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Astronomy and Mathematics in Ancient China: The 'Zhou Bi Suan Jing' (Needham Research Institute Studies) Hardcover

ISBN-13: 978-0521550895 ISBN-10: 0521550890 Edition: annotated edition

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Product Details

  • Series: Needham Research Institute Studies (Book 1)
  • Hardcover: 255 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press; annotated edition edition (April 26, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521550890
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521550895
  • Product Dimensions: 9.9 x 7.7 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #6,194,799 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"...the book stands as a fascinating glimpse into the creation of the Han cosmological system of the religious and secular universe and as such is invaluable to sinologists and historians of religions." Science Books & Films

"This well-written book is much more than an annotated translation of and a lucid introduction to the Zhou bi suan jing, one of the most important ancient Chinese works on astronomy and mathematics....Cullen's fine book...marks an encouraging attempt to reach beyond the limited audience of historians of Chinese science. The book is beautifully produced and richly illustrated." Fa-Ti Fan, Isis

Language Notes

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: Chinese

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Mark Mills on July 21, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Don't let the title fool you. This is not just about China, this is about the human condition. Someone with an imagination should have worked on the title and given it a bit more excitement. I almost skipped reading the book because the title seemed so dry.
I read this book twice and will probably read it, again. The author's presentation is simply masterful. Step by step, he recreates the setting and background for the book's creation and utilization. In fact, he walks the reader through about 2000 years of 'uses' that people found for the book. According to Cullen, this classic was probably a gift to a Chinese emperor and then dumped in a back room for 200 years. It was only when political circumstances changed and an 'old' book might be valuable that it was 'rediscovered' and rendered useful.
For anyone interested in the practice of ancient astronomy, Cullen goes into great detail on the tools and practice of Chinese astronomers from about 3000 BC to the arrival of Jesuits in 1600. For anyone interested in Chinese political history, Cullen explores imperial Chinese history in a way that simply makes one want to read much, much more. For anyone interested in ancient Chinese record keeping, Cullen offers practical advice on what to make of the 'documents' we moderns discover.
I hope they make this a paperback so that it can get wider circulation. What is commonly called 'the history of math' is often embarrassingly western (ethno-centric). This book offers a means of correcting that unfortunate state of affairs.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By cb on January 17, 2001
Format: Hardcover
An eminently readable, entertaining, and fascinating look at a premier text of ancient Chinese science. Cullen provides an excellent analysis of this important document, including its history, authorship, and meaning. The diagrams are clear and crisp, the writing cogent and witty. You can't go wrong with this one.
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