chinese astronomy constellations

chinese astronomy constellations插图

Chinese constellationsChinese constellationsTraditional Chinese astronomy has a system of dividing the celestial sphere into asterisms or constellations, known as officials. The Chinese asterisms are generally smaller than the constellations of Hellenistic tradition. The Song dynasty Suzhou planisphere shows a total of 28… 星官, xīngguān) are the groupings used in traditional Chinese culture to organize the stars. They are very different from the modern IAU-recognized constellations based on Greco-Roman astronomy: the only major similarities are clusters similar to theBig Dipper and Orion.

What is the significance of the ancient Chinese constellations?

Ancient Chinese constella- tions were rooted in a strong belief of harmony among the heaven, the Earth and human beings. By studying the stories behind the the names of the stars, one learns ancient Chinese astronomy and also Chinese history and philosophy as well. References

How did ancient Chinese astronomers name the stars?

Ancient Chinese astronomers observed the stars, named and distributed them into constellations in a very speci?c way, which is quite di?erent from the current one. Around the Zodiac, stars are divided into four big regions corresponding with the four orientations, and

How many constellations are there in the Chinese sky?

The rest of the sky contains the equatorial constellations grouped in the four directions, each associated with an animal and a colour. In addition, Chinese astronomers identified twenty-eight segments in the sky known as mansions or lunar lodges and called xiu 宿 in Chinese.

What are the Stars in Chinese zodiac?

Zodiac, stars are divided into four big regions corresponding with the four orientations, and each is related to a totem, either the Azure Dragon, the Vermilion Bird, the White Tiger or the Murky Warrior. We present a general pattern of the ancient Chinese constellations, including the four totems, their stars and their names.

What were the efforts made with the discovery of instruments to list the stars?

Efforts were made with the discovery of instruments to list the stars, to measure distances and angles and to find out about the happening and recurrence of phenomena, not just scientifically but in relation to man and to the wonders of reality: Chang Heng continues:

Why is the moon dark?

Thus the moon’s brightness is produced from the radiance of the sun, and the moon’s darkness (pho) is due to (the light of) the sun being obstructed (pi). The side which faces the sun is fully lit, and the side which is away from it is dark. The planets (as well as the moon) have the nature of water and reflect light.

How many stars are there in the North and South of the Equator?

North and south of the equator there are 124 groups which are always brightly shining. 320 stars can be named (individually). There are in all 2500, not including those which the sailors observe. Of the very small stars there are 11,520. All have their indulgences on fate.

What did the early Chinese sages do?

The early Chinese sages were fascinated to "look upward and contemplate the signs in the heavens." "They surveyed all the confused diversities under haven. …/… They contemplated the way in which all the movements under heaven met and became interrelated, taking their course according to eternal laws."

Why did the Jesuits succeed in astronomy?

The success of the Jesuits in astronomy in their work in China was due partly to some advance of the European Renaissance but also to a certain weakening of Chinese knowledge in astronomy at that time while in earlier periods the Chinese had made remarkable discoveries.

How many mansions were there in the Northern Dipper?

The divisions of the sky began with the Northern Dipper and the 28 mansions.

What is the history of astronomy in China?

Astronomy in China has a very long history. Oracle bones from the Shang Dynasty (second millennium B.C.E.) record eclipses and novae. Detailed records of astronomical observations were kept from about the sixth century B.C.E. until the introduction of Western astronomy and the telescope in the sixteenth century. The practice of astronomy in China was fundamentally changed by extended contact with Western astronomy. Today, China continues to be active in astronomy, with many observatories and its own space program.

How many pulsars are there in the Milky Way?

Astronomers using FAST have newly identified around 300 pulsars so far and want to use it to find the first pulsar outside the Milky Way. FAST will also be used for sky surveys, to search for exoplanets with magnetic fields, and to map gas clouds between stars.

What is the name of the space station that the CNSA is launching?

Following its achievement in becoming the second country to deploy a rover on the Red Planet, the CNSA is also on the cusp of launching a modular crewed space station, the ‘Tiangong’ (‘Heaven’s Palace’).

How many asterisms are there in China?

China’s star lore divides the sky into four groups of 283 asterisms (‘xing guan’). Three of the groups are ‘enclosures’ of stars close to Polaris (Alpha ( α) Ursae Minoris).

What is the Chinese belief that a solar eclipse occurs when a dragon eats the Sun?

What you may not know is that Chinese astronomers were the first to make a reliable recording of a total solar eclipse (780 BC) and the passing of Halley’s Comet (239 BC).

When did Chinese astronomers see a new star?

It was in this ‘White Tiger of the West’ region of the night sky that, in AD 1054 , Chinese astronomers saw a new and very bright star.

How many symbols are in the fourth group?

The fourth group comprises the ‘Twenty-Eight Mansions’ (groups of stars) that are themselves divided into four groups of seven symbols.

What is the enclosure of Polaris?

