Xue Fengzuo's Astronomical Works

Xue Fengzuo's 薛鳳祚 (1600-1680) Astronomical Works

Longfei Chu


The cover page of Xue Fengzuo’s Lixue huitong
(National Library of China 中國國家圖書館, Beijing)

In the late Ming dynasty, the Jesuit missionaries first introduced European science into China, and the scientific exchanges between the Jesuits and Chinese literati commenced. This project will concentrate on the reactions of Chinese scholars impacted by European science, especially Xue Fengzuo 薛鳳祚 (1600-1680), the most important astronomer in the early Qing Dynasty.

It is worthwhile to note that Xue Fengzuo had created a special system of knowledge, integrating both Chinese and Western knowledge. In the title of his most ambitious work, Lixue huitong (曆學會通), two significant notions were used: “Calendrical Learning” (曆學) and “Integrated Study” (會通). In fact, his understanding of these two notions turns out to be very unique. In his mind, “Calendrical Learning” not only included calendrical astronomy, but also astrology and some pragmatic arts. In his views, the three parts are related to each other and make up an organized whole, which provided him a reliable way to realize the highest Confucian ideal. Accordingly, his “Integrated Study” also penetrated all of the three parts of his “Calendrical Learning”, in which he adopted knowledge from any available sources, no matter they were Chinese or Western, ancient and recent. Actually, his ideology was strongly connected to the Image-Number School (象數學), Neo-Confucian School of Mind (心學) and Western Learning (西學). Moreover, his way of integration was also a response to the dissemination of European astronomy and astrology.