In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Astronomy under Mongol Rule

  • Introduction
  • Mongol Astronomy
  • Islamicate Astronomy in West Asia

Chinese Studies Astronomy under Mongol Rule
Qiao Yang, Jinsong Guo
  • LAST REVIEWED: 25 July 2023
  • LAST MODIFIED: 25 July 2023
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199920082-0213


Astronomy in the premodern world comprised a spectrum of knowledge and practices—cosmology, theoretical astronomy, calendrical computation, systematic observations and surveys, instrument making, astrology (ranging from direct reading of heavenly patterns to horoscopes), and other forms of divination that were more indirectly related to the heavens. Some scholars use the term “astral sciences” to refer to these comprehensive, and interrelated, realms of knowledge of the heavens in premodern times. In the history of science in general, the more “scientific” subfields have been better studied than astrological practices. This also applies to the study of astronomy under Mongol rule. The Mongol Empire, ruling over a great part of Eurasia in the thirteenth to fourteenth centuries, brought about, or coincided with, significant developments in astronomy in many regions. Although diverse astronomical traditions were active within the empire, history of astronomy normally falls into the framework of regional history. Therefore, historians of Chinese astronomy have mainly focused on the Mongol state in East Asia known as the Yuan, while historians of Islamicate (referring to Islam as a culture rather than religion) astronomy, working with Persian and Arabic sources, have focused on the Ilkhanate, the Mongol state in West Asia. Other astronomical traditions, such as those of the Uighur and Tibetan, Nestorian, and other regions—the Chaghadeids in Central Asia, and the Golden Horde in Russia—are yet to be studied. A notable exception is Mongol astronomy. Despite the scattered sources, historians have revealed insights into the traditional Mongol knowledge of the heavens, and the Mongols’ relation to Heaven, which was the driving force of their sponsorship of astronomy in East and West Eurasia.

General Overviews

The works cited in this section put Yuan dynasty astronomy in the context of the history of Chinese astronomy and of its relationship with the Mongol Empire.

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