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The Shaming of the Assistant Director: A Debacle in Third-century Chinese Mathematics Reconsidered in the light of Manuscript Culture, Biography, and the Historiography of Science

By Daniel Patrick Morgan

Abstract

International audienceThis talk examines the case of the public shaming of Assistant Director to the Astronomical Bureau Han Yi 韓翊 upon the debate stage at the Cao-Wei court in 226 CE. In short, Han Yi makes it through rounds of testing, deliberation, and recommandation with his solution to the limits of the late Liu Hong's 劉洪 (fl. 167–206) Supernal Icon <i>li</i> (<i>Qianxiang li</i> 乾象曆), but, on the day of the debate, one of Liu Hong's disciples shows him up with better eclipse predictions from a different version of his master's astronomical system. To place the event in context, I offer an overview of what we understand about the transmission of technical knowledge in this manuscript culture, of the suspicion harboured towards the written word by contemporary experts, of the transmission history of the Supernal Icon <i>li</i> across the war-torn political divides of the Three Kingdoms (220–280), and of the reception of these events in the later histories of Shen Yue 沈約 (441–513) and Li Chunfeng 李淳風 (602–670)

Topics: Chine Trois royaumes-Dynastie des Sui, history of astronomy, historiography of science, Manuscript studies, [ SHS.HISPHILSO ] Humanities and Social Sciences/History, Philosophy and Sociology of Sciences
Publisher: HAL CCSD
Year: 2015
OAI identifier: oai:HAL:halshs-01341869v1
Provided by: Hal-Diderot

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