Primer of Mathematics


The original author of this work was Zhu Shijie (1249–1314) of the Yuan dynasty, one of the early Song and Yuan mathematicians, who wrote an elementary textbook entitled Suan xue qi meng (Primer of mathematics), which was printed in 1299. The work was said to have reached as far as Japan and Korea. After the 19th-century Chinese mathematician Luo Shilin (died 1853) acquired a copy of a Korean edition, which was printed based on the original Yuan edition, he reproduced it in or after 1839, and included it in his collection Guan wo sheng shi hui gao (Collected works of the studio of my life beheld). The book contains a series of problems that are solved by simple algebraic equations, known as tian yuan, and has a preface written by Ruan Yuan (1764–1849), an official and eminent scholar. This copy also includes two prefaces from the earlier editions, one by Zhao Cheng dated 1299 and the other by Kim Si Jin dated 1660. According to the inscription in the book, the Korean copy was produced by Kim Jeong-hui (1786–1856), a poet and an expert in bronze and stone inscriptions, and was presented to Kim’s friend Xu Youren (1800–60), a Qing official. After failing to pass provincial examinations, Luo Shilin went to Beijing and became a student at the Imperial Board of Astronomy’s College, where he achieved notice for his knowledge of astronomy and mathematics, especially for his prediction in 1821 that most of the planets would be seen together, a phenomenon regarded as a good omen for the throne and the country. Luo later left Beijing and traveled before returning to his native city, Yangzhou. He associated closely with Ruan Yuan, supervised the first seven juan of the chronicle of Ruan Yuan, and edited mathematical works written by Liu Heng. He also wrote, edited, and produced a number of other works.

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3 juan in 3 volumes

Last updated: January 3, 2018