Subscribe to be notified if similar examples become available.
T'ien wên t'u [A Map of the Stars]
The caption at the top consists of three old=style ideographs. Beginning at the right they are: t'ien, "heaven"; wên "literary" or "scolarly"; and t'u "map", "chart" or "plan". Herbert A. Giles defies T'ien wên t'u as "A map of the stars".
The stars and lines appear white on a black background. According to Ian Ridpath: "The planisphere depicts the sky from the north celestial pole to 55 degrees south. Radiating lines, like irregular spokes, demarcate the 28 xiu (akin to the Western Zodiac system). These lines extend from the southern horizon (the rim of the chart) to a circle roughly 35 degrees from the north celestial pole, within this circle lie the circumpolar constellations, i.e. those that never set as seen from the latitude of observation.
Two intersecting circles represent the celestial equator and ecliptic, which the Chinese called the Red Road and the Yellow Road respectively. An irregular band running across the chart outlines the Milky Way, called the River of heaven – even the dividing rift through Cygnus can be made out. All 1464 stars from Chen Zhuo's catalogue are supposedly included (an inscription on the planisphere tallies the total as 1565, but this is clearly an ancient Chinese typographical error [and a recent count suggests that the stele depicts a total of 1436 stars]), not all of the stars show up on the rubbing, however."
The planisphere was reproduced and discussed in a rare book entitled The Soochow Astronomical Chart, by W. Carl Rufus and Hsing-Chih Tien, University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA, 1945. A copy of this book is in the Foundation’s library. In 1945, the stela was still located at Suzhou (‘Soochow’ in the old spelling) and had not yet been moved to Purple Mountain. However, the stela continues to be known as the ‘Suzhou’ planisphere, or astronomical chart. It was Joseph Needham who classified the chart as a ‘planisphere’, since which time that term has been adopted for it. Needham used the older spelling of Suchow, which is however newer than the spelling ‘Soochow’ used by Rufus and Tien. Suzhou is the modern spelling using the Mainland Chinese Pinyin system of transliteration.
Rufus and Tien in their 1945 book published an English translation of the full text inscribed on the stela, together with an extensive astronomical analysis. Joseph Needham’s discussion of the planisphere is to be found in Volume 3 of Science and Civilisation in China (Cambridge University Press, 1959), pages 278-9, 281, and 550. The main discussion is found in the Astronomy section of that volume, and a reproduction of the planisphere itself, but without its accompanying text, appears as Figure 106 on page 280. (Needham took his illustration from a reproduction of the illustration appearing in Rufus and Tien’s book, so it is less clear than theirs.)The text below the chart gives instruction to the new emperor with information on the birth of the cosmos, the size and composition of both the heavens and the earth, the poles, the celestial equator (the Red Road) and the ecliptic (the Yellow Road), the sun, the moon, and the moon's path (the White Road), the fixed stars, the planets, the Milky Way (or the River of heaven), the twelve branches, the twelve positions, and the kingdoms and regions.
The main text on the stela commences in this manner:
‘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 formed 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 body and spirit constitute man.’
The lengthy and detailed text preserved on the stela is an extraordinary major work of Chinese philosophy and early science.
It is difficult to ascribe a precise date to the rubbing, there were periods in the seventeenth century where rubbing's were popular with the early Jesuits in the Kangxi court, and again in the eighteenth century in the Kangxi through early Qianlong courts, but equally in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries during European archaeological explorations of the region.
The last rubbing's were made in the 1990s and the Chinese Government at that time authorized ten rubbings to be made from the carved stone, nine went to Chinese museums and institutions, and one is now in The History of Chinese Science and Culture Foundation.
Whilst several institutions, such as the Suzhou Museum of Inscribed Steles and the national Library of China in Beijing, and Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin hold similar early rubbing's, this particular rubbing is very rare on the market, currently one other example is for sale with Daniel Crouch Rare books.
See more about stone rubbing at www.lib.berkeley.edu/EAL/stone/rubbings.html
Reference : Rufus, W.C. and Hsing-Chih Tien, 'The Shoochow Astronomical Chart', Ann Arbor, University of Michigan Press, 1945; Ridpath, Ian, 'Charting the Chinese Sky (www.ianridpath.com/startales/chinese.htm)'
More about Celestial charts and globes [+]
FAQ - Guarantee - Shipping
Buying in the Buy-it-Now Gallery
This item is available for immediate purchase when a "Add to Cart" or "Inquire Now" button is shown.
Items are sold in the EU margin scheme
Payments are accepted in Euros or US Dollars.
Please have a look for more information about buying in the Buy-It-Now gallery or about bidding at auction.
Many answers are likely to find in the general help section.
Like this item?
Thinking about buying later on?
Or create your virtual collection !
With Wishlist you can collect all Your Favorite maps in one place by simply pressing a button!
Add this item to Wish List
See my WishList here. [ Read More ]
We provide professional descriptions, condition report and HiBCoR rating (based on 45 years experience in the map business)
We fully guarantee the authenticity of items we sell. We provide a certificate of authenticity for each purchased item.
A flat shipping fee of € $ 30 is added to each shipment within Europe and North America. This covers : International Priority shipping, Packing and Insurance (up to the invoice amount).
Shipments to Asia are $ 40 and rest of the world $50
We charge only one shipping fee when you have been successful on multiple items or when you want to combine gallery and auction purchases.
Read More about invoicing and shipping
|High-Resolution Digital Image Download|
Paulus Swaen maintains an archive of most of our high-resolution rare maps, prints, posters and medieval manuscript scans.
We make them freely available for download and study.
Read more about free image download
Paulus Swaen Inc reasonably believes that the Item is not restricted by copyright or related rights, but a conclusive determination could not be made.
You are free to use this Item in any way that is permitted by the copyright and related rights legislation that applies to your use.
Paulus Swaen claims no copyright or license governing this digital resource. It is provided for free, on a non-commercial, open-access basis, for fair-use academic and research purposes only.
Paulus Swaen maintains an archive of sold items, including HR images. Go to the archive
In accordance with the EU Consumer Rights Directive and habitually reside in the European Union you have the right to cancel the contract for the purchase of a lot, without giving any reason.
The cancellation period will expire 14 calendar days from the day after the date on which you or a third party (other than the carrier and indicated by you) acquires, physical possession of the lot. To exercise the right to cancel you must inform Paulus Swaen Europe bv, which is offering to sell the lot either as an agent for the seller or as the owner of the lot, of your decision to cancel this contract by a clear statement (e.g. a letter sent by post, or e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org).
To meet the cancellation deadline, it is sufficient for you to send your communication concerning your exercise of the right to cancel before the cancellation period has expired.