Chinese planisphere, 1819.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Detail. Printed in 1819 by John Reeves at Canton, China, this chart of the heavens shows the star patterns or constellations known to the Chinese who were amongst the first to make detailed star maps. In China, 28 asterisms are recognised along the line of the zodiac - the Sun's apparent path acros the sky. The rest of the heavens are divided into quadrants known as the Black Tortoise (North), Red Bird (South), Green Dragon (East) and White Tiger (West). These differ from Western constellations in that the stars form patterns representing whole scenes rather than individual objects, animals or people. This star chart contains all the stars visible from China and can be used as a planisphere to show the sky at any time during the course of the year.