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Astral Sciences in Early Imperial China: Observation, Sagehood and the Individual

Morgan, Daniel (Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), Paris)

978 1 107 13902 2
List price(s):
99.99 USD
75.00 GBP
87.53 EUR

Publication date:
3 August 2017

Short description: 

An innovative history of astronomy in China, 221 BCE-750 CE, stressing plurality, change and the unifying power of myth-making.

Full description: 

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.

Table of contents: 

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.


Daniel Patrick Morgan is a researcher at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, (CNRS) Laboratoire SPHERE (Sciences, Philosophie, Histoire), Universite Paris Diderot, having previously graduated from the University of Chicago. From 2013 to 2016, he was a member of the European Research Council project, Mathematical Sciences in the Ancient World (SAW). Trained as a sinologist, his research focusses on manuscript culture and the history of science in Ancient China.




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