David W. Pankenier (Ph.D., Stanford University, 1983) is Professor of Chinese at Lehigh University, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, USA. His research focuses on the connection between astronomical phenomena and formative cultural and historical developments in ancient China. With his Chinese co-authors Pankenier published two volumes of translations of hundreds of ancient Chinese records of astronomical observations (2000, 2008), a collection of essays in Chinese 中國上古史實揭密: 天文考古學研究 (Uncovering the Secrets of Ancient Chinese History: Research in Archaeoastronomy, 2008), as well as numerous articles on ancient Chinese astral prognostication, chronology, cosmology, and thought. His latest book Astrology and Cosmology in Early China: Conforming Earth to Heaven is forthcoming from Cambridge University Press.
It is now widely understood that Chinese astronomy/astrology grew up in relative isolation. It is also clear that, to a greater extent than previously recognized, for three millennia China absorbed a variety of diverse cultural influences and some sophisticated technologies. The question arises as to why Chinese astral prognostication remained virtually impervious to external influences. A possible explanation lies in the distinctiveness of Chinese astrology and the incommensurability of certain basic concepts with Indian astrology and Mesopotamian astral divination.