Islamic Science & China


The most comprehensive source on the history of science in China is the series Science and Civilisation in China (1954-2008) initiated and edited by the British Biochemist and self- trained Joseph Needham (1900-1995).

The volumes also contain references to Islamic science.



For information regarding the transfer of Islamic science to China, the following works might be good starting point:

Willy Hartner

  • The Astronomical Instruments of Cha-ma-lu-ting, Their Identification, and Their Relations to the Instruments of the Observatory of Marāgha‡, Isis, Vol. 41, No. 2 (Jul., 1950), pp. 184-194

Benno van Dalen

  • The Chinese-Uighur Calendar in Tûsî’s Zîj-i Îlkhânî (with E.S. Kennedy and Mustafa K. Saiyid), Zeitschrift für Geschichte der Arabisch-Islamischen Wissenschaften 11 (1997), pp. 111-152.
  • Islamic Astronomy in China during the Yuan and Ming Dynasties (translation and partial revision of a chapter from a book by Kiyosi Yabuuti), Historia Scientiarium 7 (1997), pp. 11-43.
  • The Activities of Iranian Astronomers in Mongol China, in Sciences, Techniques et Instruments dans le monde Iranien (Xe-XIXe siècle). Actes du colloque tenu à l’Université de Téhéran (7-9 juin 1998) (eds. N. Pourjavady and Z. Vesel), Tehran (Presses Universitaires d’Iran / Institut Français de Recherche en Iran) 2004, pp. 17-28.
  • Islamic Astronomy in China: Two New Sources for the Huihui li (“Islamic Calendar”) (with Michio Yano), in Highlights of Astronomy, vol. 11B (ed. J. Andersen), Dordrecht (Reidel) 1998, pp. 697-700.
  • Tables of Planetary Latitude in the “Huihui li” – Part II, in Current Perspectives in the History of Science in East Asia (eds. Yung Sik Kim and Francesca Bray), Seoul (Seoul National University Press) 1999, pp. 315-329.
  • A Non-Ptolemaic Islamic Star Table in Chinese, in Sic itur ad astra. Studien zur Geschichte der Mathematik und Naturwissenschaften. Festschrift für Paul Kunitzsch zum 70. Geburtstag (eds. Menso Folkerts and Richard P. Lorch), Wiesbaden (Harrassowitz) 2000, pp. 147-176.
  • Islamic and Chinese Astronomy under the Mongols: a Little-Known Case of Transmission, in From China to Paris: 2000 Years Transmission of Mathematical Ideas (Yvonne Dold-Samplonius, Joseph W. Dauben, Menso Folkerts and Benno van Dalen, editors), Boethius 46, Stuttgart (Steiner) 2002, pp. 327-356.
  • Islamic Astronomical Tables in China : The Sources for the Huihui li, in History of Oriental Astronomy. Proceedings of the Joint Discussion-17 at the 23rd General Assembly of the International Astronomical Union, organised by the Commission 41 (History of Astronomy). held in Kyoto, August 2526, 1997 (S.M. Razaullah Ansari, editor), Dordrecht (Kluwer) 2002, pp. 19-31.






Contemporary Researchers with an interest in Islamic science & China:

Dr. Benno van Dalen (Bavarian Academy of Sciences and Humanities in Munich)

Dr. van Dalen is especially interested in the achievements of the Muslim astronomers who were brought to China by the Mongols in the early Yuan Dynasty (around 1270). For more information on his research, consult his website:


Yoichi Isahaya (University of Tokyo – Center for Philosophy)

Mr. Isahaya is mainly working on the history of Central Eurasia. In his dissertation he deals with the following issue: ” how did the Mongol empire implement the Chinese calendar in the western domain, while the calendar functioned as an apparatus to sustain their legitimacy in the East” .

For more information consult his website at: