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

January 24, 2018

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.

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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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China’s long history with Astronomy: Part 1 of 2

January 23, 2018

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

Oracle bones from the Shang Dynasty recorded eclipses and as many as 90 novae (exploding stars).

For about two thousand years, the Chinese used the North Star (which stays constant). The Chinese used that star to map the location of every other star 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 early 1980s, a tomb was found at Xi Shui Po (西水坡) in Pu Yang, Henan Province. There were some clamshells and bones forming the images of the Azure Dragon, the White Tiger and the Northern Dipper. It is believed that this tomb belongs to the Neolithic Age, about 6,000 years ago.

Star names relating to the 28 lunar mansions was found on oracle bones dating back to the Wuding Period (about 3,200 years ago).

Continued in Part 2 on January 24, 2018

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.

Where to Buy

Subscribe to my newsletter to hear about new releases and get a free copy of my award-winning, historical fiction short story “A Night at the Well of Purity”.

About iLook China