[Albrecht Heeffer]
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Wasan: native japanese mathematics

During the Edo period (1603-1868) Japan was relatively isolated from Western influences. During this period Japanese mathematics, which was mostly based on Chinese sources, developed in its own ideosyncratic way. The question how mathematics could develop different from its (Western) historical course, is partially answered by this Wasan tradition. As such, wasan is a very fruitful object to study conceptual developement in mathematics. We will list here some links, historical sources and a bibliography of wasan.

  • A bibliography of secundary literature on wasan in Western languages

Some links to original sources

  • A digital version of a book on sangaku (temple geometry problems) can be found here.
  • The largest collection of wasan books is kept at Tohoku University Library. It contains of 14,470 books from the collections of  Tsuruichi Hayashi (1873 - 1935) and has now grown to over 18,000 books.
  • Digital versions of about one hunderd wasan books mostly by Yoshida Mistuyoshi (吉田光由)
  • Another digital library at Waseda University with a beautiful color copy of Jinkōki.
  • A scan of the front and back page of my own copy of Fuki jingoki mokuroku of 1654
  • The Japanese translation of the Chinese classic  Suanxue qimeng (算学啓蒙, Introduction to mathematical studies) is titled Sanpō ketsugishō (算法闕疑抄). A digital version of a later copy can be found here.


Sources in the history of algebra before 1600

This is a repository of original problems texts from manuscripts and books on algebra before 1600.
  • The primary sources are stored in an on-line database which contains a list of works with all their extant editions and a conspectus of problems. Each problem has an unique identifier code which can be used for reference. The code consists of 8 characters, three letters referring to the original work and 2 to 5 alphanumerics which can be a numbering from the original work or a page reference.
  • Problems texts are given in their original language which can be Latin, French, Italian, Spanisch, German, Dutch and Englisch. For Sanskrit, Arabic and Hebrew texts a translation is being used, prefererably in Englisch if available.
  • The source for the transcription is shown at the beginning of the problem list for a given work. If no source is mentioned, the transcription is by myself.
  • It is the intention to provide a mathematical description of each problem together with the problem text. This mathematical transliteration is a meta-description, which is not included in the original work, except for some late sixteenth-century editions. The meta- description is intended for better understanding of the original problem. The actual symbolic representation in the text and solution method employed, can be very different from the formulas given in the meta-description. If the mathematical transliteration is taken from secundary sources, these will be mentioned at the beginning of the problem list. If no source is mentioned, the transcription is by myself.
  • This database is part of a research project "Development of concepts and the evolution of science. Symbolic algebra in the 16th and 17th century. A case study", at the Center for Logic and Philosophy of Science from Ghent University and is sponsored by the Fund for Scientific Research, Flanders.

The Father Henri Bosmans (S.J.) archive

As a tribute to the Belgian historian of mathematics, Henri Bosmans, we present here an archive with information about his life and works and a complete database of his writings.