Notes on Astronomy and the Calendar


Ge jie zhi yan (Notes on astronomy and the calendar), a work on astronomy and calendrical calculation, was compiled by Dai Tinghuai of Ming. The National Central Library copy presented here is a print edition of the Wanli reign (1573‒1620), in five juan in two volumes. The names of the engravers, including Huang Heng, Huang Zongren, Huang Jin, Yu Jinxiu, and Huang Fu, appear in the lower portion of each page. The book has the square red seal impression of the National Central Library. According to the preface, written by Xu Chu in the fourth year (1576) of Wanli, “Dai Tinghuai of Fujian chose two of the 64 hexagrams, ge and jie, of which he had thorough understanding, and following the thoughts of the forbears, he promoted the theory that as heaven and earth change, the four seasons take place, and heaven and earth moderate the four seasons.” Dai Tinghuai, courtesy name Yuanzhi, was born in Changtai, Fujian. In the second year of the Longqing reign (1568), he was celebrated as an engong (tribute student by grace) and became the magistrate of Chun’an. In his own preface, he stated that from his youth he was eager to study. One of his favorite pursuits was the study of the universe, and he was especially interested in official almanacs. Juan 1 introduces the history of Chinese calendars, the wheels of heaven and earth, measuring the center of the universe, changes in the size of the moon, leap months, and other related topics. The author describes the successes and failures of the Ming dynasty calendars. He continues that “the heaven consists of 28 mansions, which in turn are divided in 12 equal areas. The astronomers have called those with changing locations wheel of heaven, and those with fixed locations wheel of earth.” He provides various views on how heaven and earth are situated. For example, he describes heaven as being half above the earth and half under the earth. The middle is situated high up, with the four sides low. The north is higher than the south. Methods of measuring are provided. He then explains the “changes of the size of the moon,” quoting references from Da tong li (The grand unified calendar) of the Ming. Juan 1 also includes explanations of the 24 solar terms and the new moon, and the method of calculating the first day of each month. Juan 2 deals with day and night, divided by a hundred ke (ke = a little less than 25 minutes), the sun and moon moving back and forth, 28 mansions, 12 branches, the contraction and expansion of the five planets, and the movements of si yu (the astrological four imaginary stars). Juan 3 discusses the definition of a year, the names of the 12 months, the heavenly stems and earthly branches of Jupiter’s cycle, the Chinese sexagenary (60-year) cycle, the five elements, and other subjects. Juan 4 and juan 5 cover the 72 climates, as well as contain a general discussion on the weather, calendrical taboos and avoidances to be observed, and other related subjects. Presented here are the two prefaces and juan 1‒2.

Last updated: November 9, 2017