China’s long history with Astronomy: Part 2 of 2

Chinese astronomers named the constellations long before anyone in the west did. For instance, the Big Dipper was called The Plow. The North Star was Bei Ji. Another constellation was called the Winnowing Basket.

From the 16th century B.C. to the end of the 19th Century A.D., almost every (Chinese) dynasty appointed officials who were charged with the sole task of observing and recording the changes in the heavens.

However, the Chinese were not alone in mapping the heavens.

Ancient cultures in the West studied the skies too. The “Nebra Sky Disc”, discovered in Europe, dates to about 1,600 BC.

National Geographic says the Nebra Sky Disc is the oldest depiction of the night sky.  It is a hundred years older than the oldest images found in ancient Egypt.

The Nebra Sky Disc may be the first representation of the universe in human history.

But in China about 4,000 years ago, the oldest astronomical instrument known to man appeared. It was merely a bamboo pole planted in the ground so that the movement of the sun could be observed from the direction and length of the shadow of the pole.

The Chinese were the most persistent and accurate observers of celestial phenomena.

Return to or Start with Part 1

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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