Surrounding Polaris are the ‘Purple Forbidden enclosure’ (which includes Ursa Minor), the ‘Supreme Palace enclosure ’ (including Virgo, Coma Berenices and Leo) and the ‘Heavenly Market enclosure’ (with Serpens, Ophiuchus, Aquila and Corona Borealis).

Imperial Order

The Western system used Greek legends for naming the constellations, there is no overall organization for the stars, although some constellations have linked origins such as Pegasus, Perseus and Andromeda. By contrast, China developed an impressively consistent scheme.

Chinese Planets

To the Chinese the planets do not hold as much importance as the stars and they are named with the five Chinese elements: Mars with fire 火 星 ‘fire star’; Jupiter with wood 木 星; Venus with metal 金 星; Mercury with water 水 星 and Saturn with earth 土 星.

Ancient Observations

It was the famous scientist Laplace ? who said “ Of all the ancient peoples, the Chinese have the most ancient records of the science of astronomy ”.

Birth stars

Celestial Buddhas and Deities of the Northern, Western, and Central Dipper Constellations. c.1500CE. Image by LACMA ? available under a Creative Commons License ?

The Chinese Days of the Month or Mansions

The twenty-eight mansions of the Chinese astronomy. May 2008. Image by Mysid ? available under a Creative Commons License ?

How did Chinese astronomers measure time?

If they were wrong in their predictions, then they were often beheaded! To measure time, the Chinese divided the sky into 12 branches and 10 stems arranged around the ecliptic, to give a 60-year cycle . This particular system is believed to have been implemented by Emperor Huang Ti, whose reign began in about 2607 BCE. It is also stated that he built a great observatory and planetarium to help with accurate observations, although this is largely built upon tradition rather than hard evidence. In order to mark the passage of time and the seasons, the Chinese primarily used the orientation of the Big Dipper constellation relative to the pole star in early evening.

Why are Chinese astronomers so important?

The Chinese astronomers have often been looked over in favor of the Greek, Indian, and Islamic contributions to the field, mainly because they use such different methods from the Eurocentric world. Their work tended to be more concerned with refining their observations and making ever more accurate measurements than developing theories but, in that respect, they were one of the leading ancient cultures.

Why did the Emperors use astronomers?

Astronomy was very much a royal preserve, and emperors directly employed astronomers to chart the heavens and record phenomena, their main purpose being to record time accurately, something that they started to do with great accuracy.

What was the job of astrologers?

Unlike other cultures charting the stars at this period, astrologers were separate from astronomers and their job was to interpret occurrences and omens portended in the sky. As the astronomers began to chart regular events, such as lunar eclipses, these were removed from the realm of astrologers, who Emperors consulted before every major decision.

What is ancient Chinese astronomy?

Chinese astronomy is fascinating in that it developed largely clear of the Indo-European sphere and developed its own particular methods and nuances.

How many branches are there in the Chinese sky?

To measure time, the Chinese divided the sky into 12 branches and 10 stems arranged around the ecliptic, to give a 60-year cycle. This particular system is believed to have been implemented by Emperor Huang Ti, whose reign began in about 2607 BCE.

What were the Chinese’s astronomical observations?

The Chinese were meticulous in recording other astronomical phenomena, such as comets, sunspots, novas, and solar flares, long before any other culture made any such observations. They attempted to catalog every single star, defining their constellations by one major star, called the king, and surrounding it with princes.

How many mansions are there in the ecliptic?

Every Symbol contains seven mansions, and each mansion consists of a few stars. These mansions around the Ecliptic and Equator formed the Twenty-eight Lunar Mansions. The Earliest Artifact (Lacquer Suitcase) with the Entire Twenty-eight Lunar Mansions’ names, Unearthed from Tomb of Marquis Yi of Zeng (about 477 BC — 433 BC) — Hubei Museum.

What are the symbols of the Lunar Mansions?

Surrounding Ecliptic and the Equator, The Twenty-eight Lunar Mansions are divided into four groups that lead by Four Mythical Symbols: Azure Dragon of the East, Black Tortoise of the North, White Tiger of the West, and Vermilion Bird of the South.

What does the shaking of stars in this enclosure predict?

The shaking of stars in this enclosure predicts upcoming rebellions of correlated officials or nobles.

What does it mean when a group of stars are gloomy?

If certain groups of stars are gloomy, it means that the correlated people or the emperor are incapable, and need to improve or be replaced. Meteor indicates the upcoming departure of the corresponding person. If all stars in this enclosure are dark, war or disaster would be happening.

What is the name of the area that the Seven Celestials stay in during their movements?

Every group covers an area that is considered as a coordinate, or "mansion" that the Seven Celestials "stay" in during their movements.

What is the purple enclosure?

To correspond to the Purple Forbidden Enclosure, Chinese emperors built their royal palaces and named them after this enclosure, such as the Forbidden City in Beijing. Meanwhile, in ancient Chinese Astrology, the star phenomena of the Purple Forbidden Enclosure are the significant harbingers of the emperor’s reign.

