Starry, starry night

Updated: 2015-01-07 08:04

By Xing Yi(China Daily)

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Starry, starry night

Astronomy charts designed by astrophile Xu Gang are inspired by traditional ballad Bu Tian Ge. [Photo provided to China Daily]

China looked at constellations differently from other civilizations. Two astronomers have published a book on the nation's traditional view of the stars. Xing Yi reports.

Different civilizations interpreted the constellations of stars in their own different ways. The Chinese had theirs, but few people today know their traditional constellations.

The book, Roving China's Heavens, written in a popular science style by two Chinese astronomers, provides a quick and accessible guide to the ancient Chinese system of constellations. At a symposium promoting the Chinese traditional culture of stars, titled Come to Know the Chinese Stars, held in Beijing on Dec 23, the book drew an appreciative crowd.

Based on research materials from the Song Dynasty (960-1279), the book describes the Chinese constellations system that was used by royal astronomers through the Chinese dynasties for astrological and agricultural purposes.

"There is a huge difference between the Chinese system of constellations and the Western one, which was based on Greco-Roman astronomy. As Chinese, we should know our traditional constellations," says one of the co-authors, Qi Rui, a 34-year-old researcher at Beijing Institute of Science and Technology. The other author is Wan Haoyi, who is pursuing a doctoral degree on astronomy from Beijing Normal University and used to work at Beijing Ancient Observatory.

Compared to the 88 constellations officially adopted by the International Astronomical Union, the Chinese system has 283 constellations consisting 1,464 stars.

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