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The Introduction of European Astronomical Instruments and the Technology Related into China during the 17th Century

Zhang Baichun (CAS, Beijing)

During the 17th century, Jesuits, who were aimed at doing missionary work, introduced the European science and technology to Chinese.

Matteo Ricci noticed the shortcomings of the Chinese calendar. In order to extend his influence, he made sundials, celestial globes. Sabbathinus de Ursis used to make astrolabes and wrote a book on them in 1611. Emanuel Diaz and Johann Adam Schall von Bell gave an explanation of Galileo's discoveries and telescope round about 1620.

When Xu Guangxi took charge of the Astronomical Bureau in 1629, he employed missionaries. From 1631 to 1635, they compiled a new calendar in 133 fascicles, which explained the structure of quadrants, Ptolemaeus' parallactic instrument, armillary spheres, torquetum Jacobstab, and so on. In 1630, the missionaries trial-manufactured quadrants, a sextant, a Jacobstab, sundials, armillary spheres and globes.

In 1669, Ferdinand Verbiest, an astronomer in charge of calendar, began to supervise craftsmen to make new instruments. By 1673, they had finished an ecliptic armillary sphere, an equatorial armillary sphere, a horizon circle, a quadrant, a sextant, a celestial globe, which were based upon the Tychonic designs. Verbiest combined some European machining techniques with the Chinese foundry method.

Verbiest did not keep abreast of new developments in astronomical instruments in Europe. However, his instruments were advanced in China at the time.

The traditional Chinese astronomy and technology could not lead to the modernization of scientific instruments.

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