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The Dunhuang Star Chart

Constellations drawn in ink on paper, with Chinese names.

The Dunhuang Star Chart (Or.8210/S.3326) is one of the most important manuscripts in the British Library Dunhuang collection. Dating from the second half of the seventh century AD, it is an example of the coloured star-map of Qian Lezhi and almost certainly the oldest extant manuscript star-chart from any civilisation.

A new research paper authored by Jean-Marc Bonnet-Bidaud, Dr Françoise Praderie and Dr Susan Whitfield presents an analysis of the star atlas included in the medieval Chinese manuscript. Although partially studied by a few Chinese scholars, it has never been fully displayed and discussed in the Western world. The paper is available to view via our Research page.

Line drawing of a bowman, with text in Chinese.

A further resource on the Dunhuang Star Chart for schoolchildren and teachers is currently under development and will be available soon.

The images above and below show details of the circumpolar map and a bowman in traditional clothes.
© British Library Board.


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