Between the Emperor and Mathematician: Li Guangdi’s Activity during the Kangxi Reign and Its Influence on Science

Vol. 26 No. 4   12/1996  


Between the Emperor and Mathematician: Li Guangdi’s Activity during the Kangxi Reign and Its Influence on Science


Han Qi









Key words

Li Guangdi, Kangxi, science


     Based on many collected writings of scholars during the Kangxi reign, this paper tries to analyse Li Guangdi’s (1642-1718) role in the organizations of scientific activities from a sociological point of view. Taking into consideration of social, political, intellectual and religious factors, it also analyses Li Guangdi’s role in linking the Kangxi Emperor and Mei Mending in order to meet the need of the Emperor.

    By examining the Kangxi’s observation of Laoren Xing (老人星)happened at the old observatory (觀星台) in Nanjing in 1689, the author argues that this is a very important factor which led to the disgrace of Li Guangdi by the Emperor. This event also made Li Guangdi to do his best to satisfy Kangxi’s interest in Western science and to win his favor. This is why Li Guangdi invited Mei Wending to teach and study mathematical science in his house as soon as Mei Wending arrived in Beijing in 1689. There were only a few students who learned mathematics form Mei Wending at that time. The teaching was not so effective. At the same time, the Emperor began to study Western science systematically from the Jesuits and discussed mathematical problem with his ministers in 1692. But the Emperor was not satisfied with the discussion. This was a very good chance for the compilation of mathematical books. But there were not many scholars and student s who were versed in science during that time, the compilation project did not come true.

   The paper also analyses why Li Guangdi invited Mei Wending once more in 1703 to teach mathematical science in Baoding. This is partly because Kangxi paid great attention to Western Mathematics in 1703. In order to meet the needs of the Emperor, he introduced Mei Wending to Kangxi. Li Guangdi played a very important role in the establishment of good relation between the Emperor and Mathematician. The paper also points out that the mathematical training of young scholars in baoding contributed a lot to the opening of Mengy angzhai(蒙養齋) in 1713 and the compilation of mathematical and astronomical books between 1713-1723.



Author: Han Qi
Genre: Article