Advertisement

Li Shanlan: Forerunner of Modern Science in China

  • Wang Yusheng
Part of the Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science book series (BSPS, volume 179)

Abstract

Haining County, Zhejiang Province, is located at the mouth of the Qiantang River on the northern coast of Hangzhou Bay. It’s beautiful land of plenty, with a mild climate, fertile land, abundant rainfall, and rich production. In Xiashi Township in the northeast of the county along the banks of the river are Shen and Ziwei Mountains which the local people call the Eastern and Western Mountain. Many talented people come from this area. A scholarly aristocratic family named Li lived at the foot of the Eastern Mountain. They traced their ancestry back to Li Boyu from Bianliang (the present Kaifeng, Henan), the capital of the last years of the Northern Song dynasty. He “studied and discussed scholarship with no interest in holding office and declined all recommendations to be the master of a school.”1 In the early Yuan dynasty, his son Li Kan, who was able, virtuous and upright, was granted the position of Deputy Administrator of Jiaxing Prefecture. Li Boyu was invited to come to Zhejiang and settled down in Xiashi. Generation followed generation for five centuries until the seventeenth generation produced a son, a well-known scholar of the Confucian classics, whose name was Li Zulie (literary name, Master Xugu), Zulie first married the granddaughter of Xu Jixi, the head of Wanghai County. Unfortunately, she died very early. He then married her sister, who also died of illness. He later married the learned, reasonable and virtuous daughter of Cui Jingyuan, an eminent Confucian scholar. After marriage, the couple sincerely loved and respected each other. In the small hours of January 2, 1811, between 11 PM and 1 AM, she gave birth to a healthy baby boy. At that time, Zulie was already over 40. He was elated to have a son at middle age. Twirling his mustache, he glanced at his desk and saw his favorite pot of Kaffir Orchids with several pale red early blossoms exuding fragrance. He therefore named his baby son Xinlan (heart orchid), and gave him the courtesy name Jingfang (competing fragrance). This baby was Li Shanlan, who later became a forerunner of modern Chinese science.2

Keywords

Qing Dynasty Pointed Cone Ming Dynasty Confucian Classic Home Village 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Notes

