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a Dates uncertain for first four entries.

b This is the pinyin romanization, used by the People's Republic (and adopted by the New York Times in 1979);in the Wade-Giles romanization, used in English-speaking countries since the 19th century, it is "Pei-ching," although "Peking" has been more generally used. The correct pronunciation is approximated by "Bay-jing." Where the romanizations differ for dynasty names, the Wade-Giles version is in parenthesis. c End of imperial rule.

a Dates uncertain for first four entries.

b This is the pinyin romanization, used by the People's Republic (and adopted by the New York Times in 1979);in the Wade-Giles romanization, used in English-speaking countries since the 19th century, it is "Pei-ching," although "Peking" has been more generally used. The correct pronunciation is approximated by "Bay-jing." Where the romanizations differ for dynasty names, the Wade-Giles version is in parenthesis. c End of imperial rule.

canon, 1983) maintains that the "only correct match" of the alleged conditions of the eclipse is with an eclipse of 16 October 1876 b.c. (J.D. 1036503), which was said to be a keng-xu date (day 47) of the sexagenary cycle (discussed later).

Alleged occurrences of severe floods that "assail the heavens" during the reign of the legendary king Yao provide another motive to study astronomy because flood prediction requires good calendrical and tidal information. Yao was credited in Chinese belief with creating a canal system to drain away the waters of a tremendous flood. Finally, as in the west, astrological implications of occurrences in the heavens became very important for state security.

We have no direct information on the Xia (Hsia) dynasty astronomy, but Pankenier (1984; 1994, p. 9) and Pang and Bangert (1993, p. 13) have drawn attention to a loose conjunction of all naked-eye planets and the Moon in the dawn sky in Pegasus on March 3,1953 b.c. Julian (Feb. 13 Gregorian). These may have marked a new calendar version and justified the beginning of the Xia dynasty. According to Han dynastic records, an ancient calendar known as the Zhuanxu is said to have begun with a gathering of all seven planets (Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn) in the constellation Yingshi at dawn on a day in early spring. Pang emphasizes that the conjunction could not have been calculated as being in Yingshi because precession was not known, even if the planetary parameters were accurate enough to backcalculate a conjunction. Moreover, the date does not correspond to traditional Xia dates. The constellation Yingshi is identified as the Great Square in Pegasus and Andromeda (Schlegel 1875/1967, pp. 275-285), and it corresponds to the 13th and 14th lunar mansions. The associated animals in the 28-animal list were the Boar4 and Porcupine. Curiously, the animal of the Xia dynasty was said to be the Boar, although there is little evidence that this association is ancient. Yingshi was also known as the Palace of Darkness, as the Ancestral Temple, and as the Four Supports of Heaven. It was said that the culmination of Yingshi (presumably at midnight) was the time for building palaces. This corresponded to the 10th month of the year of the Xia dynasty, defined astronomically by the pointing of the handle of the Big Dipper,5 (Beidou). According to Schlegel, this began to be true in the 20th century b.c. Yingshi was the "home" of the "Imperial Star," Saturn, identified particularly with the "Yellow Emperor," and of the "Year Star," Jupiter. The conjunction date March 3 Julian (although a tighter conjunction occurred on Feb. 26 Julian = Feb. 8 Gregorian) would probably have fallen in very early spring6 in the Chinese calendar. These facts suggest a genuine tradition associating the calculated date and the Xia dynasty. Krupp (1995, pp. 60-61) describes possible associations. If the tradition correctly preserved an account of this mass conjunc

4 In India, the boar was the avatar (incarnation, epiphany) first of Brahma, and later of Vishnu.

5 Referred to as the "Northern Dipper" and equated to the "Great Bear" by Needham (1959, cf., especially, Fig. 90 on p. 241 and his index entry for "Northern Dipper").

6 The Chinese seasons did not begin at the equinoxes and solstices but effectively spanned them. The popular western usage of "midsummer's eve," which refers to a celebration of summer solstice corresponds more closely to the Chinese usage. The Chinese Spring in Xia times similarly began well before the equinox.

Tatto Kompassros
Figure 10.1. Pairings of the xius according to the calculations of Saussure (1930): The sizes are said to match best around the equator of ~24th century b.c. Drawing by Sharon Hanna.

tion, then the plausibility of a real eclipse underlying the story of Hsi and Ho is somewhat increased.

