China’s History with the Night Sky: Part 1 of 2

For thousands of years, Chinese astronomers studied the stars and planets moving in their endless repeating paths across the night sky.

The Oracle bones from the Shang Dynasty (1766 – 1122 B.C.) recorded eclipses and as many as ninety supernovas, a star that suddenly increases greatly in brightness because of a catastrophic explosion that ejects most of its mass.

For about two thousand years, the Chinese used the constant North Star to map the location of all the other stars in the sky.

This method of mapping stars is called the equatorial system. The West would not use this method to map the heavens for almost two thousand years after the Chinese invented it.

In the early 1980s, a tomb was found at Xi Shui Po (西水坡) in Pu Yang, Henan Province where clamshells and bones were found that formed the images of the Azure Dragon, the White Tiger, and the Northern Dipper. It is believed that this tomb belonged to the Neolithic Age about 6,000 years ago.

Star names relating to Chinese astrology’s 28 Mansions of the Lunar Calendar were found on oracle bones dating back to the Wuding Period about 3,200 years ago. “Since ancient times, while classical Chinese astrology, based on the observation and movement of stars, sun, comets, moon and planets, was the exclusive privilege of the emperor, many alternative systems were consequently developed that were not based on the direct observation of the sky. Their basic principles rely mainly on numerology in association with the calendar.”

Continued in Part 2 on August 9, 2017

Discover China’s First Emperor Qin Shi Huangdi, the man that unified China more than 2,000 years ago.

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine, Crazy is Normal, Running with the Enemy, and The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova.

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2 Responses to China’s History with the Night Sky: Part 1 of 2

  1. Great historical piece! I didn’t realize stargazing during china’s Neolithic era was so advanced. Looking forward to part 2.

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