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An Ancient Chinese Observatory Discovered
秦帝国全天星台遗址

22 July 2009
 

During recent archaeological excavation, an ancient observatory site was discovered in Shaanxi Province (陕西省), where over 6000 terra cotta warriors guard the mausoleum of the First Emperor Qin. The towering structure in the picture is confirmed to be part of an observatory platform situated in Fangta Village of Jia County (佳县方塌镇方塌村).

The astronomy research site, dating back to First Emperor's Qin Dynasty more than 2,000 years ago, covered a huge area of 28,000 km2 and was consisted of 1,424 earthen platforms in round or square shapes, corresponding to 332 major stars and galaxies in the sky, as well as 332 tangible landmarks and intangible social aspects in the kingdom, which exhibits the ultimate Chinese aspiration that is to create a Heaven on Earth.

According to historical records, after having established an united Chinese kingdom from 7 warring states, the First Emperor Qin ordered General Meng Tian (蒙恬) to set up a giant communication superhighway between Heaven and Earth. General Meng proved himself not only a terrifying warrior but a terrific engineer, and fulfilled this enormous mission in just 6 years.

The site plan of the superhighway purposefully resembles the figure of mythical goddess Nuwa (女娲), who is said to have repaired damaged sky with precious stones in five different colours to respond to five agents of the cosmic forces (see, China does have many stones, and wonderful stones), and created first group of Chinese men and women using earth collected from the Yellow River Basin (now you must have some idea why Chinese have yellowish skin and a deep attachment to land in general and homeland in particular).

Nuwa the Mother of Chinese is believed to be a big girl, very big, about 337 kms tall and 152 kms wide, thus it is how the space area of the observatory site is measured. Legend has it that when Her Ladyship worked on sky repairing tasks, she lay on her back in the ground with her head in northwest (the location of Heaven Graph 乾卦 in Eight Trigrams) and feet in southeast (the position for Earth Graph 坤卦 in Eight Trigrams), so the ancient Chinese architects, engineers and astronomers captured this posture and reflected it in the site plan with the inspiration of following her noble example to maintain the world in a good order.

Traditionally, Chinese regard yin world as a timely delayed and visually shadowy existence of this yang world on earth, while this earthly reality is a delayed and shadowy expression of heaven; hence when built an observatory, ancient Chinese would structure a sacrificial altar, completed with ceramic and bronze rites articles, for stars (祭星台), in order to forecast the earthly due events by monitoring minute occurrence in the sky. The ceramic pot shown in the picture was unearthed from the sacrificial alter site and has white spots painted on the surface which is believed to represent certain stars in the sky.

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