Chinese Astronomy In Ming Dynasty

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Haoshen Hong
Melissa Vipperman-Cohen
MMW 13, Section B17
Writing Assignment 3
The stagnation of Chinese astronomy in Ming Dynasty
Long ago, people began to observe the sky and astronomical objects to make predictions and modify calendars. Until early Ming Dynasty, China was way more developed in astronomy than that of European countries’. Gaocheng Astronomical Observatory was built in 1279 in China that enabled astronomers to calculate the accurate time of one year that was 300 years ahead of European scholars working it out (K.G 37). However, in the 18th century, Chinese star catalog was “relying on European data and the ephemerides were calculated on the basis of Newtonian theory” (Renn 283). Besides the failure to compute data …show more content…

As Emperor Hongwu ascended the throne, he enacted laws and decrees to consolidate his power and prevent possible rebellion. Firstly, laws were made against private study of heaven. As Lu says, “‘learning astronomy was strictly forbidden’ is truly fearful” to the ordinary people (51). This practice prevented the spread of opposite astronomic prediction to Hongwu’s reign and further possible disturbance. Secondly, Directorate of Astronomy was established and supported to conduct astronomy research and calendar revision. With imperial favor, the central-controlled bureaucratic institution made some astonishing achievement during early Ming Dynasty. Besides Gaocheng Astronomical Observatory, astronomical observatories were built on Chi-ming-shan and Nanking, which helped them to find out the relationship between day time and latitude (Peng-Yoke …show more content…

China missed its golden time to compete with European countries in terms of astronomy because of emperors’ short sight and Astronomy Bureau’s dereliction. A current historian Joseph Needham raised a famous question: why China had been overtaken by the West in science and technology, despite its earlier success? There could be an answer to this question in terms of astronomy: the backwardness might be caused by the emperor’s lack-of-foresight decisions and government bureau’s hereditary

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