The Transformation of Ancient Spatial Knowledge in its Intercultural Transfer

The Transformation of Ancient Spatial Knowledge in its Intercultural Transfer: The Early Modern Translation of Euclid’s Elements into Chinese

Other involved Scholars: 

Jens Braarvig (University of Oslo)
Tian Miao (Chinese Academy of Sciences)


<a href=", Euclidis Elementorum Libri XV, 1607</a><br>Original source owned by MPIWG Library

This research project analyzes the intercultural transmission of geometrical knowledge and its impact on culturally-specific notions of space. This transversal study of knowledge transformation, which is closely related to the project on the long-term development of spatial concepts, complements the more numerous longitudinal studies that exist on the transformation of ancient geometrical knowledge within the Western tradition.
In 1607 the Jesuit Matteo Ricci and the Chinese scholar-official Xu Guangqi translated the first six books of Euclid’s Elements into Chinese. Their endeavor demanded the transfer of ancient Western knowledge on geometry into a different mathematical tradition which inevitably implied the transformation of that knowledge. As a first step, a detailed comparative analysis of parts of the Chinese version of the Elements and its European source, Christopher Clavius’ edition of the Elements, has been launched. Furthermore, different versions of the Chinese Elements have been compared and the reception of Euclid’s Elements in17th and 18th-century China has been studied.