Article ID: CBB783207882

How Were Western Written Calculations Introduced into China? — An Analysis of the Tongwen Suanzhi (arithmetic Guidance in the Common Language, 1613) (2018)


The Tongwen suanzhi (Arithmetic Guidance in the Common Language, 1613) has always been viewed as the first mathematical book to introduce Western written calculations into China. By analyzing the way in which calculations were written in the Tongwen suanzhi, this paper reveals that a place-value number system using Chinese characters was used to record operands and results in the calculations; however, intermediate calculations such as additions and subtractions were not recorded in the text. Therefore, when people in the 17th century read this book, they probably used an abacus as an aid to perform intermediate calculations for the sake of convenience. As a result, on the one hand, Western written calculations were changed in the process of transmission, and on the other hand, the writing mode in the Tongwen suanzhi influenced the way in which Chinese people studied mathematics in the Qing dynasty.

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Authors & Contributors
Tian, Miao
Wang, Quanlai
Jami, Catherine
Burns, Susan
Zhao, Dingxin
Glaeser, Andreas
Nei Menggu Shifan Daxue Xuebao (Ziran Kexue Ban)
East Asian Science, Technology, and Medicine
Ziran Kexueshi Yanjiu (Studies in the History of Natural Sciences)
Journal of Dialectics of Nature
Annals of Science: The History of Science and Technology
科学史研究 Kagakusi Kenkyu (History of Science)
Oxford University Press
University of Chicago
New York, City University of
Cross-cultural interaction; cultural influence
Transmission of texts
East Asia, civilization and culture
Transmission of ideas
Western world, civilization and culture
Mei, Wen-Ting
Li Hongzhang (1823-1901)
Vagnoni, Alfonso
Shao Zeng (1832-1877)
Li, Shanlan
Qing dynasty (China, 1644-1912)
17th century
18th century
19th century
20th century, early
Ming dynasty (China, 1368-1644)
Jesuits (Society of Jesus)
Momijiyama Bunko Library
Astronomical Bureau (China)

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