Research Project


Astrological Interpretation of Comets and Fate under the Impact of Western Knowledge in Late Imperial China

Prof. Dr. Lingfeng Lu

Through the investigation of large quantity of publications of western learaning and archives of natioanl astronomical bureau of late imperial China, the research project at IKGF “Astrological Interpretation of Comets and Fate under the Impact of Western Knowledge in Late Imperial China“ sorted out the disputing interpretation of comet by different group of political stance. Especially in the time of the crisis of emperor and emprie before the 1911 revolution, how Chinese intellectuals and publications made full use of Halley comet that appeared before the revolution to support their political factions was discussed. Because on one hand, comets have always been associated with the most dreadful and suspicious portends of evil In Chinese traditional astrological interpretation. But on another hand, the latest western knowledge about comets was translated into Chinese in the nineteenth century. From then on, Chinese astronomers, intellectuals and the public began to learn about the physical theories and scientific explanations related to comets. Coincidently during this Westernization Movement period, comets appeared in China’s sky a few times. In many newspapers and magazines, and even in some diaries and writings by intellectuals, there is a lot of discussion and disputation on comet and its connection with the fate of the emperor and country even by elites influenced by western learning. This interesting phenomena have been pursuited and discussed in the forthcoming two papers “Astrological Interpretation of Halley’s Comet in the time of the 1911 Revolution of China” and “Astrological Interpretation and Scientific Observation of 1881 Comet In China”, which will be as one chapter of the book The Imperial Court and Beyond: Western Astronomy in Late Imperial China

back to "Techniques and Practices" Overview