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Astral Sciences in Early Imperial China: Observation, Sagehood and the Individual
Published by Cambridge University Press Virtual Publishing
An innovative history of astronomy in China, 221 BCE-750 CE, stressing plurality, change and the unifying power of myth-making.
Challenging monolithic modern narratives about 'Chinese science', Daniel Patrick Morgan examines the astral sciences in China c.221 BCE-750 CE as a study in the disunities of scientific cultures and the narratives by which ancients and moderns alike have fought to instil them with a sense of unity. The book focuses on four unifying 'legends' recounted by contemporary subjects: the first two, redolent of antiquity, are the 'observing of signs' and 'granting of seasons' by ancient sage kings; and the other two, redolent of modernity, involve the pursuit of 'accuracy' and historical 'accumulation' to this end. Juxtaposing legend with the messy realities of practice, Morgan reveals how such narratives were told, imagined, and re-imagined in response to evolving tensions. He argues that, whether or not 'empiricism' and 'progress' are real, we must consider the real effects of such narratives as believed in and acted upon in the history of astronomy in China.
Introduction; Conventions; 1. The world below; 2. Observing the signs; 3. Granting the seasons; 4. Reverent accordance with prodigious heaven; 5. What the ancients had yet to learn; 6. Conclusion; Bibliography; Pre-1850 texts and epigraphic sources, by titles; Secondary sources; Index.
Reviewer: Caleb Simmons
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