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Chinese constellations(Chinese: 星官, xīngguān) are the groupings used in traditional Chinese culture to organize the stars. They are very different from the modern IAU-recognized constellations based on  Greco-Roman astronomy: the only major similarities are clusters similar to the Big Dipper and Orion.

The Babylonian and Egyptian astronomy which formed the basis for the Greek's was based upon heliacal observations, comparing the position of sunrises and sunsets against the stars which appeared before and afterwards. This naturally led to the development of the zodiac: the twelve or thirteen constellations through which the sun appeared to move over the course of the solar year. Against this, ancient Chinese skywatchers focused their attention on the pole star Polaris and divided the stars according to their position relative to it: the Three Enclosures (三垣, Sān Yuán) immediately around the North Celestial Pole whose stars could be seen year-round and Twenty-Eight Mansions (二十八宿, Èrshíbā Xiù) dividing the zodiacal band according to the movement of the moon over a lunar month. These lunar mansions are very similar (although not identical) to the [Indian astronomy|Indian] Nakshatra and debate continues over which system developed first or whether they developed similarly in isolation.

Three EnclosuresEdit

The Three Enclosures are the Purple Forbidden Enclosure (紫微垣, Zǐ Wēi Yuán), the Supreme Palace Enclosure (太微垣, Tài Wēi Yuán) and the Heavenly Market Enclosure (天市垣, Tiān Shì Yuán). The Purple Forbidden Enclosure occupies the northernmost area of the night sky. From the viewpoint of the ancient Chinese, the Purple Forbidden Enclosure lies in the middle of the sky and is circled by all the other stars.

The Supreme Palace Enclosure lies east and north to the Purple Forbidden Enclosure, while the Heavenly Market Enclosure lies west and south. The Three Enclosures are separated by "walls", which are asterisms with their shapes resembling their namesakes.

The Twenty-Eight MansionsEdit

The Twenty-Eight Mansions are grouped into Four Symbols, each associated with a compass direction and containing seven mansions. The names and determinative stars are:

Four Symbols

(四象)

Mansion (宿)
Number Name (pinyin) Translation Determinative star Abbreviation
Azure Dragon

of the East (東方青龍) Spring

1 角 (Jiăo) Horn Spica α Vir
2 亢 (Kàng) Neck Kappa Virginis κ Vir
3 氐 (Dĭ) Root Alpha Librae α Lib
4 房 (Fáng) Room Pi Scorpii π Sco
5 心 (Xīn) Heart Sigma Scorpii σ Sco
6 尾 (Wěi) Tail Mu Scorpii μ Sco
7 箕 (Jī) Winnowing Basket Gamma Sagittarii γ Sgr
Black Tortoise

of the North (北方玄武) Winter

8 斗 (Dǒu) (Southern) Dipper Phi Sagittarii φ Sgr
9 牛 (Niú) Ox Beta Capricorni β Cap
10 女 (Nǚ) Girl Epsilon Aquarii ε Aqr
11 虛 (Xū) Emptiness Beta Aquarii β Aqr
12 危 (Wēi) Rooftop Alpha Aquarii α Aqr
13 室 (Shì) Encampment Alpha Pegasi α Peg
14 壁 (Bì) Wall Gamma Pegasi γ Peg
White Tiger

of the West (西方白虎) Fall

15 奎 (Kuí) Legs Eta Andromedae η And
16 婁 (Lóu) Bond Beta Arietis β Ari
17 胃 (Wèi) Stomach Epsilon Arietis 35 Ari
18 昴 (Mǎo) Hairy Head Electra 17 Tau
19 畢 (Bì) Net Epsilon Tauri ε Tau
20 觜 (Zī) Turtle Beak Lambda Orionis λ Ori
21 參 (Shēn) Three Stars Zeta Orionis ζ Ori
Vermilion Bird

of the South (南方朱雀) Summer

22 井 (Jǐng) Well Mu Geminorum μ Gem
23 鬼 (Guǐ) Ghost Theta Cancri θ Cnc
24 柳 (Liǔ) Willow Delta Hydrae δ Hya
25 星 (Xīng) Star Alphard α Hya
26 張 (Zhāng) Extended Net Upsilon1 Hydrae υ¹ Hya
27 翼 (Yì) Wings Alpha Crateris α Crt
28 軫 (Zhěn) Chariot Gamma Corvi γ Crv

The Southern Asterisms (近南極星區)Edit

The sky around the south celestial pole was unknown to ancient Chinese. Therefore, it was not included in the Three Enclosures and Twenty-Eight Mansions system. However, by the end of the Ming Dynasty, Xu Guangqi introduced another 23 asterisms based on the knowledge of western star charts. These asterisms were since incorporated into the traditional Chinese star maps.

