A Draft on Investigation of Things. Latitudes of the Earth


Presented here is a set of two works by Xiong Mingyu and his son Xiong Renlin, in six juan in two volumes. This copy was printed in the fifth year (1648) of the Shunzhi reign of the Qing dynasty by their relative Xiong Zhixue at Tanyang Shulin. As Xiong Mingyu’s work Ge zhi cao (A draft on investigation of things) discusses heaven, while Xiong Renlin’s Di wei (Latitudes of the earth) is on the earth, this set was given the title Han yu tong (Cosmology) by Xiong Zhixue. Xiong Mingyu (1579‒1649), courtesy name Liangru, received his jin shi degree in 1598. Among his various posts, he was minister of the Bureau of Justice, the Bureau of Military Affairs, and the Bureau of Works. He had written an earlier work, Ze cao (A draft of regularity), in the late-Wanli reign (1573‒1620), which he revised as Ge zhi cao and completed during the Chongzhen reign (1628‒44), a total of 50 years of work on the subject. As, on the one hand, it reflected the author’s knowledge of Western science on astronomy and the calendar, and, on the other hand, Xiong had enjoyed a high reputation among the adherents of the Ming dynasty, this work was greatly appreciated. According to Xiong’s preface, the revised and expanded work Ge zhi cao was printed at Huarilou. The original inscription reads: “Written by Xiong Mingyu, Liangru, of Jinxian.” It has six juan in 56 sections and 185 leaves. Juan 1 discusses the basic principles of motions of the heavens and the earth. Juan 2 records the laws of the celestial moon and stars. Juan 3 contains the calendar and debates the ancient absurdities. Juan 4 and juan 5 analyze the changes in nature, based on Western scientific principles, and they explain the reasons for some historical calamities. Juan 6 explains the theory of the creation, including a section on God creating heaven and earth in six days. His son Xiong Renlin’s Di wei (Latitudes of the earth) was first printed in the 11th year (1638) of the Chongzhen reign. Xiong Renlin achieved his jin shi degree in 1637, and held the post of vice minister of the Court of Imperial Sacrifices. The work has 84 sections. Some 80 percent of the text derives from Jesuit astronomer Giulio Aleni’s work Zhi fang wai ji (A chronicle of foreign lands). It also draws on Ming author Wang Zongzai’s Si yi guan kao (A study of the Translators’ Bureau of the Four Barbarian Languages), Zhang Xie’s Dong Xi yang kao (A study of the East and West), and other works. Xiong Renlin was unfamiliar with the usual transliteration, thus corrections or additions are inaccurate. Both Xiong Mingyu and his son were familiar with Western science. Xiong Mingyu had a prolonged interest in Western learning and contributed to several works by prominent missionaries in China. He was one of the scholars who edited some books by Portuguese Jesuit Emmanuel Diaz (1574‒1659) including Tian wen lue (A treatise on Ptolemaic astronomy), and he contributed a preface to a work by Italian Jesuit Sabatino de Ursis (1575‒1620).

Last updated: January 10, 2018