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Xueli xiaobian 學曆小辯. [Jap-SIn II, 64]
AuthorSchall von Bell, Johann Adam 湯若望, 1592-1666
Xu Guangqi 徐光啟, 1562-1633
Pub. Location---Publisher---
Daten.d.Phys. Desc.1 juan
Jap-SIn II, 64

Xueli xiaobian 學曆小辯.
By Tang Ruowang 湯若望 (Johann Adam Schall von Bell).
One juan. Bamboo paper in one ce with a paper case. No date or place of publication.

The cover bears a label with the title and a Latin inscription: “Refutatio duorum librorum | 曆測 Li ts’e | 曆元 Li-yüan | qui antiquam astronomiam | propugnabant.”
There are nine columns in each half folio. The number of characters varies from column to column. The title of the book is given in the middle of each folio together with the number of the folio. This book (forty-one folios) consists of:
1. Communication to the Ministry of Rites, Chongzhen 4 (1631), which points out seven errors found in Wei Wenkui’s two books, Li yüan [Liyuan] and Li ts’e [Lice] (ff. 1–7).
2. Reply of Wei Wen-kui (ff. 8–13).
3. Replies to Wei’s reply (the tone was quite firm: “If there are still more discussions, we are ready to reply even ten times more, provided the discussions are logical”) (ff. 14–24).
4. Discussion about the book on the calendar by the student Leng Shouzhong (see below) written in the eleventh month of the Chongzhen 3 (4 December 1630 – 1 January 1631) (ff. 25–30).
5. Collective statement by the students of the Xiju (see below). It first criticizes the errors of Wei Wenkui and then gives the experiences of the students themselves (ff. 31–41):
Formerly in the second year of the Chongzhen reign when the Ministry [of Rites] proposed to apply the Western method in the Calendar formation, we were doubtful of its practicability. But then several million characters were written on this method and published in book form. These writings were clear and orderly. We still had some doubts. Later we participated in a survey of a solar eclipse and twice in a survey of a lunar eclipse. We could not but be convinced by the facts. Of late, we have been told to carry on our studies. Every day we study under the direction of the Western masters. We do not only deal with books, but we also make experiments with instruments. We do not only listen with our ears, but we also experiment with our own hands. What they told us are true facts and shown with proofs. [We feel that] if the ancients writers were to come back, even they would find it hard to make objections . . .
Note that folio 33v–34r reads: 近羅先生撰揆日訂訛一卷,論之晰矣 “Recently Master Luo [Iacomo Rho] composed the Kuiri ding’e in one juan. and discussed the problem very clearly.” This was one of the manuscripts (twenty-six juan in all) presented to the throne on 27 August 1631 (see Bernard 1945, p. 346, no. 205; Hsü 1949, p. 241).

The Xueli xiaobian was written under the following circumstances. By imperial order the Astronomical Bureau was started on 6 November 1629 (22.IX Chongzhen 2) under the direction of Xu Guangqi. This was known as the Xiju 西局, since the calendar was drawn up according to the Western method. The new establishment aroused the jealousy of the traditional astronomers and they were very unhappy about it. In 1630 the censor of Sichuan recommended a student named Leng Shouzhong 冷守中, who had written a book on the calendar, based on the Huangji jingshi 皇極敬世 (Cosmological Chronology) of Shao Yong 邵雍 (1011–1077). His book was sent to the Bureau for inspection. Xu Guangqi read through it and pointed out the mistakes. He wanted, however, to indicate the error by facts. It happened that in the 4th month of Chongzhen 4 (1–30 May 1631) there was an eclipse of the moon in Sichuan. Xu took this occasion and asked Leng Shouzhong to make the observation. Leng’s calculation proved to be wrong by two hours, while the Western method of calculation was perfectly exact. Leng therefore was told to continue his study with “greater humility.” The traditional school felt greatly humiliated and kept on arguing. In the sixth month (29 June–28 July 1631) an old and more serious scholar of Mancheng Xian 滿城縣, Wei Wenkui 魏文魁, presented to the court two books he had written under the name of his son Wei Xiangqian 魏象乾 : the Liyuan 曆元 ¸ and the Lice 曆測. These books were sent to the Bureau for examination. Xu Guangqi read them with great interest and praised their author as an assiduous scholar. Nevertheless, he did not hesitate to point out the mistakes in these two books and exhorted Wei to improve his works by correcting them. Also a number of the students at the Bureau reacted against Wei Wenkui. The discussions became acrimonious and Wei blamed the Bureau for the errors. It was under these circumstances that the Xueli xiaobian was written. Some authors attribute it to Xu Guangqi. It is possible that the book was written by Xu under the name of Schall. Notice that the other copy of this text (Jap-Sin I, 158) does not mention an author.

Xu Guangqi died in 1633. His successor, Li Tianjing 李天經 (jinshi of 1613), who in his early days had studied in the traditional school, found himself in an embarrassing situation. To please Wei Wenkui he declared impartiality and established a Dongju 東局 with the aim of reforming the old traditional school. By then there were four Astronomical Bureaus in the capital: that of the Datong calendar 大統曆 (used since 1384), of the Mohammedan calendar 回回曆, of the Western calendar (the Xiju 西局) and of Wei Wenkui’s calendar (the Dongju 東局). They fought among themselves, in particular Li Tianjing and Wei Wenkui. Eventually, Wei lost ground and with his death the Xiju was recognized by the emperor.

Cf. Wang Ping 王萍, Xifang lisuanxue zhi shuru 西方曆算學之輸入 (Taipei, 1966), pp. 55–61; Yang 1949, vol. 1, pp. 151–156; Li Zhengfu 黎正甫, “Mingji xiugai lifa shimo” 明季修改曆法始末 in: Dalu zazhi shixue congshu 大陸雜誌史學叢書, second series, ce 4, pp. 262–264; CJC, juan 31, ce 4, pp. 382–384; Fang Hao 方豪 1954, vol. 4, pp. 23–24; Bo Shuren 薄樹人, “Xu Guangqi de tianwen gongzuo” 徐光啟的天文工作, HKC, pp.110–142.

Cf. Pfister, p. 179, no. 8; Feng 1938, p. 207; Hsü 1949, p. 378; Courant 4951; Jap-Sin I, 158.

Albert Chan, Chinese books and documents in the Jesuit Archives in Rome, pp. 369-371.

Subject(s)Calendar reform--China--History--Ming-Qing dynasties, 1368-1911--Sources
Calendar, Chinese--Western influences
Rec. TypeBook (stitch-bound 線裝本)LanguageChinese 中文
CollectionARSIRec. #12100