The asterisms are :

English name Chinese name Number of stars Western Constellation
Sea and Mountain 海山 6 Carina/Centaurus/Musca/Vela
Cross 十字架 4 Crux
Horse's Tail 馬尾 3 Centaurus
Horse's Abdomen 馬腹 3 Centaurus
Bee 蜜蜂 4 Musca
Triangle 三角形 3 Triangulum Australe
Exotic Bird 異雀 9 Octans
Peacock 孔雀 11 Pavo
Persia 波斯 11 Indus / Telescopium
Snake's Tail 蛇尾 4 Octans / Hydrus
Snake's Abdomen 蛇腹 4 Hydrus
Snake's Head 蛇首 2 Hydrus / Reticulum
Bird's Beak 鳥喙 7 Tucana
Crane 12 Grus / Tucana
Firebird 火鳥 10 Phoenix / Sculptor
Crooked Running Water 水委 3 Eridanus / Phoenix
White Patched Nearby 附白 2 Hydrus
White Patches Attached 夾白 2 Reticulum / Dorado
Goldfish 金魚 5 Dorado
Sea Rock 海石 5 Carina
Flying Fish 飛魚 6 Volans
Southern Boat 南船 5 Carina
Little Dipper 小斗 9 Chamaeleon

Placement of Western constellationsEdit

The list below gives the placement of Western constellations within the Chinese system:

  • Andromeda (仙女座)
  • Antlia (唧筒座)
  • Apus (天燕座)
  • Aquarius (寶瓶座)
  • Aquila (天鷹座)
  • Ara (天壇座)
  • Aries (白羊座)
  • Auriga (御夫座)
  • Boötes (牧夫座)
  • Caelum (雕具座)
  • Camelopardalis (鹿豹座)
  • Cancer (巨蟹座)
  • Canes Venatici (獵犬座)
  • Canis Major (大犬座)
  • Canis Minor (小犬座)
  • Capricornus (摩羯座)
  • Carina (船底座)
  • Cassiopeia (仙后座)
  • Centaurus (半人馬座)
  • Cepheus (仙王座)
  • Cetus (鯨魚座)
  • Chamaeleon (蝘蜓座)
  • Circinus (圓規座)
  • Columba (天鴿座)
  • Coma Berenices (后髮座)
  • Corona Australis (南冕座)
  • Corona Borealis (北冕座)
  • Corvus (烏鴉座)
  • Crater (巨爵座)
  • Crux (南十字座)
  • Cygnus (天鵝座)
  • Delphinus (海豚座)
  • Dorado (劍魚座)
  • Draco (天龍座)
  • Equuleus (小馬座)
  • Eridanus (波江座)
  • Fornax (天爐座)
  • Gemini (雙子座)
  • Grus (天鶴座)
  • Hercules (武仙座)
  • Horologium (時鐘座)
  • Hydra (長蛇座)
  • Hydrus (水蛇座)
  • Indus (印第安座)
  • Lacerta (蝎虎座)
  • Leo (獅子座)
  • Leo Minor (小獅座)
  • Lepus (天兔座)
  • Libra (天秤座)
  • Lupus (豺狼座)
  • Lynx (天貓座)
  • Lyra (天琴座)
  • Mensa (山案座)
  • Microscopium (顯微鏡座)
  • Monoceros (麒麟座)
  • Musca (蒼蠅座)
  • Norma (矩尺座)
  • Octans (南極座)
  • Ophiuchus (蛇夫座)
  • Orion (獵戶座)
  • Pavo (孔雀座)
  • Pegasus (飛馬座)
  • Perseus (英仙座)
  • Phoenix (鳳凰座)
  • Pictor (繪架座)
  • Pisces (雙魚座)
  • Piscis Austrinus (南魚座)
  • Puppis (船尾座)
  • Pyxis (羅盤座)
  • Reticulum (網罟座)
  • Sagitta (天箭座)
  • Sagittarius (人馬座)
  • Scorpius (天蠍座)
  • Sculptor (玉夫座)
  • Scutum (盾牌座)
  • Serpens (巨蛇座)
  • Sextans (六分儀座)
  • Taurus (金牛座)
  • Telescopium (望遠鏡座)
  • Triangulum (三角座)
  • Triangulum Australe (南三角座)
  • Tucana (杜鵑座)
  • Ursa Major (大熊座)
  • Ursa Minor (小熊座)
  • Vela (船帆座)
  • Virgo (室女座)
  • Volans (飛魚座)
  • Vulpecula (狐狸座)

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. a b c d Needham, J. "Astronomy in Ancient and Medieval China". Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series A, Mathematical and Physical Sciences, Vol. 276, No. 1257, The Place of Astronomy in the Ancient World (May 2,1974), pp. 67–82. Accessed 9 Oct 2012.
  2. ^ 二十八宿的形成与演变
  3. ^ "The Chinese Sky"International Dunhuang Project. Retrieved 2011-06-25.
  4. ^ Sun, Xiaochun (1997). Helaine Selin. ed. Encyclopaedia of the History of Science, Technology, and Medicine in Non-Western Cultures. Kluwer Academic Publishers. p. 517. ISBN 0-7923-4066-3 (HB). Retrieved 2011-06-25.
  5. ^ Sun, Xiaochun (1997). Helaine Selin. ed. Encyclopaedia of the History of Science, Technology, and Medicine in Non-Western Cultures. Kluwer Academic Publishers. pp. 910. ISBN 0-7923-4066-3 (HB).

[edit]Further readingEdit

[edit]External linksEdit

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