Gnomons in Ancient China

Reference work entry


Gnomon shadow measurement was one of the most fundamental astronomical observations in ancient China. It was crucial for calendar making, which constituted an important aspect of imperial governance. A painted stick discovered from a prehistoric (2300 BC) astronomical site of Taosi (see  Chap. 201, “Taosi Observatory”) is the oldest gnomon known of China. From second century BC onward, gnomon shadow measurements have been essential part of calendrical practice. Various historical measurements are discussed in this chapter.


Summer Solstice Winter Solstice Solar Term Royal Tomb Imperial Authority 
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.


  1. Bo S 薄树人 (1989) Zai tan Zhou bi suan jing zhong de gai tian shuo 再谈周髀算经中的盖天说 (Readdressing the gai tian cosmology in the Zhou bi suan jing). Stud Hist Natl Sci 4:297–305Google Scholar
  2. Gao P 高平子 (1937) Gui bian ce ying lun 圭表测景論 (Discussions on gnomon shadow measurement). In: Gao Pingzi tian wen li xue lun zhu 高平子天文暦學論著選 (Works on history of astronomy by Gao Pingzi). Institute of Mathematics Academia Sinica, Taipei, pp 209–222Google Scholar
  3. Guan Z 关增建 (2000) Zhongguo tian wen xue shi shang de di zhong gai nian 中国天文学史上的地中概念 (The concept of the center of the Earth in Chinese astronomical history). Stud Hist Natl Sci 3:251–263Google Scholar
  4. He N 何驽 (2009) Shanxi Xiangfen Taosi cheng chi zhong qi wang ji da mu IIM22 chu tu ji gan gui chi gong leng shi tan 山西襄汾陶寺城址中期王级大墓 IIM22 出土漆杆“圭尺”功能试探 (On the gnomon shadow template function of the Lacquer stick from the Royal Tomb IIM22 at Taosi Walled-town of Middle Period). Stud Hist Natl Sci 3:261–276Google Scholar
  5. Li G 黎耕, Sun X 孙小淳 (2009) Han Tang zhi ji de bian ying ce liang yu hun gai zhuan bian 汉唐之际的表影测量与浑盖转变 (Gnomon shadow measurements and changes in cosmology since Han China). Chin J Hist Sci Technol 1:120–131Google Scholar
  6. Li G 黎耕, Sun X 孙小淳 (2010) Taosi IIM22 ji gan yu gui biao ce ying The painted stick of Taosi IIM22 and gnomon measurement 陶寺 IIM22 漆杆与圭表测影). Chin J Hist Sci Technol 4:363–372Google Scholar
  7. Qian B 钱宝琮 (1929) Zhou bi suan jing kao周髀算经考 (A study on the Zhou bi suan jing). Kexue 科学 (Science) 14:7–29Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center of Ancient Chinese AstronomyNational Astronomical Observatories, Chinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina

Personalised recommendations