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Li Chunfeng 李淳風

Li Chunfeng 李淳風


602–670. A prominent astronomer and mathematician of the early Tang. For his biography see Jiu Tang shu 舊唐書 (fasc. 79) and Xin Tang shu 新唐書 (fasc. 204). He was originally from Yong prefecture 雍縣 in Qizhou 岐州 and came from an aristocratic family. His father was Gao Tangwei 高唐尉, an official under the Sui who quit his office to become a Daoist priest 道士 with the self-styled name of Huang Guanzi 黃冠子. He went on to become a prominent writer. Li Chunfeng as a youth was especially skilled in calendrical science歷算, yin-yang 陰陽 theory and astronomy 天文. Early in the Zhenguan 貞觀 period (627–649) he gained a court appointment and suggested redesigning the armillary sphere 渾天儀 to account for the ecliptic 黃道 and not just the celestial equator 赤道, which was necessary for accurate tracking of the seven planets 七曜. It was completed in 633. His Faxiang zhi 法象志 (seven fasc.) discussed earlier such instruments. Such innovation is reflective of ongoing court interest in the Tang in improved astronomical measurements and calendar reforms. In 641 he was appointed taishi cheng 太史丞 and thereafter in 648 taishi ling 太史令. He was responsible for compiling the chapters on astronomy天文志 and calendars 律暦志 in the Jin shu 晉書 and Sui shu 隋書 histories. He himself produced the Jiazi yuan li 甲子元曆 calendar, which was implemented in 665 (year 2 of Linde 麟德) and thereafter called the Linde li 麟德曆 calendar (see fasc. 26 of Xin Tang shu). He was well known for his skills in divination 占候. His biographies state he predicted the future rise of Wu Zetian 武則天. His primary extant work on divination is the Yisi zhan 乙巳占 (written c.656) which is a compendium detailing native Chinese astrology and mantic techniques. Several of his prefaces are preserved in the Quan Tang shu 全唐文 (fasc. 159). He annotated the ten mathematical classics 十部算經 around the year 656. The Song-era catalog Chongwen zongmu 崇文總目 lists these works on mathematics 算術 which he annotated. Later he was claimed as part of Daoist lineages (see fasc. 4 of Yunji qiqian 雲笈七籤). His character also became fictionalized, such as in the Sui-Tang jiahua 隋唐嘉話. The Xin Yuan shi 新元史 (fasc. 34) credits him with calculating 推步 the lunar apogee 月孛.