The astronomical evidence from the Shang oracle bones can best be understood after a consideration of structural features in later calendrical and astronomical data, which may suggest an origin in Shang times or earlier. Of these, changes due to the effects of precession predominate. First, there are a series of names that seem to identify various stars as former pole stars ("Celestial Emperor," "Crown Prince," "Celestial Pivot", etc.). Next, there are texts discussing the technique used to find the pole. Shen Kua (>1068) built a series of sighting tubes of increasing diameter, with which he established over a three-month interval that the pole star at the time was 3° from the pole (Needham 1959, p. 262). Needham (1959, pp. 259-260) identifies a number of possible pole stars in use in China; according to his designations, i Dra, either 42 or 184 Dra, b UMi (~1000 b.c.), gUMi, a3233 UMi, and b3162 UMi, and 4339 Cam (during the Han). See Figures 3.9 and 3.10a. A structurally valid beginning point for the list is ~3000 b.c., which would precede both the Xia and Shang dynasties. Evidence for Early Use of the Lunar Mansions

Precession is also important in attempting to date the system of the xiu (hsiu in the Wade-Giles transcription), traditionally "lunar mansions," and now often translated as "lunar lodges," the 28 asterisms that define the 28 regions of the sky.

Although first attested as a complete list in 433 b.c., all structural features indicate a much earlier origin. The system was used to measure divisions along the equator, and the equa-torially projected widths of the individual xius vary at the present time from as little as 2° to as much as 33°. Because they are equatorial measurements relative to particular stars, they are constantly changing with precession. The earliest direct evidence for the irregular sizes of the xius is an inscribed lacquered disk from 169 b.c. There was a tendency for approximate pairing of the size of xius on opposite sides of the sky that would have been helpful in observations near sunrise and sunset. There was also a link between stars near the equator and circumpolar stars, and this was used as a guide for locating stars hidden by the local horizon. All of these factors change with precession. The sizes of the pairings of the xius best match the equator of ~24th century b.c. according to the calculations of Saussure (1930); see Figure 10.1.

Needham (1967, p. 249) cites work by the Chinese astronomer Chu Kho-Chen that the best fit of lunar mansions with a celestial equator occurred for the interval 2300 to 4300 b.c., which, however, Needham doubts on archeo-logical and literary grounds.7 Needham discusses changes in the ordering of the xiu and points out that Vega, which

7 Later archeological evidence makes this date seem more plausible, even in China, than it did to Needham. Certainly, it would be entirely reasonable if the Chinese system derived from India, as DHK thinks.

Figure 10.2. Elimination of Vega, the Weaving Maiden, from the xius because of precession. Drawing by Sharon Hanna.

apparently was once the determining star of xiu 10, changed its position relative to the equator to the extent that the entire xiu was eliminated and had to be redefined with differing stars.

Walters (1992, pp. 99-103) points out that the Weaving Maiden is Vega and her lover, the Ox-herd, is Altair (a Aql), but that Altair is never included in xiu 9, the Ox, although central to the story (see Figure 10.2). Certainly, the story makes more sense if Altair is included with xiu 9, as Walters suggests. Alignments that would fit the story would have been valid in Shang times. Needham also discusses a passage from the Canon of Yao (the passage is given in full in Chinese with an interlinear translation by Walters (1995, p. 143), which gives

(1) Niao Hsing ("Bird Star," later simply Hsing, "the star"), Alphard (a Hya), as the marker of Spring;

(2) Ta Ho ("Great Fire"), (elsewhere, Huo Hsing, "Fire Star"), Antares, as the marker of summer;

(3) Hsu ("Void," b Aqr) (elsewhere, Hsu), as the marker of autumn; and

(4) Mao (the Pleiades), as the marker of winter.

Needham (1959) assumes (with most previous scholars) that the markers refer to heliacal risings of the named stars, but there is no time period when these stars would give a consistent date if so interpreted. Needham (1959, pp. 245-246) points out that Hsu indicates a date of about 350 b.c., and Mao (the Pleiades) a date of about 1500 b.c. It is said in the same text (the Canon of Yao) that the year has 366 days,8 and the number is written in a way found in the earlier Shang oracle bones, but not on the latest ones. Most of the other linguistic data suggest a date between the 8th and 5th centuries b.c.

