Interpretations of Astronomical Principles Issued by the Imperial Order


Compiled by order of the Qing emperor Qianlong (reigned 1736–95), this work of 80 juan, in 32 volumes, was never printed. It has an editorial guide at the beginning, but no prefaces or postscripts. The first entry in the editorial guide states that it is necessary to know about astronomy, the interchange of sun and moon, and the five constellations in order not to be misguided by alchemists and their claims about disasters and fortunes. This statement suggests that the work may have been a product of Catholic missionaries who wished to use science to challenge superstition. The wording of the text also may indicate Catholic missionary authorship. The reason why the work was never advertised or printed may relate to the struggle between the missionaries and the alchemists. At the time of the Kangxi and Yongzheng reigns (1662–1735), Chinese alchemists fought vehemently against the publication of Li xiang kao cheng (Compendium of calendrical science and astronomy), a calendar printed in 1723. The compendium was compiled by Chinese but based on Western theories and the methods and tables of calculation of the missionaries. As a countermeasure, in 1740 the alchemists published a book on geomancy and occultism, entitled Xie ji ban fang shu (Treatise on harmonizing times and distinguishing directions). The Catholic missionaries may have initiated this work to counter the latter publication.

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80 juan, 32 volumes


  • Manuscript copy

Last updated: January 3, 2018