Astronomy and Calendars : The Other Chinese Mathematics: 104 BC – AD 1644

Martzloff, Jean-Claude. Astronomy and calendars : the other Chinese mathematics : 104 BC – AD 1644. Berlin ; Heidelberg : Springer, 2016. 413 p. ISBN : ISBN 978-3-662-49717-3. Titre original : Le calendrier chinois : structure et calculs : 104 av. J.-C. – 1644 (Paris, Honoré Champion, 2009). Ouvrage couronné en 2010 du prix Ikuo Hirayama, Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres.

astronomy-and-calendars-the-other-chinese-mathematics-2016.jpg.pagespeed.ic.23H-JNkBwCPresented from the viewpoint of the history of mathematics, this book explores both epistemological aspects of Chinese traditional mathematical astronomy, namely its connections with ideas from non-Chinese cultural areas and lunisolar calendrical calculations. The following issues are addressed: (1) connections with non-Chinese cultural areas; (2) the possibility or impossibility of using mathematics to predict astronomical phenomena, a question that was constantly raised by the Chinese from antiquity through medieval times; (3) the modes of representation of numbers, and in particular the zero, found in the context of Chinese calendrical calculations; and (4) a detailed analysis of lunisolar calendrical calculations. Fully worked-out examples and comparisons between the results of calculations and the content of Chinese historical calendars from various periods are provided.

Traditional Chinese calendrical and mathematical astronomy consists of permanently reformed mathematical procedures designed to predict, but not explain, phenomena pertaining to astronomy and related areas. Yet, despite appearances, models of the mathematical techniques hidden behind this voluminous corpus reveal that they depend on a limited number of clear-cut mathematical structures. Although only a small fraction of these techniques have been fully studied, what is known surprisingly broadens our knowledge of the history of Chinese mathematics.

Sinologists interested in the history of Chinese science, and anyone interested in the history of Chinese mathematics, the Chinese calendar, and the history of Chinese mathematical astronomy from its origin (104 BC) to its European reform (AD 1644) will find this book very useful. The present English language edition is a fully revised and updated version of the French original. Even though this is a research monograph in sinology, no particular sinological background is required, although a basic understanding of ‘concrete mathematics’ is needed.

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Monique Abud

Centre d'études sur la Chine moderne et contemporaine, EHESS, Paris, France

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