In the early 2nd millennium, Hsing (Niao) and Hsu were solstitial while Mao and Huo were equinoctial in terms of conjunctions (hence, invisible). However, the quarter-day divisions could also be used to determine the annual positions of the star markers. As conjunction markers, the system would have worked best about 2400 b.c. Walters (1992, pp. 143-147) has a possible if simple solution: the orientation of Arcturus and the three end stars of the handle of the Big Dipper, as a time/seasonal calendar timepiece.

The xiu determinative stars were also "keyed" to circumpolar markers (Needham 1959, pp. 231-233). Some of these ceased to be circumpolar fairly early. Thus, the Huai Nan Tzu says that when Chiao Yao points to Yin, it is the first month of spring. Needham (1959, p. 250) thinks that Chiao Yao is Gamma Bootis, which ceased to be circumpolar (in the sense of being constantly visible) about 1500 b.c.

The "Ten Heavenly Stems" (gan in Pinyin; kan in Wade-Giles) is a cycle mentioned in Shang inscriptions in connection with a cycle of the "Twelve Earthly Branches" (chih or zhi), later associated with the animal series known as the "rat zodiac," or the "oriental zodiac," equated to the western zodiac in the 17th century by Jesuits in China. See Figure 10.3 for an illustration of the rat zodiac, as depicted on the back of a mirror, and §15 for further discussion of the connections.

Needham (1960) estimated that the twelve Earthly Branches were associated with 12 double hours by or before the 3rd century b.c. Both "Stems" and "Branches" are shown in Table 10.2. The Twelve Earthly Branches were traditionally displayed in a circle, whereas the Ten Heavenly Stems were arranged in a rectangle. The two series mesh together starting with the first stem and the first branch, to give a cycle of 60 days (as in the Shang Dynasty, as recorded on oracle bones) and, later, 60 years.9 Table 10.3 demonstrates how the cycle works; the last (the 7th) row shows the return to the beginning of the cycle after 60 combinations. The use of the sexagenary 60-year cycle is reported to have come into practice only in the former Han dynasty, in the 1st century b.c. (Needham/Ronan 1981, p. 184), but this is disputed (cf. Sima Qian). Boodberg (1940) argues that the 12 animal cycle was already being used to mark years in late Chou times and that this is indicated by the use of appropriate animal names for some historical figures, which agree with known dates of birth.

One of the earliest surviving texts deals with the use of this 60-day cycle in connection with Chinese 5-element

8 Even small fractions of a day were probably counted as whole days.

9 Needham (1959, p. 396) uses the image of two cogwheels, of 12 and

10 teeth, respectively, meshing to produce a repetition after 60 combinations.

Figure 10.3. The animal series known as the "rat zodiac," rubbing from the back of a Chinese mirror. Photo by E.F. Milone.

theory. The account appears in the Huai Nan Tzu of the 2nd century b.c. and is partly quoted from the Kuan tzu of the 4th century b.c. It apparently represents much older ideas (Walters 1992, pp. 30, 74-79). The text shows that the year was conceptualized as a period of 360 days, divided into 5 seasons (each ruled by one of the 5 elements). The seasons were marked by the "arrival" of particular named days of the 60-day cycle. This material and the accompanying astrological predictions are shown in Table 10.4. The 60-day cycle is a close approximation to 2 months and, in the context of a 360-day year, strongly suggests 12 months of 30 days each. Taken as a continuous sequence, such a calendar would shift through the tropical year so quickly that it would be out of step by a full 72-day season (and a day) in only 14 years. However, the specific prognostications clearly imply a seasonal distribution. This indicates that the sequence is not continuous, but that the cycle began again each year with some annual marker, perhaps the heliacal rising of a specified asterism.

The Chinese theory of the Five Elements first appears in the work of Chou Yen (~350-270 b.c.). The elements were identified with planets to the extent that a reference to "wood," for example, in an astronomical context, was understood as Jupiter. In the same way, "fire" referred to Mars, "earth" to Saturn, "metal" to Venus, and "water" to Mercury. By 239 b.c., in the Spring and Autumn Annals, the history of the Chinese dynasties was phrased in terms of the progres-

Table 10.2. Ten heavenly stems and twelve earthly branches.

Stems Branches

Table 10.2. Ten heavenly stems and twelve earthly branches.

Stems Branches








Double-hour associations


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