chapter  6
4 Pages

Xu Guangqi (1562–1633)

In collaboration with Western missionaries, Xu completed translations such as the Elements of Mathematics 幾何原本 (Jihe yuanben), Elementary Explanations of Astronomical Instruments 簡平儀說 (Jianping yishuo), Hydraulic Machinery of the West 泰西水法 (Taixi shuifa) and Essentials of Surveying 測量法義 (Celiang fayi). He was probably the first Chinese to translate European books into the Chinese language. In 1629, he submitted a memorial to the throne to reform the Ming system of calendar computation and was ordered to lead a team to implement the proposal.18 To accomplish the task, he integrated Western methodology with Chinese astronomical knowledge. He was also a strong advocate of the translation of Western scientific and technological texts. He believed that, “To surpass the West, thorough and comprehensive understanding is essential; to achieve thorough and comprehensive understanding, translation is essential”.19 He put together a team to translate books on Western astronomy, computational methods, surveying equipment and tools, related mathematical calculations and such data as astronomical charts. In a few years, he personally supervised the translation and editing of a substantial part of the compendium on astronomy entitled Books on the Calendar and Astronomy from the Chongzhen Reign 崇禎曆書 (Chongzhen lishu), in honour of the last Ming emperor.