© 2009

Granting the Seasons

The Chinese Astronomical Reform of 1280, With a Study of its Many Dimensions and a Translation of its Records 授時暦叢考


Table of contents

About this book


China's most sophisticated system of computational astronomy was created for a Mongol emperor who could neither read nor write Chinese, to celebrate victory over China after forty years of devastating war. This book explains how and why, and reconstructs the observatory and the science that made it possible.


For two thousand years, a fundamental ritual of government was the emperor's "granting the seasons" to his people at the New Year by issuing an almanac containing an accurate lunisolar calendar. The high point of this tradition was the "Season-granting system" (Shou-shih li, 1280). Its treatise records detailed instructions for computing eclipses of the sun and moon and motions of the planets, based on a rich archive of observations, some ancient and some new.


Sivin, the West’s leading scholar of the Chinese sciences, not only recreates the project's cultural, political, bureaucratic, and personal dimensions, but translates the extensive treatise and explains every procedure in minimally technical language. The book contains many tables, illustrations, and aids to reference. It is clearly written for anyone who wants to understand the fundamental role of science in Chinese history. There is no comparable study of state science in any other early civilization.


astronomy history of mathematics instruments moon observatory planet sun

Authors and affiliations

  1. 1.Department of History & Sociology of ScienceUniversity of PennsylvaniaPhiladelphiaUSA

Bibliographic information

  • Book Title Granting the Seasons
  • Book Subtitle The Chinese Astronomical Reform of 1280, With a Study of its Many Dimensions and a Translation of its Records 授時暦叢考
  • Authors Nathan Sivin
  • Series Title Sources and Studies in the History of Mathematics and Physical Sciences
  • DOI
  • Copyright Information Springer New York 2009
  • Publisher Name Springer, New York, NY
  • eBook Packages Mathematics and Statistics Mathematics and Statistics (R0)
  • Hardcover ISBN 978-0-387-78955-2
  • Softcover ISBN 978-1-4419-2707-1
  • eBook ISBN 978-0-387-78956-9
  • Edition Number 1
  • Number of Pages V, 664
  • Number of Illustrations 0 b/w illustrations, 0 illustrations in colour
  • Topics History of Mathematical Sciences
    Astronomy, Observations and Techniques
  • Buy this book on publisher's site
Industry Sectors
Finance, Business & Banking


From the reviews:

“Granting the Seasons is the first thorough study of the Shou shi li in a Western language. … Sivin’s outstanding book will be highly useful for future historians of the exact sciences in East and Southeast Asia.” (Alexei Volkov and Yi-Long Huang, ISIS, Vol. 103 (1), March, 2012)

“Book will remain an extremely important contribution to our knowledge of the history of Chinese astronomy for a long time. It provides the first full translation into a Western language of an important Chinese astronomical system, and … will from now on be the first source in a Western language to turn to for any further investigations … . For anyone without immediate access to the Chinese primary and secondary sources, it also provides a useful guide to these … .” (Benno van Dalen, East Asian Science, Technology, and Medicine, Issue 36, 2012)

“This impressive work is a detailed, technical study of the most innovative and significant astronomical system for generating annual almanacs in Chinese history. … will be of special interest to historians of mathematics. … Two appendixes in Sivin’s account are also noteworthy and deserve readers’ attention.” (Joseph W. Dauben, The Mathematical Association of America, December, 2009)

"The present book is a brilliant and wide-ranging study of the famous Shoushi li … . To sum up, the present book will constitute at the same time a necessary basis of further investigations into Chinese astronomy and, more broadly, a landmark with respect to the history of world astronomy." (J.-C. Martzloff, Zentralblatt MATH, Vol. 1166, 2009)

"The present book is a study and translation of the astronomical treatise as found in the official History of the Yuan Dynasty … . The text has been very well revised and carefully edited … . it is an excellent and fairly complete source and reference book in a Western language for the specialist and non-specialist in the history of astronomy in China." (Andrea Bréard, Mathematical Reviews, Issue 2009 i)