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baggywrinkle

Tenmon Bunya no Zu, A Japanese star chart

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One of the deep interests I have in the history of astronomy is that of the Far East, having lived and worked in both Japan and China.

The Science Museum in London has a lovely example of a start chart by Shibukawa Harumi from around 1698. Not having the spare £5-8K for an original I decided to buy a repro. This one mounted on canvas, I am very pleased with it.

This is of the central section of the chart and shows the stars and their asterisms used from around 1100 to 1922 until the IAU 88 were formulated.

You can see one constellation that is familiar to our eyes, for us the Plough, for China , Korea and Japan it is the Northern Rice Ladle

Though the  charts asterisms and names are based on those used by the Chinese from 500 BC, this, the Japanese, star chart, the Tenmon Bunya no Zu was the first star chart that corrected what it saw as errors by the Chinese.

 

Tenmon Bunya repro.JPG

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That's a very interesting chart, and I'm sure will grace any wall it is hung on and bring much pleasure studying it. I can see something that might be Cassiopeia and Cepheus, but the scale seems wrong.

One of the things that strikes me looking at this chart and at others of the time is how crowded with stars they are (and hence it is not surprising that there are so many different asterism interpretations). This might be puzzling to those of us used to poor skies these days, but it brings to mind one of my most memorable astronomical experiences when I stopped my hire car in the middle of nowhere in Utah a few years back and looked up at an almost totally unfamiliar sky. Even the good old plough was a bit hard to spot amongst all the other much-brighter-than-usual stars.

Martin

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Orion, on the right:

 orion.JPG.58f170f91b00fb96544203cb1bcc6c08.JPG

They definately saw more stars than we are used to seeing :D 

 

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Many of the determinative stars that mark the Lunar Mansion were only 6 magnitude. 

The scale is correct but only two of their constellations resemble Western ones, the Big Dipper which in Chinese is the rice ladle Bei Dou and Shen which is Orion.

The map is actually based on Chinese observations and the asterisms reflect the Emperors realm, so there are many palaces, markets and gardens as well as courtiers and princes.

Sadly on this one the area below Shen (Orion) has been left off but there is an Imperial Toilet and even an Imperial Poo!

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rice ladle is a much better description than bear or plough!

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