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Mathematical Treasure: Ricci's and Xu's Theory of Surveying

Author(s): 
Frank J. Swetz (The Pennsylvania State University)

Matteo Ricci (1552-1610) headed the Jesuit Mission to the Ming Court. In attempting to attract the Chinese to western theories, including the precepts of Christianity, Ricci translated and published several works on western mathematics. In this task, he promoted the usefulness of the knowledge to the Chinese Empire. Ce liang fa yi [Theory of Surveying], circa 1610, stressed applications of trigonometry in finding unknown distances and built upon the Chinese traditional theories of the right triangle. Ricci dictated the content that was then transcribed into the Chinese language by Xu Guanqi (1562-1633), a Christian convert and Ricci’s colleague. The image of the title page of this work shown here is from a 19th century reprint. It has been kindly supplied by the National Central Library, Taiwan.

Title page of Ce liang fa yi [Theory of Surveying], circa 1610, provided courtesy of the National Central Library, Taiwan


For images from Ricci's and Xu's translation of Euclid's Elements into Chinese, see Mathematical Treasure: Euclid in China.

Frank J. Swetz (The Pennsylvania State University), "Mathematical Treasure: Ricci's and Xu's Theory of Surveying," Loci (June 2014)

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