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Jin-Yuan Mathematics and Quanzhen Taoism

금원수학여전진도(金元数学与全真道)

  • Guo, Shuchun (Institute for the History of Natural Sciences, Chinese Academy of Sciences)
  • Received : 2016.10.19
  • Accepted : 2016.11.28
  • Published : 2016.12.31

Abstract

Chinese Mathematics during the period of Jin (1115-1234) and Yuan (1271-1368) is an integral part of the high achievements of traditional mathematics during the Song (962-1279) and Yuan dynasties, which is another peak in the history of Chinese mathematics, following the footsteps of the high accomplishments during the Warring States period (475-221 BCE), the Western Han (206 BCE-24 ADE), Three Kingdoms (220-280 AD), Jin dynasty (265-420 AD), and Southern and Northern Dynasties (420-589 AD). During the Jin-Yuan period, Quanzhen Taoism was a dominating branch in Taoism. It offered certain political protection and religious comforts to many during troubled times; it also provided a relatively stable environment for intellectual development. Li Ye (1192-1279), Zhu Shijie (fl. late 13th C to early 14th C) and Zhao Youqin (fl. late 13th C to early 14th C), the major actors and contributors to the Jin-Yuan Mathematics achievements, were either heavily influenced by the philosophy of Quanzhen Taoism, or being its followers. In certain Taoist Classics, Li Ye read the records of the relations of a circle and nine right triangles which has been known as Dongyuan jiurong 洞渊九容 of Quanzhen Taoism. These relations made significant contributions in the study of the circles inscribed in a right triangle, the reasoning of which directly led to the birth of the Method of Celestial Elements (Tianyuan shu 天元术), which further developed into the Method of Two Elements (Eryuan shu ⼆元术), the Method of Three Elements (Sanyuan shu 三元术) and the Method of Four Elements (Siyuan shu 四元术).

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