Suzhou Planisphere or Tianwen tu (天文圖) Chinese celestial map

The text was meant to instruct the newly ascended Ningzong Emperor (r. 1194 – 1224) who Huang Shang tutored, communicating China's place in the universal scheme and suggesting the order necessary for a peaceful and prosperous empire. The lengthy and detailed text preserved on the stela is an extraordinary major work of Chinese philosophy and early science.

The map has been carbon tested, with definitive results dating its creation between 1493 and 1602, with supplementary ink testing verifying the results. ( These documents will come with the map )

Commonly known as the Suzhou Planisphere or Tianwen tu (天文圖), this is a c. 1247 Chinese celestial map made from the engraved stone and dates between 1493 and 1602 - making it the oldest known Suzhou Planisphere. 

The text under the chart starts with, ( just a small part ) notes, 

Before the Great Absolute had unfolded itself the three primal essences, Heaven, Earth, and Man, were involved within it. This was termed original chaos because the intermingled essences had not yet separated. When the Great Absolute unfolded, the light and pure formed Heaven, the heavy and impure formed Earth, and the mingled pure and impure formed Man. The light and pure constitute spirit, the heavy and impure constitute body, and the union of body and spirit constitute man.

The text below the chart gives instruction to the new emperor with information on the birth of the cosmos, the size and composition of both the heavens and the earth, the poles, the celestial equator (the Red Road) and the ecliptic (the Yellow Road), the sun, the moon, and the moon's path (the White Road), the fixed stars, the planets, the Milky Way (or the River of heaven), the twelve branches, the twelve positions, and the kingdoms and regions.

The Suzhou planisphere portrays the whole of the sky visible from central China on a polar (equidistant) projection.

Huang Shang (黃裳,1146 – 1194) was a Chinese official, tutor, polymath, and cartographer of the Song Dynasty. He is known for at least three maps, the Dili Tu (墬理圖) terrestrial map, the Tianwen tu (天文圖) star chart, and a third relief map now lost. Huang intended to teach the value and importance of reuniting the empire which 60 years earlier, has been split between the northern Chinese dynasties and the Southern Song.

In 1247, the map was engraved on a stone stelae, which survives at the Zijinshan Astronomical Observatory (紫金山天文台) near Nanjing.

The Tianwen tu (original wood-engraved map) was presented in 1194 to the Southern Song Ningzong Emperor upon his ascension by the Confucian scholar Huang Shang (黃裳).

CONDITION - Very good. Multiple layers of restoration - most old Chinese repairs. Laid down on 19th centruy European linen.

Huang Shang
Chinese Celestial Map, ca. 1493
Publication Place / Date
Image Dimensions
185 by 105 cm.
Product Price
Product Number
USD 280,000
SKU #M.0856