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TianYuanShu and Numeral Systems in Eastern Asia  

Hong, Sung Sa (Department of Mathematics, Sogang University)
Hong, Young Hee (Department of Mathematics, Sookmyung Women's University)
Lee, Seung On (Department of Mathematics, Chungbuk National University)
Publication Information
Journal for History of Mathematics / v.25, no.4, 2012 , pp. 1-10 More about this Journal
In Chinese mathematics, there have been two numeral systems, namely one in spoken language for recording and the other by counting rods for computations. They concerned with problems dealing with practical applications, numbers in them are concrete numbers except in the process of basic operations. Thus they could hardly develop a pure theory of numbers. In Song dynasty, 0 and TianYuanShu were introduced, where the coefficients were denoted by counting rods. We show that in this process, counting rods took over the role of the numeral system in spoken language and hence counting rod numeral system plays the role of that for abstract numbers together with the tool for calculations. Decimal fractions were also understood as denominate numbers but using the notions by counting rods, decimals were also admitted as abstract numbers. Noting that abacus replaced counting rods and TianYuanShu were lost in Ming dynasty, abstract numbers disappeared in Chinese mathematics. Investigating JianJie YiMing SuanFa(簡捷易明算法) written by Shen ShiGui(沈士桂) around 1704, we conclude that Shen noticed repeating decimals and their operations, and also used various rounding methods.
abstract and concrete numbers; TianYuanShu; counting rod numeral system; decimal fractions; repeating decimals; Shen ShiGui(沈士桂); JanJie YiMing SuanFa(簡捷易明算法, ca. 1704);
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