Chinese astronomy was developed
independently and Chinese had its own system to connect the stars. The
first Chinese star charts appeared during the Warring States Period
(circa 400 B.C.) or before, when SHI Shen-fu, GAN De and WU Xian created
their own star maps for calendrical and astrological needs. Later in the
Period of Three Kingdoms, CHEN Zhuo (circa 230-320 A.D.) combined the
threee star maps to form a new star catalogue comprising 283 asterisms
and 1464 stars.
In his poem which was written to help memorising the asterisms in the sky, WANG
Xi-ming of Tang Dynasty divided the sky into 31 regions ¡V the so-called Three
Enclosures and Twenty-eight Mansions. The Three Enclosures, which mean three
walled regions, are the Purple Forbidden Enclosure, the Supreme Palace Enclosure
and the Heavenly Market Enclosure. Seven Mansions form one Symbol. The Four
Symbols are the Azure Dragon, the Vermilion Bird, the White Tiger and the Murky
Warrior. The Twenty-eight Mansions are the regions near the ecliptic and the
lunar path, where the Sun, the Moon and the planets pass by.
By the end of Ming Dynasty, XU Guang-qi,
when editing the book "Chong Zhen Reign-Period Treatise on
Calendrical Science", introduced 23 new asterisms situated near the
Celestial South Pole based on the western star catalogue. DAI Jin-xian
and LIU Song-ling of Qing Dynasty made further revision and correction
to the positions and numbers of stars in the book "Complete Studies
of Astronomical Instruments", which now becomes the standard for
traditional Chinese star-mapping.
As the scholars are still divided in explaining the meanings of some of the
names, only one of the meanings is employed here.