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Conference papers

Spreadsheets and First-millennium Chinese li Procedure Texts

Abstract : In 2005, Christopher Cullen published a three-page note, ‘Translating ancient Chinese astronomical systems with EXCEL’ (JHA 36.3: 336-38), and uploaded partial spreadsheet translations of Han-era (206 BCE – 220 CE) procedure texts on the Needham Research Institute website (here). While there has been talk about the use of computers in the past, Cullen’s stands as the first and only attempt to publicly detail the methodology and potential of automating li texts. In this talk, I will speak about my own experience with such translation and its pedagogical and research potential for first-millennium procedure texts. In 2011, I began my own series of spreadsheet-translations with the goal of exploring how we might gage the accuracy of these systems. The process of translating ancient Chinese into at once English and code, however, raised so many basic questions about what the texts are and are not saying that I was forced to set aside this goal indefinitely. In taking the audience through this morass of discovery, I will describe a number of important phenomena and ambiguities that such translation has revealed and offer ideas about how we might ultimately return to the discussion of accuracy.
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Submitted on : Saturday, June 18, 2016 - 8:24:44 PM
Last modification on : Tuesday, April 14, 2020 - 2:38:43 PM


  • HAL Id : halshs-01333723, version 1


Daniel Patrick Morgan. Spreadsheets and First-millennium Chinese li Procedure Texts. Analysing and Editing Numerical Tables from Ancient Astral Sciences workshop, Observatoire de Paris, Jun 2015, Paris, France. ⟨halshs-01333723⟩



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