Contributed Papers

The cosmic center in Early China and its archaic resonances

David W. Pankeniera1

a1 Swedish Collegium for Advanced Study, Lehigh University, 9 West Packer Ave., Bethlehem, PA 18015, USA email:


Study of the role of astronomical alignments in shaping the built environment suggests that centuries before establishment of the Empire in 221 BCE, the Chinese had already developed practical, geometrical applications of astronomical knowledge useful in orienting high-value structures. The archaeological record clearly shows this fundamental disposition was already firmly established by the formative period of Chinese civilization in the early 2nd millennium BCE. The cosmological identification of the imperial center with the celestial Pole and an intense focus on the circumpolar ‘skyscape’ are manifested in the highly symbolic orientation of early imperial capitals. Certain features of this cosmological world-view may have emerged as early as the Neolithic.

(Online publication July 26 2011)


  • Qin Dynasty;
  • Han Dynasty;
  • astronomical alignment;
  • axis mundi;
  • Neolithic;
  • Yangshao;
  • Puyang