The Lunar Mansions Africa and Eurasia

The movement of the Moon among the stars requires that the Moon traverse a different region each night for the ~271/3 days of its sidereal period. In an anthropomorphic sense, it spends each night in a different house or mansion. In India, China, and Arabia, a system of 28 asterisms was used to mark the movements of the Moon. The term lunar mansions has been used as an English equivalent applying equally to the Hindu system of naksatra, the Chinese system of xiu (Wade-Giles hsiu), the Arabic system of menazil, and many derivative systems. These asterisms were sometimes substantially removed from either the ecliptic or the equator and were of very different widths. The geometric relationships of the stars composing them were of more importance than were their brightnesses. In India and China, the entire sky was divided into a series of 28 segments named after these asterisms. The boundaries between these segments are marked by junction stars in India and by determining stars in China.

Table 15.1 lists the names of the lunar mansions and their probable meanings. Table 15.2 gives the component stars of the mansions. Table 15.3 lists the junction (Yogatara) stars of the naksatras and the determining stars for the xiu. Identifications and English transliterations of the naksatra are from Subbarayappa and Sarma (1985, pp. 30 and 101) among other sources. The identifications of Needham (Ronan 1981, pp. 96ff) and transliterations and identifications of Yi et al. (1986) were used for the xiu. The xiu were associated with particular circumpolar stars, such as those of our Big Dipper, which were always visible at night and thus

Table 15.2. Stars of the lunar mansions.

(No.) Naksatra


(No.) Xiu


Arab mansion


(27) Asvini

b, g Ari

(16) Lou

b, g, a Ari

(1) as-saraâni /

g Ari

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