Introduction

For many thousands of years, man has attempted to make sense of the sky by naming and grouping stars into recognisable patterns. At the turn of the twentieth century, Marc Aurel Stein, a Hungarian-born, British archaeologist uncovered the world’s oldest existing star chart in a Buddhist cave complex in Dunhuang, China. The chart, now known as the Dunhuang Star Atlas and probably dating from before AD 700, was just one of a large number of important manuscripts, printed documents and paintings which were found at the site, and which tell us much about social, religious and political issues in medieval China and Central Asia. But the Star Atlas – now held at the British Library in London – is also proving important for our current understanding of astronomical history due to the accuracy and detail it provides about the sky seen from China from such an early period.

This resource aims to: