From Scientific Understanding to Ideological Fantasy: Chinese Image of Arabic Astronomy in the 16th to 17th Centuries

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Abstract Summary
During the Hongwu Reign (1368-1398) of the Ming Dynasty, a set of Zij was translated into Chinese under the Chinese title Huihui lifa (Chinese-Islamic System of Calendrical Astronomy). This paper will try to show how the Zij was looked upon and understood by Chinese astronomers thereafter. In view that the Zij contained some astronomical techniques that Chinese astronomy did not cover, Chinese astronomers kept a high opinion on Islamic astronomy at first. When the Datong li was found inaccurate, some of them even attempted to understand the scientific principles of the Zij in order to seek the inspiration for a calendar reform. With very little knowledge about the underlying astronomical theories of the Zij, however, their explanations and discussions of the Zij are full of misunderstandings and mistakes. A systematic introduction of European astronomy into China in the 1630s to 1640s brought about a correct understanding of the scientific principles of the Zij, but due to the lack of the knowledge about the cultural background for its development, an earlier imagination about its origin was activated and evolved into a cultural fantasy concerning the origin and dissemination of Indian, Islamic and European astronomy and religions.
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Chronological Classification :
Chinese Dynasties/Centuries
Self-Designated Keywords :
Transcultural Dissemination of Scientific Knowledge, Arabic Astronomy, Chinese Astronomy, Science and Ideology

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