The Sea Island Mathematical Manual

Surveying and Mathematics in Ancient China

Paper or softback
Frank J. Swetz
Published 02 Oct 2003
List Price £14.95



The Haidao Suanjing or Sea Island Mathematical Manual, is one of the "Ten Classics" of traditional Chinese mathematics, and its contents demonstrate the high standards of theoretical and mathematical sophistication present in early Chinese surveying theory. The Haidao composed in A.D. 263 by Liu Hui, established the mathematical procedures for much of East Asian surveying activity for the next one thousand years. The contents of the Haidao also testify to the ability of the Chinese to systematize mathematics and hint at the use of proof in Chinese mathematics, a concept usually associated with Greek mathematical thought.

Frank Swetz provides an annotated translation of the Haidao and an analysis of its surveying problems. In particular, he details surveying techniques and undertakes a mathematical exposition of the Chinese chong cha solution procedures. The Haidao is a testimony to the ingenuity and skill of China's early surveyors and its author, Liu Hui. This study complements and extends the findings of Swetz's previous book, Was Pythagoras Chinese? An Examination of Right Triangle Theory in Ancient China.