English-Chinese Glossary of Chinese Star Regions, Asterisms and Star Name

English-Chinese Glossary of Western Constellations

History of Astronomy Education in Hong Kong

Database of the Solar System Exploration


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Introduction Glossary

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.

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