  1. 1.
    The Family Tree of the Li Family of Baoxi (Bao Xi Li Shi Jia Chen), Chi Tang Chang Ban, 1890.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Li Xinlan’s school name was Shanlan, courtesy name Jingfang, and literary names Qiuren and Renshu. The Manual of the Annals of Haining Perfecture (Hai Ning Zhou Zhi Gao), The Manual on the History of the Qing Dynasty (Qing Shi Gao), Biographies of Mathematicians (Chou Ren Zhuan), and other later books all mistakenly claim that “Li Shanlan’s courtesy name was Renshu and literary name Qiuren.” The present article corrects this according to the source indicated in footnote 1. Some new materials on Li Shanlan’s life and academic activities mentioned in the present article were obtained from this book and from the author’s trip to Li Shanlan’s home village in November, 1982. The author wishes to thank the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Congress (CPPCC) of Haining County, the Bureau of Culture and Library of Haining County, the Library of Jiaxing County, Jiang Yutian who conducts research on Li Shanlan, and Li Yuzeng who is a clansman of Li Shanlan, for their help during the author’s visit.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Xu Guangqi, ‘Miscellaneous Commentary on the Elements of Geometry’ (‘Ji He Yuan Ben Za Yi’), 1607.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Li Shanlan, Li Shanlan’s Mathematics from Zhe Gu Xi Hall (Zhe Gu Xi Zai Suan Xue), Du Shan Mo Shi, ed., 1867.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    A Supplement to Poems of Xia Chuan (Xia Chuan Shi Xu Chao), Vol. 5.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Chen Huan, Notes on Friendship among Classmates (Shi You Yuan Yuan Ji), Xue Ya Tang, ed.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Yu Mao, ‘Poems of Bai Yu An’ (‘Bai Yu An Shi Hua’).Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Li Shanlan, Poems of Ting Xue Xuan (Ting Xue Xuan Si Chun), Xi Yu Zai, ed.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
  10. 10.
    Li Shanlan, ‘Preface to Mechanics’, 1866.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Li Yan, ‘Chronicle of Li Shanlan,’ A History of Chinese Mathematics (Zhong Shu Shi Lun Cong), 1955, Vol. 4.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
  13. 13.
    Li, op. cit., note 5.Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    See Li Yan and Du Shiran, A Brief History of Ancient Chinese Mathematics (Zhong Guo Gu Dai Shu Xue Jian Shi), China Book Company, 1964, Vol. 2, ch. 8; Qian Baocong, A History of Chinese Mathematics (Zhong Guo Shu Xue Shi), Science Press, 1964, ch. 18; Mei Rongzhao and Wang Yusheng, ‘Could Analytic Geometry Have Originated in China?’ Journal of Dialectics of Nature (Zi Ran Bian Zheng Fa Tong Xun), no. 3, 1983; Wang Yusheng, “Li Shanlan’s Art of Pointed Cones”, A Study of the History of the Natural Sciences (Zi Ran Ke Xue Shi Yan Jiu), no. 3, 1983.Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    A. Wylie, Notes on Chinese Literature, Shanghai: 1867; Chinese Researches, Shanghai: 1897.Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    Gu Guanguang, Mathematical Manuscript (Suan Shen Yu Gao) (Part Two), Wu Ling San Ren Yi Shu, 1883.Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    Dai Xi, Preface to Accurate Value of Circumscription (Wai Qie Mi Lu Qiu Biao Jie Shu), Series on Classical and Modern Mathematics, 1898.Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    See Huan Xiaoming, ‘Li Shanlan, a Mathematician at the End of the Qing Dynasty,’ Paper delivered at the Symposium Commemorating the 100th Anniversary of Li Shanlan’s Death, 1982.Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    Cui Jingchang, Biography of Li Renshu (Li Ren Shu Zhen Jun Zhuan).Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    Jiang Xuejian, ‘Postscript to Li Rrenshu’s Poems of Zhe Gu Xi Hall’, Huai Ting Wen Lu.Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    Jiang Xuejian, ‘Poem Written on Hearing of the Death of Li Renshu’, 1882.Google Scholar
  22. 22.
