Reprint Edition of the General Introduction to Calendrical Astronomy


This work originally was written by Wang Yingming (died 1614) and was thought to be the first work of a Chinese scholar influenced by Western learning, as Wang was greatly influenced by Li Zhizao (1565–1630), the official and scholar who undertook the translation of several works by European Jesuit missionaries to China. The manuscript was completed in 1612. It was first published by Wang’s son Wang Yang in 1639. Shown here is a reprinted edition, published in 1646 by Jiguge, the largest publishing house established in Changshu in the late Ming dynasty. As a provincial graduate, Wang Yingming collected and studied numerous works on astronomy. Wang’s work summarized the essentials of earlier schools of thought, referred to Western calendars, and avoided mention of good and evil omens. The reprint edition has seven prefaces, three of them dated, by Zhao Shichun, Wang Yueyu, Weng Hanlin, Qian Mingyin, Tu Xiangmei (dated 1639), Wang Yang (dated 1639), and the author himself (dated 1612). Preceding the text are five illustrations of the celestial body, the nine-level heaven, the 24 solar terms, and solar and lunar eclipses. There is also a brief text stating that the Earth stands in the middle of the six harmonies, like the egg yolk in the middle of an egg white. When the Earth faces the sun in the west, it has a shadow in the east; when it faces the sun in the east, its shadow is in the west. This formulation represents a combination of the Chinese cosmology of the heavenly cover and Western astronomical theory. Juan one has six essays on the celestial body or the sphere, the sun and moon, the five planets (Jupiter, Mars, Saturn, Mercury, and Venus), periods of the day, records of clepsydra, and miscellany. While acknowledging the Chinese concept of the nine-level heaven, the author also draws upon Western astronomy. Juan two has three essays, dealing with the Extreme Palace, the movement of the heavenly bodies and the Milky Way, and Zi wei gong (the Purple Forbidden Palace). The essays provide an introduction to various stars and the 28 Chinese constellations, using the references in Bu tian ge (The song of the marches of the heavens). Juan three has seven essays, dealing with degrees of the celestial bodies, the planets and stars, the 12 celestial palaces, the celestial equator, and weather forecasting. In the essay on the 12 celestial palaces, the author introduces the positions of the 12 bodies in the Western system and their relation to the 28 Chinese constellations, again combining approaches from both Eastern and Western astronomy. The work has an appendix, an essay on solar and lunar eclipses, which has red and black punctuation markings.

Last updated: March 13, 2014