An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History, Literature and Art

Lixiang kaocheng 曆象考成

Oct 7, 2013 © Ulrich Theobald

The book (Yuzhi) Lixiang kaocheng (御製)曆象考成 is part of a collection called (Qinding) Lüli yuanyuan (御定)律曆淵源 "(Imperially endorsed) Origins and foundations of musical tuning, calculation, and the calendar". It consists of three treatises on astronomy, mathematics, and music that assemble Chinese and Western knowledge in these three fields. It was compiled on imperial order during the Kangxi reign-period 康熙 (1662-1722) under the supervision of Prince Yūnlu (Ch. Yunlu 允禄, 1695-1767). The main compilers were He Guozong 何國宗 (d. 1767) and Mei Gucheng 梅谷成.

The emperor aimed to have this book compiled was that he had become aware that the Jesuit missionaries who worked as astronomers at the imperial court brought with them knowledge that covered issued which Chinese scientists had never asked about. The concrete occasion was that the Directorate of Astronomy (qintianjian 欽天監) had made an error in the calculation of the solar term Xiazhi 夏至 (see calendar). The Kangxi Emperor therefore ordered the Director of Astronomy to make use of Western calculation methods that "did not fail in any salient point" (da dun bu wu 大端不誤).

The work at the collection was begun in 1713 and finished in 1722. It was printed by the imperial printing shop in 1724. The whole collection has a length fo 100 juan and consists of the parts Lixiang kaocheng 曆象考成 (42 juan), Lülü zhengyi 律呂正義 (5 juan), and Shuli jingyun 數理精蘊 (53 juan).

The Lixiang kaocheng consists of two parts (bian 編) and an appendix with tables with a length of 16 juan. The first part serves as an overview begins with a general discussion on the principles of the calendar, and then explains individual themes like celestial phenomena, the conditions of the earth, the calendar, the ecliptic, the celestial equator, the system of celestial coordinates and the precession.

The second part informs about the calculation of the movement of celestial bodies and the time, like the path of the sun, calendric calculation by the moon phases, lunar eclipses, methods to predict solar eclipses and calendric calculation by the movements of the five planets and the position of the starry constellations.

The Lixiang kaocheng is a concise book on all important matters of calculation of time as based on the movements of the planets and the stars. In this shape it assembles modern knowledge from both Chinese tradition and Western expertise, as transmitted by Jesuit astronomers, but only in a practical way, and it wholly neglects theoretical discussions about the solar system. The calculations are mainly based on Tycho Brahe's (1545-1601) solar system, and therefore somewhat outdated. For this reason the Qianlong Emperor 乾隆帝 (r. 1735-1796) had the 10 juan long treatise Lixiang kaocheng houbian 曆象考成後編 compiled that fills some gaps in the collection.

Fu Banghong 付邦紅, Shi Yunli 石雲里 (2001). "Chongzhen lishu he Lixiang kaocheng houbian zhong suo shu de mengqi cha xiuzheng wenti 《崇禎歷書》和《歷象考成後編》中所述的蒙氣差修正問題", Zhongguo keji shiliao 中國科技史料, 2001 (9).
Lu Dalong 魯大龍 (2003). "Lixiang kaocheng houbian de junshu he tuiri chanfa 《歷象考成後編》的“均數”和“推日躔法”", Zhongguo keji shiliao 中國科技史料, 2003 (9).
Ōhashi Yukio 大橋由紀夫 (2007). "Lixiang kaocheng zhong de taiyang yundong lun 《歷象考成》中的太陽運動論", Neimenggu Shifan Daxue xuebao (Ziran kexue Hanwen ban) 内蒙古師範大學學報(自然科學漢文版), 2007 (11).
Su Yunli石雲里 (2003). "Lixiang kaocheng houbian zhong de zhongxin cha qiufa ji qi riyue lilun de zongli jingdu: Jinian Bo Shuren xiansheng shishi wu zhou nian 《歷象考成後編》中的中心差求法及其日月理論的總體精度—紀念薄樹人先生逝世五周年", Zhongguo keji shiliao 中國科技史料, 2003 (6).
Wang Guangchao 王廣超 (2013). "Lixiang kaocheng zhong de richan moxing 《歷象考成》中的日躔模型", Ziran kexue shi yanjiu 自然科學史研究, 2013 (12).
Wu Boya 吳伯婭 (2002). "Kangxi yu Lüli yuanyuan de bianzuan 康熙與《律歷淵源》的編纂", Gugong Bowuyuan yuankan 故宮博物院院刊, 2002 (8).