Xu Guangqi 徐光启

A pioneer in absorbing western science


Chinese Name: 徐光启

English Name: Xu Guangqi

Other Names: Xu Zixian徐子先

Born: April 24, 1562

Died: November 8, 1633


Absorb European science and technology

Promoting cultural exchanges between China and the West in the 17th century

Main Works:

Complete book of agricultural administration农政全书

Chongzhen Almanac崇祯历书

Xu Guangqi 徐光启
Xu Guangqi徐光启

Brief Biography of Xu Guangqi

Xu Guangqi (1562-1633), a native of Shanghai, was a scholar of Wanli. He was an official in Chongzhen Dynasty. He was the Minister of Rites礼部尚书, Grand Secretary of Pavilion of the Imperial Library文渊阁大学士, and the Second Assistant to the Cabinet内阁次辅.

In 1603, he joined the Catholic Church and was named Paul. He studied western science and technology such as astronomy, calendar, mathematics, surveying and water conservancy from Matteo Ricci earlier. He devoted his whole life to the research of science and technology and wrote diligently. He was an active promoter of introducing and absorbing European science and technology and made important contributions to the cultural exchange between China and the West in the 17th century.

Xu Guangqi’s Achievement on Calendar

Xu Guangqi’s achievements in astronomy and calendar mainly focus on the compilation of the Chongzhen Almanac and various sparse plays written for the reform of the calendar.

Xu Guangqi 徐光启
崇祯历书Chongzhen Almanac

In the almanac, he introduced the concept of circular earth and introduced the concepts of longitude and latitude. He provided the first all sky star map based on the Tycho star catalog and the traditional Chinese star catalog, which became the basis of the star catalog of the Qing Dynasty. In the calculation method, the accurate formulas of spherical and plane trigonometry are introduced, and the parallax, Mongolian air difference and TDOA are corrected first.

Xu Guangqi’s Achievement on Mathematics

Xu Guangqi’s greatest contribution in mathematics was the translation of Euclid’s Elements几何原本 with Matteo Ricci. Xu Guangqi put forward the practical idea of “the Study of Degrees”. At the same time, he also wrote two books: Gougu Yi and Measuring Similarities and Differences. Xu Guangqi first used the word “Jihe几何(Geometry)” as a professional term of mathematics. The translation of Euclid’s Elements几何原本 has greatly affected China’s original habit of mathematics learning and research, changed the direction of the development of Chinese mathematics, and is a major event in the history of Chinese mathematics.

Xu Guangqi 徐光启
Xu Guangqi and Matteo Ricci 徐光启与利玛窦

Xu Guangqi’s Achievement on Agronomy

Xu Guangqi is proficient in Agronomy and has written many books, including the Complete Book of Agricultural Politics农政全书, Sweet Potato Shu甘薯疏, Miscellaneous Shu of Agricultural Heritage农遗杂疏, Draft of Agricultural Book农书草稿, Taixi Water Law泰西水法, etc.

Xu Guangqi 徐光启

After the completion of the first draft of the complete book of agricultural politics, Xu Guangqi was busy revising the almanac and had no time to take it into account. After his death, his disciple Chen Zilong and others were responsible for revising it and went to press in 1639. The book is divided into 12 items, 60 volumes and more than 500000 words. It basically covers all aspects of agricultural production and people’s life of the Han nationality in ancient China, and the “agricultural politics” thought of governing the country and the people runs through it.

Shanghai Xu Jiahui and Xu Guangqi

Shanghai Xu jiahui徐家汇 is the hometown of Xu Guangqi. Xu Jiahui was originally named Fa Huahui法华汇,and later renamed to Xu jiahui in memory of Xu Guangqi.

Xu Guangqi 徐光启

Xu Guangqi’s tomb is located in Guangqi park on Nandan Road, Xujiahui. There are 10 tombs in the cemetery. Xu Guangqi and his wife Wu are buried. About them are four grandchildren. There are stone tablets, stone people, stone horses, Chinese watches, stone arches and other objects in front of the tomb.

Xu Guangqi 徐光启

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