Van Dalen, Benno
« Islamic and Chinese Astronomy under the Mongols: a Little-Known Case of Transmission », in : Yvonne Dold-Samplonius, Joseph W. Dauben, Menso Folkerts & Benno van Dalen, éds., From China to Paris. 2000 Years Transmission of Mathematical Ideas. Series: Boethius 46, Stuttgart (Steiner), 2002, pp. 327-356.
The author describes the exchange of astronomical knowledge between the Iranian part of the Islamic world and the Yuan dynasty in the latter third of the 13th century, when both territories were part of the Mongol world empire. Only few Chinese astronomers are known to have been active at the Ilkhan observatory in Maragha, which was founded by Hülegü Khan in 1258. These Chinese are the most likely source for the technical descriptions of the so-called Chinese-Uighur calendar used in Iran from the late 13th century onwards and first described in al-Ṭūsī’s Īlḫānī Zīj. On the other hand, probably at least ten Iranian scholars were employed at the Islamic Astronomical Bureau in Beijing, which was established by the first Mongol emperor of China, Khubilai Khan, in 1271 and operated parallel to the Chinese Astronomical Bureau for several centuries. At the Islamic Bureau extensive new observations were made and a “zīj” (astronomical handbook with tables) in Persian was compiled. This work was translated into Chinese in the early Ming dynasty (1383), together with Kūšyār’s Introduction to Astrology, and was the subject of research by numerous later scholars.
In the article under review, general aspects of the transmission between Iran and China are discussed, extant astronomical works and instruments are inspected for influences from other cultural areas, and various methods for investigating the transmission on the basis of technical characteristics are outlined.