    John Fryer, Notes on the Translation of Western Books in the General Bureau of the Jiangnan Arsenal (Jiang Nan Zi Zhao Zong Ju Fan Yi Xi Shu Shi Lue) 1880.Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    Li Shanlan, ‘Preface to Elements of Geometry’, 1857.Google Scholar
  24. 24.
    A. Wylie, ‘Preface to Elements of Geometry,’ 1857.Google Scholar
  25. 25.
    Li, op. cit., note 24.Google Scholar
  26. 26.
    Li, op. cit., note 11.Google Scholar
  27. 27.
    See Research Group on the History of Chinese Astronomy, History of Chinese Astronomy (Zhong Guo Tian Wen Xue Shi), Science Press, 1981, chapter 11; Du Shiran, Fan Cuyu, Chen Meidong, Jin Qiuteng, Zhou Shide, and Chao Wanru, Manual of the History of Chinese Science and Technology (Zhong Guo Ke Xue Ji Shu Shi Gao) Science Press, 1982, Vol. 2, ch. 10.Google Scholar
  28. 28.
    See Liu Jinyi, ‘The Turning Point of Chinese Astronomy — Li Shanlan and the Historic Position of Astronomy,” Symposium Commemorating the 100th Anniversary of the Death of Li Shanlan, 1982.Google Scholar
  29. 29.
    Li Shanlan, ‘Preface to Analytical Geometry and Calculus,” 1859.Google Scholar
  30. 30.
    See Mei Rongzhao, ‘The First Translated Book on Calculus in China — the 100th Anniversary of the Publication of Analytical Geometry and Calculus,”Chinese Journal of History of Science (Ke Xue Shi Ji Ban), 1960; F. J. Swetz, ‘The Introduction of Mathematics in Higher Education in China,’ Historia Mathematica, Vol. 1, 1974.Google Scholar
  31. 31.
    See Wang Zichun, ‘Botany, an Early Disseminator of Botanical Knowledge in China’, Historical Materials on Science and Technology in China (Zhong Guo Ke Ji Shi Liao), no. 1, 1981.Google Scholar
  32. 32.
    Fryer, op. cit., note 23.Google Scholar
  33. 33.
    Ding Fubao, Title Catalogue and Abstracts of Books on Mathematics (Suan Xue Shu Mu Ti Yao), middle volume, 1899.Google Scholar
  34. 34.
    See Shen Kangshen, ‘The Origin of Mathematical Terms in Chinese’ and Li Jing, ‘Li Shanlan’s Contribution to Astronomical Terminology.’ Symposium Commemorating the 100th Anniversary of the Death of Li Shanlan, 1982.Google Scholar
  35. 35.
    Cui, op. cit., note 20.Google Scholar
  36. 36.
    Li Shanlan, Li Shanlan’s Essays (Zhe Gu Xi Zai Wen Cao), in Vol. 9, Ji Yu Zai Series.Google Scholar
  37. 37.
    Li, op. cit., note 5.Google Scholar
  38. 38.
    Cui, op. cit., note 20.Google Scholar
  39. 39.
    Li, op. cit., note 12.Google Scholar
  40. 40.
    Cui, op. cit., note 20.Google Scholar
  41. 41.
    Zeng Guofan, ‘Preface to Elements to Geometry,’ 1865.Google Scholar
  42. 42.
    See Zeng Guofan, Diary of Qiu Quezai (Qiu Que Zai Ri Ji), Vol. 9.Google Scholar
  43. 43.
    Li, op. cit., note 5.Google Scholar
  44. 44.
    Zeng, op. cit., note 42.Google Scholar
  45. 45.
  46. 46.
    Zeng Guofan’s preface to the Elements of Geometry was actually written by Zhang Wenhu. See Zhang Wenhu Miscellaneous Notes in Shuyi Hall (Shu Yi Shi Za Zu).Google Scholar
  47. 47.
    Li, op. cit., note 5.Google Scholar
  48. 48.
    Li, op. cit., note 11.Google Scholar
  49. 49.
    See Shen Kuo, Brush Talks from Dream Brook (Meng Xi Bi Tan), chapter 18, 1095.Google Scholar
  50. 50.
    See Zhu Shijie, Treatise on Arithmetic (Suan Xue Qi Meng), last volume, 1299, and Precious Mirror of the Fours Elements (Si Yuan Yu Jian), middle and final volume, 1303.Google Scholar
  51. 51.
    Li, op. cit., note 5.Google Scholar
  52. 52.
    See Zhang Yong, ‘Notes and Commentaries on a Classification for the Art of Figurate Numbers’ (‘Duo Ji Bi Lei Shu Zhen’), Science (Ke Xue), no. 11, Vol. 23, 1939; Luo Jianjing, ‘The deduction of Li Shanlan’s identity,’ Journal of the Teachers’ College of Inner Mongolia (Nei Meng Gu Shi Yuan Xue Bao), no. 2, 1982.Google Scholar
  53. 53.
    See Fu Tingfang, ‘A Study of Li Shanlan’s “A Classification for the Art of Figurate Numbers” — Including a Comment on the Features of “Figurate Differences”,’ Symposium Commemorating the Hundredth Anniversary of the Death of Li Shanlan, 1982; Luo Jianjin, ‘Li Shanlan’s Study of Sterling Numbers and Euler Numbers,’ Mathematics Research and Commentary (Shu Xue Yan Jiu Yu Ping Lun), Vol. 2, no. 4, 1982.Google Scholar
  54. 54.
