The Chinese Roots of Linear Algebra
Publication Year: 2011
Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Download PDF (59.0 KB)
Download PDF (103.8 KB)
My inquiry into linear algebra in China began in the context of my research on the introduction of Euclidâ's Elements into China in 1607 by the Italian Jesuit Matteo Ricci (1552--1610) and his most important Chinese collaborator, the official Xu Guangqi (1562--1633). Chinese mathematics of the time, Xu had argued in his prefaces and introductions, was in a state of decline, and all that remained...
Download PDF (135.2 KB)
In China, from about the first century C.E. through the seventeenth century, anonymous and most likely illiterate adepts practiced an arcane art termed fang-cheng (often translated into English as "matrices" or "rectangular arrays"). This art entailed procedures for manipulating counting rods arranged on a counting board,1 which enabled practitioners to produce answers to seemingly...
Download PDF (172.6 KB)
This chapter presents background material necessary for understanding early Chinese linear algebra. It is divided into the following sections:...
3. The Sources: Written Records of Early Chinese Mathematics
Download PDF (698.4 KB)
In this chapter, I will present a preliminary overview of the textual records for Chinese mathematics. The chapter addresses three matters:...
4. Excess and Deficit
Download PDF (378.2 KB)
"Excess and deficit" problems, which seem to have been a precursor to fangcheng, are equivalent to systems of 2 conditions in 2 unknowns. They are found in the earliest surviving record of Chinese mathematics, the Book of Computation (c. 186 B.C.E.), and thus seem to predate fangcheng problems, which are more...
5. Fangcheng, Chapter 8 of the Nine Chapters
Download PDF (524.1 KB)
This chapter will focus on the fangcheng procedure, as presented in the Nine Chapters, to elucidate several key features: (1) fangcheng problems are displayed in two dimensions on the counting board; (2) entries are eliminated, in amanner similar to Gaussian elimination, by a form of "cross multiplication," bian cheng...
6. The Fangcheng Procedure in Modern Mathematical Terms
Download PDF (226.1 KB)
This chapter offers an analysis of the fangcheng procedure presented in chapter 8 of the Nine Chapters, which, as we saw in the preceding chapter, is presented there only in an abbreviated form. This chapter attempts to reconstruct the fangcheng procedure using modern mathematical terminology. The main goals here...
7. The Well Problem
Download PDF (1.1 MB)
This chapter focuses on the "well problem,"1 problem 13 from Fangcheng, chapter 8 of the Nine Chapters. This is arguably the most important of all the fangcheng problems.We will see that it is in commentaries on the well problem that we find the earliest written records--from anywhere in the world--of what we now call...
8. Evidence of Early Determinantal Solutions
Download PDF (378.6 KB)
The preceding chapter presented written records demonstrating a terminus ante quem of about 1025 for determinantal calculations and a terminus ante quem of 1661 for determinantal solutions for the "well problem." This chapter will examine evidence that determinantal methods may have been known as early as the...
Download PDF (136.1 KB)
The central thesis of this book is that it was the visualization in two dimensions of problems with n conditions in n unknowns that led to the discovery of solutions--solutions similar to those used today in modern linear algebra. This book attempts to reconstruct these mathematical practices, performed on the counting...
Appendix A: Examples of Similar Problems
Download PDF (146.8 KB)
Generally speaking, outside the Chinese sources analyzed in this book, there is comparatively little in the way of records of work on what we would now call systems of simultaneous linear equations before about 1678.1 There are some examples of systems of simultaneous linear equations in ancient Babylonia and Egypt,...
Appendix B: Chinese Mathematical Treatises
Download PDF (1.8 MB)
This appendix represents a preliminary attempt to assemble a comprehensive bibliography of all of the Chinese mathematical treatises that have been recorded in Chinese bibliographies throughout history....
Appendix C: Outlines of Proofs
Download PDF (125.6 KB)
This appendix presents brief justifications for several lemmas used in chapter 6. Because Sylvester's Identity is rarely included in current texts on linear algebra, for convenience I have summarized from standard sources a brief outline of a simple proof for the specific case of Sylvester's Identity used in chapter 6, Lemma...
Bibliography of Primary and Secondary Sources
Download PDF (1.1 MB)
Download PDF (717.6 KB)
Page Count: 304
Illustrations: 6 halftones, 5 line drawings
Publication Year: 2011