Project (2019)

Tangut Astrology in Texts, Images, and Material Culture

How and why did astrological knowledge, techniques, beliefs, and forms of representation circulate throughout premodern Eurasia? How were such things adapted or transformed in the transcultural encounter? How does the circulation of astral knowledge enrich and transform current conceptions of the silk road and the global premodern?

This project examines the major astrological contributions of the Tanguts, whose Xixia state (1038–1227) controlled the major overland conduit connecting eastern and western Eurasia for the two centuries leading up to the Mongol conquest. While the Xixia’s sponsorship of large-scale translation projects and multicultural character are well known, the Tanguts have seldom been considered beyond the paradigm of “between China and Tibet.”

Studying new or previously unidentified astrological texts, for example an important work of Hellenistic astrology identified by Michelle McCoy, an initial translation workshop will seek to situate the Tanguts within a broader, trans-Eurasian framework. Echoing the collective and multi-specialty translation processes of historical actors, our collaborative approach seeks, moreover, to advance interdisciplinary and transregional conversations in the history of astral sciences, divination, magic, religion, and art.