    See Zhang Changming, ‘A Forerunner of Higher Mathematics and Modern Astronomy in China — Commemorating the Hundredth Anniversary of the Death of Li Shanlan’, Symposium Commemorating the Hundredth Anniversary of the Death of Li Shanlan, 1982.Google Scholar
  55. 55.
    See Liu Dun, ‘“Essentials of Firearms” — A Unique Diagramming Method in Ballistics’ and Zhao Guosheng, ‘Li Shanlan’s “Essentials of Firearms”’, Symposium Commemorating the Hundredth Anniversary of the Death of Li Shanlan, 1982.Google Scholar
  56. 56.
    See Li Di, ‘Li Shanlan, a Nineteenth Century Chinese Mathematician,’ Historical Materials on Science and Technology in China (Zhong Guo Ke Ji Shi Liao), no. 3, 1982.Google Scholar
  57. 57.
    See Liu Jinyi, Li Guoqing, and Yu Zhiqiu, ‘Li Shanlan’s Position in the History of Chinese Latitude Measurement.’ Symposium Commemorating the Hundredth Anniversary of the Death of Li Shanlan, 1982.Google Scholar
  58. 58.
    See Le Xiuchen, ‘A Model of Mathematical Development,’ Journal of Dialectics of Nature, no. 3, 1983.Google Scholar
  59. 59.
    Li Shanlan, ‘Letter to Hua Hengfang’ (collected by Yan Dunjie).Google Scholar
  60. 60.
    W. A. P. Martin (Ding Wei Liang), Preface to Textbook of Mathematical Art (Suan Xue Ke Yi), 1880.Google Scholar
  61. 61.
    Li Shanlan, Preface to Detailed Commentaries on the Sea Mirror of the Circle Measurements (Che Yuan Hai Jing Xi Chao), 1876.Google Scholar
  62. 62.
  63. 63.
    Le, op. cit., note 59.Google Scholar
  64. 64.
    Qian, op. cit., note 15.Google Scholar
  65. 65.
    Wang Tao, ‘Letter from Li Renshu’ in Tao Garden Correspondence (Tao Yuan Chi Du) Vol. 8.Google Scholar
  66. 66.
    See Li Shanlan, ‘Determination of Prime Numbers’, Chinese-Western Hearing-Seeing Record (Zhong Xi Wen Jian Lu) nos. 2–4 (5, 6, 7, 1872).Google Scholar
  67. 67.
    See Yan Dunjie, ‘Chinese Mathematicians’ Theory of Prime Numbers’, Journal of Mathematics (Shu Xue Tong Bao), nos. 4–5, 1954.Google Scholar
  68. 68.
    Li, op. cit., note 12.Google Scholar
  69. 69.
    Cui, op. cit., note 20.Google Scholar
  70. 70.
    The Family Tree of the Li Family of Baoxi, op. cit., note 2 and Li, op. cit., note 12.Google Scholar
  71. 71.
    Jiang Xue Jian, Prose of Huai Pavilion (Huai Tint Shi Hua).Google Scholar
  72. 72.
    Li Shanlan, Collected Poems from the Pavilion for Listening to the Snowfall (Ting Xue Xuan Shi Cun), Ji Yu Zhai Jiao Ben.Google Scholar
  73. 73.
    Li, op. cit., note 12.Google Scholar
  74. 74.
    Jiang Xuejian, ‘On Hearing the Obituary of Li Renshu’ (‘Wen Li Ren Shu Zhang Fu Yin’), 1882.Google Scholar
  75. 75.
    Li, op. cit., note 73.Google Scholar
  76. 76.
  77. 77.
    Li Shanlan, ‘On Fate’ (‘Xing Ming Lun’) in Chinese-Western Seeing-Hearing Record (Zhong Xi Wen Jian Lu), no. 33 (May, 1875).Google Scholar
  78. 78.
    Li Shanlan, ‘Essays from Zhe Gu Xi Hall’ (‘Zhe Gu Xi Zhai Wen Chao’). Ji Yu Zhai series, Vol. 9.Google Scholar
  79. 79.
    Cui, op. cit., note 20.Google Scholar
  80. 80.
    Li Shanlan, ‘Essays from Zhe Gu Xi Hall’ (‘Zhe Gu Xi Zhai Wen Chao’), in op. cit., note 78.Google Scholar
  81. 81.
  82. 82.
    See Li Shanlan, ‘Biography of Chen Yuquan’ (‘Chen Yu Quan Zhuan’), in op. cit., note 78.Google Scholar
  83. 83.
    Li, op. cit., note 73.Google Scholar
  84. 85.
    Dream Record of Song Nan (Song Nan Meng Ying Lu), Vol. 3.Google Scholar
  85. 86.
    Jiang Xuejian, ‘A Poetic Lament: Li Renshu’s Bier Returns South’ (‘Li Ren Shu Zhang Ling Jiu Nan Huan, Shi Yi Ku Zhi’). The original note: The revered died when he accidently drank drugged wine from Feng Liaoxing.Google Scholar
  86. 87.
    W. A. P. Martin, ‘Preface to “Mr. Li Renshu”’, summer issue of the second year of Chinese Scientific and Industrial Magazine (Ge Zhi Hui Bian) (1877).Google Scholar
  87. 88.
    The Family Tree of the Li Family of Baoxi, op. cit., note 2.Google Scholar
  88. 89.
    Li Ciming, ‘Diary of Yue Mantang’ (‘Yue Man Tan Ri Ji’), the eighth year of the Guangxu Reign-Period, 1882.Google Scholar
  89. 90.
    Li, op. cit., note 12.Google Scholar
  90. 91.
    Wu Shenpan, ‘Preface to “Mourning at the Grave of Mr. Li Renshu”’ (‘“Diao Li Ren Shu Xian Sheng Mu” Xu’).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • Wang Yusheng

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations