Cosmos, East and West: Astral Sciences in South and East Asia and their Interaction with the Greco-Roman World

This article first appeared in ISAW Newsletter 17, Winter 2017.

Conference, organized by Bill Mak (ISAW Visiting Research Scholar)

A circular ceramic or stone object with illustrations in relief. In the center, a stylized floral bloom. In the band around the enter, there are depictions of elephants and other animals, tools, anod other objects and figures. Saura-Pitha. Andhra Pradesh, India. 12th century. P. L. Gupta, Indian Numismatics, History, Art, and Culture (Delhi: Agam Kala Prakashan, 1992), p.49 The astral science was among the most developed bodies of knowledge in the ancient world. A complex and interrelated system of astronomical observation, astral rituals, divination and physiognomy was developed in Greece, India and China. While each civilization cultivated this knowledge along its own cultural trajectory and each system contained features unique to its own, there were moments when their paths crossed and ideas cross-fertilized and hybridized. This conference is concerned with the traditional lore of the cosmos and its evolution in South and East Asia, and how the astral knowledge of the “West” was received in the “East” in the pre-modern world. The event will take place in conjunction with the ISAW exhibition “Time and Cosmos in Greco-Roman Antiquity,” which all participants will have the opportunity to visit, as well as the evening exhibition lecture by Prof. Stephan Heilen on the same day.