu (Treatises on calendrical astronomy of the Chongzhen reign), published in 1645, which was accepted by the new Qing dynasty. After slight rearrangement by the German Jesuit missionary Johann Adam Schall von Bell (1592–1666), the work was presented to the court with its name changed to Xiyang xin fa li shu (Treatises on calendrical astronomy following the new Western method). Led by Xu Guangqi and his successor, Li Tianjing (1579–1659), Jesuit missionaries, among them Schall von Bell, Giacomo Rho, and Johannes Terrentius, were invited to participate in the translation of these treatises. The translated works include: Jiao shi li zhi (Eclipse observation), Jiao shi biao (Table of eclipses), Gu jin jiao shi kao (Survey of eclipses of the present and past), Ce shi (Mensuration of eclipses), Heng xing li zhi (Star observations), Heng xing jing wei tu shuo (Illustrated latitude and longitude of stars), Heng xing jing wei biao (Chart of latitude and longitude of stars), Heng xing chu mo (Appearances and disappearances of stars), Ce tian yue shuo (Brief explanation of the measurement of the heavens), Ge yuan ba xian tu (Chart for computing the eight lines cutting a circle), Yuan jing shuo (Explanation of the telescope), Bi li gui jie (Explanation of proportional compasses), Hun tian yi shuo (Explanation of the armillary sphere), Ce liang quan yi (Full meaning of mensuration), Da ce (Large mensuration), Xue li xiao bian (Brief debate on calendars), and Chou suan (Calculation). Since the beginning of the Wanli era, the Imperial Astronomical Bureau often made errors in its calculation of the sun and lunar eclipses. Reform of the system was proposed and works were published, but there had been no changes until the Jesuit missionaries brought the new Western methods into China. This work formed a systematic introduction to European astronomy, such as Danish scientist Tycho Brahe’s cosmic system, and the astronomical observations of Copernicus, Galileo, and Kepler.

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42 juan, 42 volumes (incomplete) ; 21 x 14.5 centimeters


  • Only juan 1 is included in the WDL presentation.

Last updated: April 26, 2017