Instructions for New Emperors

During the southern Sung Dynasty, in 1193 a.d., a lengthy set of instructions for a new emperor, presumably Ning Tsung [1195-1224], was drawn up, containing the astronomical knowledge necessary for a successful reign. A copy engraved on a stele dating from 1247 in the Confucian temple at Suchow, Kiangsu province, is still extant and was first described in western literature by Chavannes (1913). The text contains a description of the Suchow star chart (see Figure 10.7) and contains important insights into the cos-mological framework and world outlook of the China of that era.

The beginning of the text reads as follows (Rufus and Tien 1945, p. 2):

Before the Great Absolute had unfolded itself the three primal essences, Heaven, Earth, and Man, were involved within it. This was termed original chaos because the intermingled essences had not yet separated. When the Great Absolute unfolded, the light and pure formed Heaven, the heavy and impure, Earth, and the mingled pure and impure formed Man. The light and pure constitute spirit, the heavy and impure constitute body and the union of spirit and body constitutes man.

Hence, all manifestations of spirit emanate from Heaven, for a natural reason, as they are inherent in the Great Absolute. This evolves into the sun and moon, divides into the five planets, arranges in order as the twenty-eight mansions, and meets to form the directors and the circumpolar stars. All of these, being involved in the immutable reason, are also in harmony with the rational principle in Man, hence they may be interpreted by reason. Now let us consider and expound the general essentials of the subject, as follows. The body of Heaven is round and the body of the Earth is square. The round is in motion and the square is at rest. Heaven embraces Earth, and Earth complies with Heaven.

The "directors," according to the translators' note, are here the seven stars of the Big Dipper, but the term "Seven Directors" is applied to the Sun, Moon, and planets elsewhere in the text. The dipper stars are later called the "regulators of Tou" [or Dou, dipper]. The text goes on to describe the sky (the circumference of which is given as 3651/4°), the Earth, the celestial poles,19 the Sun, Moon, Fixed Stars, and planets, and the "roads" of heaven. The Red Road is midway between the poles (911/3°) and is the Celestial Equator. It is said to produce the seasons, cause heat and cold to "equalize," and cause Yin and Yang (feminine or weak and masculine or strong natural principles) to "cooperate." The Yellow Road is the path of the Sun, the ecliptic, and the hours for its rise at different times of the year are stipu-lated.20 The White Road is the Moon's path; the text indi

19 The altitude of the northern pole is given as being more than 35° "above the earth," indicating that the instructions were drawn up for a latitude greater than 35°, near the city of Kaifeng, site of the capital between 1214 and 1267.

20 The lengths of day (twice the hour angle of rise or set) at summer and winter solstices for selected sites are reproduced in Table 4.1 in §4.1.1.

cates that the White Road crosses the Yellow Road ("half within and half without, but not more than 6 degrees, like the Yellow Road which passes 24 degrees both inside and outside the Red Road"). It is recognized that the Moon must be at the White and Yellow crossroads at new Moon in order to eclipse the Sun and that if it crosses the node at full Moon, a lunar eclipse will result. Curiously, there is no mention of the Earth's shadow: a lunar eclipse occurs when the Moon "enters into empty darkness." In addition to the roads, there is the "River of Heaven," the Milky Way. The discussion of the Sun and Moon are important for defining the role of the emperor and the prime minister, respectively (Rufus and Tien 1945, pp. 3, 4):

The Sun is the essence of the Tai-Yang. It rules with beneficient virtue, producing life and sustaining it, and symbolizes the sovereign of mankind. When the sovereign possesses virtue, then the sun is five-colored; when he loses virtue, the sun displays his blemishes, thus reprimanding and warning him. So all sorts of phenomena are chronicled, such as an eclipse of the sun, a crow in the sun, dark spots in the sun, a red color of the sun, or a sun without light or transformed into a comet, appearing at night in the midst of Heaven with sparkling rays overflowing the four directions. . ..

The Moon is the essence of Tai-Yin. It rules with stern authority, to punish and chastise, and thus symbolizes the prime minister. When this official has virtue and is able completely to fulfill the duties befitting his high office, the moon will move constantly and regularly. If he usurps power, or if the relatives-in-law of the emperor, or the eunuchs, are in power, the moon will likewise display its faults and strange phenomena will occur, like the prodigies recorded in the chronicles—such as, "The moon was eclipsed," or "The moon occulted the five planets," or "They entered the moon," or "Moonlight appeared in the daytime," or "The moon changed itself into a comet which invaded or offended the Purple Palace ('Tsu-Kung') or assailed the mansions arrayed in order," and so forth.

The five colors of the Sun may refer to the five divisions of the sky.

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