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A mation about the Chinese we rely upon the researches of travellers and missionaries in comparatively recent times. The testimony of the Greek writers has fortunately been confirmed, and we now have in addition a mass of facts translated from the original sculptures, papyri, and inscribed bricks, dating back thousands of years. In attempting to appraise the efforts of the beginners we must remember that it was natural to look upon the earth (as all the first astronomers did) as a circular plane, surrounded and bounded by the heaven, which was a solid vault, or hemisphere, with its concavity turned downwards. The stars seemed to be fixed on this vault; the moon, and later the planets, were seen to crawl over it. It was a great step to look on the vault as a hollow sphere carrying the sun too. It must have been difficult to believe that at midday the stars are shining as brightly in the blue sky as they do at night. It must have been difficult to explain how the sun, having set in the west, could get back to rise in the east without being seen if it was always the same sun. It was a great step to suppose the earth to be spherical, and to ascribe the diurnal motions to its rotation. Probably the greatest step ever made in astronomical theory was the placing of the sun, moon, and planets at different distances from the earth instead of having them stuck on the vault of heaven. It was a transition from “flatland ” to a space of three dimensions. Great progress was made when systematic observations began, such as following the motion of the moon and planets among the stars, and the inferred motion of the sun among the stars, by observing their heliacal risings i.e., the times of year when a star would first be seen to rise at sunrise, and when it could last be seen to rise at sunset. The grouping of the stars into constellations and recording their places was a useful observation. The theoretical prediction of eclipses of the sun and moon, and of the motions of the planets among the stars, became later the highest goal in astronomy. To not one of the above important steps in the progress of astronomy can we assign the author with certainty. Probably many of them were independently taken by Chinese, Indian, Persian, Tartar, Egyptian, Babylonian, Assyrian, Phoenician, and Greek astronomers. And we have not a particle of information about the discoveries, which may have been great, by other peoples — by the Druids, the Mexicans, and the Peruvians, for example. We do know this, that all nations required to have a calendar. The solar year, the lunar month, and the day were the units, and it is owing to their incommensurability that we find so many calendars proposed and in use at different times. The only object to be attained by comparing the chronologies of ancient races is to fix the actual dates of observations recorded, and this is not a part of a history of astronomy. In conclusion, let us bear in mind the limited point of view of the ancients when we try to estimate their merit. Let us remember that the first astronomy was of two dimensions; the second astronomy was of three dimensions, but still purely geometrical. Since Kepler's day we have had a dynamical astronomy.


The last section must have made clear the difficulties in the way of assigning to the ancient nations their proper place in the development of primitive notions about astronomy. The fact that some alleged observations date back to a period before the Chinese had invented the art of writing leads immediately to the question how far tradition can be trusted.

Our first detailed knowledge was gathered in the far East by travellers, and by the Jesuit priests, and was published in the eighteenth century. The Asiatic Society of Bengal contributed translations of Brahmin literature. The two principal sources of knowledge about Chinese astronomy were supplied, first by Father Souciet, who, in 1729 published Observations Astronomical, Geographical, Chronological, and Physical, drawn from ancient Chinese books; and later by Father Moyriac-de-Mailla, who in 1777–1785 published Annals of the Chinese Empire, translated from Tong-Kien-Kang-Mou. Bailly, in his Astronomie Ancienne (1781), drew, from these and other sources, the conclusion that all we know of the astronomical learning of the Chinese, Indians, Chaldaeans, Assyrians, and Egyptians is but the remnant of a far more complete astronomy of which no trace can be found. Delambre, in his Histoire de l'Astronomie Ancienne (1817), ridicules the opinion of Bailly, and considers that the progress made by all of these nations is insignificant. It will be well now to give an idea of some of the astronomy of the ancients not yet entirely discredited. China and Babylon may be taken as typical examples. China. – It would appear that Fohi, the first emperor, reigned about 2952 B.C., and shortly afterwards Yu-Chi made a sphere to represent the motions of the celestial bodies. It is also mentioned, in the book called Chu-King, supposed to have been written in 2205 B.C., that a similar sphere was made in the time of Yao (2357 B.c.)." It is said that the Emperor Chueni (2513 B.C.) saw five planets in conjunction the same day that the sun and moon were in conjunction. This is discussed by Father Martin (MSS. of De Lisle); also by M. Desvignolles (Mem. Acad. Berlin, vol. iii., p. 193), and by M. Kirsch (ditto, vol. v., p. 19), who both found that Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, and Mercury were all between the eleventh and eighteenth degrees of Pisces, all visible together in the evening on February 28th, 24.46 B.c., while on the same day the sun and moon were in conjunction at 9 a.m., and that on March 1st the moon was in conjunction with the other four planets. But this needs confirmation.

* These ancient dates are uncertain.

Yao, referred to above, gave instructions to his astronomers to determine the positions of the solstices and equinoxes, and they reported the names of the stars in the places occupied by the sun at these seasons, and in 2285 B.C. he gave them further orders. If this account be true, it shows a knowledge that the vault of heaven is a complete sphere, and that stars are shining at mid-day, although eclipsed by the sun's brightneSS.

It is also asserted, in the book called Chu-King, that in the time of Yao the year was known to have 3654 days, and that he adopted 365 days and added an intercalary day every four years (as in the Julian Calendar). This may be true or not, but the ancient Chinese certainly seem

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