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Tsing Hua Journal of Chinese Studies
ISSN 0577-9170; DOI 10.6503/THJCS


Politics Under the Influence of Astronomy in Ancient China: A Case Study on the Suicide of the Han Prime Minister Chai Fangchin

Vol. 20 No. 2   12/1990    


Politics Under the Influence of Astronomy in Ancient China: A Case Study on the Suicide of the Han Prime Minister Chai Fangchin 


Chia-feng Chang and Yi-long Huang 









Key words



    Most previous studies of the history of Chinese astronomy are focused on tis technical parts. However, astronomy in ancient China is mainly used to serve the ruling class by means of astrology. It is rich in humanistic spirits and, in some cases, is closely related to the politics. This article deals with the death of the Han prime minister Chai FangChin 翟方進 (? – 7 BC), who was charged with responsibility for a reported astronomical phenomenon “ying huo shou hsin” 熒惑守心 (Mars stationary in Scorpius) and was granted the privilege of suicide by the Emperor Ch’eng of Han 漢成帝. In ancient astrology, this kind of phenomenon means that the prime minister will fall from power or the emperor will die. Since the emperor was afraid of such an unfortunate destiny, he compelled Chai to commit suicide instead. 

    According to our calculations, Mars was then located far from Scorpius at the time. Therefore, this event was obviously fabricated by someone to attain his own political aim. Although Mars was located between Corvus and Virgo just before and after the reported time, ancient people may not have questioned the report of the event because they believe that the movement of a stellar object can sometimes disagree with the prediction in accord with heaven’s will. The study of this astronomy-related political event should provide us a more rounded picture of astronomy in ancient China. 

    RA E 

Mizoguchu,Yuzo,Hoho Toshite No Chugoku 

Kuang-ming Wu and Chun-Chieh Huang 



Duara, Prasenjit, Cultural,Power, and the State: Rural North China,1900-1942 

Wing-kai To 




Author: Chia-feng Chang and Yi-long Huang
Genre: Article
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