Should headings of sections in Writings on mathematics 筭數書 (before ca. 186 BCE) be interpreted as a curriculum?

Abstract : In the winter of 1983–1984, archeologists excavating Zhangjiashan tomb M247 in Jiangling, Hubei, unearthed from this tomb sealed in ca 186 BCE the bamboo manuscript Writings on Mathematics 筭數書, marking an important first for the history of mathematics in early imperial China. Structurally, the Writing on Mathematics manuscript is composed of 69 independent sections, each of which begins with a heading written in the upper margin. Curious to know whether both were in the same hand—if the headings, for example, were later added by a reader—we conducted a graphological analysis of the manuscript in 2014. We found two hands, A and B, but not where we expected: generally speaking, A wrote the body, and B wrote the headings, which would seem to indicate that B was last; that said, A also wrote a heading, B wrote part of the body, and several sections reveal an alternation back and forth. Joining contents and codicology, we were able to conclude that Hand B is the leader of this exchange, which we hypothesize to be educational in nature (see our joint article in Jianbo 簡帛 2016, 12). It is to the “headings” that we return in this talk, asking how we can interpret the fact that 68 out of 69 titles are written by Hand B. The talk will explore the hypothesis that these “titles” might in fact have represented a form of curriculum that Hand A had to take in the learning of mathematics.
Type de document :
Communication dans un congrès
25th International Congress of History of Science and Technology, Jul 2017, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
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Contributeur : Daniel Morgan <>
Soumis le : jeudi 1 décembre 2016 - 11:10:59
Dernière modification le : samedi 3 décembre 2016 - 01:06:55

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Karine Chemla, Daniel Patrick Morgan. Should headings of sections in Writings on mathematics 筭數書 (before ca. 186 BCE) be interpreted as a curriculum?. 25th International Congress of History of Science and Technology, Jul 2017, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. 〈halshs-01406453〉

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