The astronomical treatises from the second century B.C. to the early twentieth century are based on the documentation for certain astronomical reforms, but the surviving versions are heavily revised and highly stylized. The relationship between what astronomical officials did and wrote, and what compilers of the Standard Histories (cheng-shih 正史) eventually published, bears considerably on our understanding of astronomy. This chapter will therefore explore that relationship. Since the many studies—early and recent, in Asia and elsewhere—of the Season-granting system were written by people in different circumstances with different aims, values, and biases, I will also review some of the most important secondary researches and remark on the motivations and assumptions that formed them. What we read in the astronomical treatises264 of the Standard Histories is only indirectly related to the content and organization of the documents from which its editors compiled them. About the original records we know practically nothing except what a few of the treatises happen to tell us. Their stylization is another consequence of the state’s sponsorship, for two thousand years, of astronomy and astrology. Historians take their sources where they find them. But the Season-granting system offers an exceptional opportunity to explore how technical bureaucracy formed the original record, and historiographic bureaucracy shaped the final one. Once the latter was published, its many scholarly uses become a topic of interest to this inquiry.
KeywordsOriginal Record Standard History Postage Stamp Jesuit Missionary Mathematical Astronomy
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