What are the seven celestial beings?

In ancient China, people observed that seven celestial beings are bright and extremely influential: Sun, Moon, Venus, Jupiter, Mercury, Mars, and Saturn.

How many segments of the sky are there?

In addition, Chinese astronomers identified twenty-eight segments in the sky known as mansions or lunar lodges and called xiu 宿 in Chinese. The exact origin of the mansions is not known.

How often does Halley’s comet appear?

Halley’s comet appears in the sky every seventy to seventy-five years, so very few people see it more than once in their lifetime. Over time, Chinese astronomers recorded every instance of Halley’s comet from 3000 years ago, the only civilisation in the world to have done so.

How many directions are there in the Chinese constellations?

Looking at the map of the sky in the section above, we can see how the Chinese constellations are grouped into four directions, and also fall within one of the twenty-eight segmental divisions known as ‘mansions’ or lunar lodges. The most important Chinese constellations are situated very approximately along the celestial equator within the twenty-eight mansions and are seen highlighted in yellow. Although some of these constellations correlate loosely in appearance to groupings recognised in Europe, largely the patterns are quite different, as comparison with these western star maps will show.

What are the five regions of the Chinese sky?

The Chinese sky was divided into five great regions or palaces called gong 宫 . These were equated with the directions north, south, east and west and also with a middle region. The middle region was the most important as it housed among its stars the celestial image of the emperor surrounded by his family and civil and military officials. This part of the sky has constellations such as ‘the prince’, ‘the concubine’, and ‘the throne’ and is a reflection of life on earth.

How many cardinal points are there in China?

On a Chinese star map each of the four directions contains seven of the twenty-eight mansions and together with the central region of the sky, synonymous with the emperor, and therefore China itself, these regions make up what are known as the five cardinal points. It is important to note that these four animals are entirely unrelated to the twelve animals of the Chinese zodiac but they do have their own important associations and properties:

Why were people so wary of eclipses?

The superstitious belief that linked events on earth to those in the heavens made people very wary of events in the sky. Solar eclipses in particular were regarded with fear, and a common belief was that these occurred because a great dragon was attempting to devour the sun. The forewarning of such an event was therefore imperative so people could gather to shout, strike gongs, and scare away the dragon. Over generations of observation, astronomers discovered a relationship we now know as the Saros cycle, a cycle in which sun, moon and earth are aligned in a particular way approximately every 18 years, 11.3 days. This enabled them to predict solar and lunar eclipses with some accuracy but it was not an infallible system. In 2136 BC there was an unpredicted eclipse. Documentation about this event dates it as the earliest recorded eclipse in history but it also tells us about the fate of the court astronomers Xi 羲 and He 和 who failed to predict it in advance. Given the belief that such celestial events reflected events on earth and should be predicted by the emperor, complete accuracy was expected of court astronomers, and failure meant only one fate – execution.

What was the role of the astronomer in the emperor?

It contained predictions of major events in the sky, which affirmed the emperor’s divine link to the heavens and ultimate power. Royal astronomers were in a difficult position. If they failed to predict an event like an eclipse then the emperor’s power might appear diminished and political rivals could take it as an opportunity to rebel. When dynasties fell, it was therefore believed that Heaven had directly intervened to give the responsibility of rule – or mandate – to a more worthy line. The job of royal astronomer therefore carried both huge responsibility for informing important political decisions, and severe penalties for mistakes.

Early history

One of the main functions was for the purpose of timekeeping. The Chinese used a lunisolar calendar, but, because the cycles of the Sun and the Moon are different, intercalation had to be done.


The divisions of the sky began with the Northern Dipper and the 28 mansions.

Star catalogues and maps

In the fourth century BCE, the two Chinese astronomers responsible for the earliest information going into the star catalogues were Shi Shen and Gan De of the Warring States period.

Solar and lunar eclipses

Chinese astronomers recorded 1,600 observations of solar and lunar eclipses from 750 BCE. The ancient Chinese astronomer Shi Shen (fl. fourth century BCE) was aware of the relation of the moon in a solar eclipse, as he provided instructions in his writing to predict them by using the relative positions of the Moon and the Sun.

Equipment and innovation

The earliest development of the armillary sphere in China goes back to the 1st century BCE, as they were equipped with a primitive single-ring armillary instrument.

Foreign influences

Buddhism first reached China during the Eastern Han Dynasty, and translation of Indian works on astronomy came to China by the Three Kingdoms era (220–265 CE).

Astronomy during Ming China

The Ming Dynasty in China lasted from 1368 until 1644 and experienced a decrease in astronomical expansion. The occupation of astronomer during these times relied less on discovery and more on the use of astronomy. Astronomers worked in the two Astronomical Bureaus, both of which underwent many changes throughout the years since their formation.