24 May – 7 September 2008
Astronomy had much more than simply a practical significance in Chinese culture. While the calendar connected the celestial and terrestrial realms through the seasons of the year, the Emperor embodied and was ultimately responsible for ensuring harmony between heaven and earth. According to Confucius, the ruler rests motionless at the centre of the state just as the pole star remains fixed in the sky while perpetually circled by all the other lesser stars.
In the year of the Beijing Olympics and the ‘China Now’ festival throughout the UK, the Museum has built an exhibition around a remarkable set of 17th-century Chinese prints. Prepared under the direction of the Jesuit astronomer Ferdinand Verbiest, the set is a key witness to early modern cultural contact between Europe and China.