The main building of Sheshan observing station, a French-style
construction built by French Mission Catholique in 1900.
Leave the traditional guided walks behind and strike out at your
own pace with a tour guide to 10 science museums in Shanghai. You are about to
embark on an exciting journey of Shanghai Astronomical Museum. This guide is
presented by Shanghai Daily and supervised by the Shanghai Science and
With stars twinkling in the dark sky, the mysterious Milky Way streams above
us. When you gaze up at night, do you feel the serenity of the stars? Are your
curious about the cosmos?
Today, let's walk through the Shanghai Astronomical Museum atop scenic
Sheshan Hill in Songjiang District. Let's lose ourselves in the history of
Chinese astronomy, the glittering stars and mankind's efforts to unlock their
In the first exhibition hall, the theme is -- time.
The first thing you see is a model of one of China's early observatories in
Henan Province. It was built by astronomer Guo Shoujing in the twelfth century
to observe the sun and stars to determine the 24 Solar Terms.
Now walk straight ahead. On your right are two replicas of water clocks from
the Han and Qing dynasties. Also known as clepsydra, the water clock is an
ancient device for measuring time by the gradual flow of water. Clepsydra were
used to time speakers, lawyers and actors in ancient Greece.
Walk through the corridor, and you will see a prismatic astrolabe invented by
a French astronomer in the 1950s. The first astrolabes were medieval instruments
used to measure the altitude of the sun and celestial bodies. Today we use
To your right is a special scale. Curious about your weight on different
planets? Just stand on it and press the desired planet to see your¡°space
weight¡±-- based on different planets' different gravitational pulls.
Timing systems are essential for modern war. To the left of the astrolabe,
you can play a video game of rocket intercepter to better understand the key
role of timing in military operations.
Next are some highly accurate timekeepers: the astronomical pendulum clock,
the quartz clock, the global-positioning-system clock and the hydrogen maser or
The most accurate is the hydrogen maser -- note the model made by the
observatory. An atomic clock gains or loses less than a second in millions of
Up ahead is an instrument that can check and calibrate your wristwatch.
On the left wall is a video screen where you can play a game and find out if
you can land on Mars before the designated time.
Walk along the path and you can see the main building of the Sheshan
Observatory. It was built in the French style by French Catholic missionaries in
In this area, the exhibits focus on astronomical exchanges between China and
Now walk up the stairs and enter the room on the second floor. It contains
exhibits about the introduction of Western astronomy to China. On the wall are
pictures of China's astronomical pioneers Xu Guangqi, Li Shanlan and Matteo
Picture 101 shows Xu Guangqi, born in Shanghai in 1562. He was a senior
government official believed to be the first person in China to learn and
introduce Western knowledge. Picture 102 shows Xu Guangqi and Italian missionary
Ricci. It was from Ricci that Xu acquired Western mathematics and science.
In front of you is a glass case containing a copy of the calendar of the
Chongzhen Emperor. It was completed in 1634 by Chinese and foreign scientists
under Xu Guangqi. It was comprised of 137 volumes, covering knowledge about the
calendar and astronomy.
On the right wall are two illustrations of the moon and Jupiter taken from
In the second section are old photographs showing the founding of this
observatory. At the end of the 19th century, French missionary Stanislaus
Chevalier bought a 40 centimeter double-refracting telescope from France and
began to build an observatory on Sheshan Hill to house it.
The third section displays astronomical instruments and photographs.
The case on your right shows China's first photo of a solar eclipse. It was
taken by this observatory on January 14, 1907. You can even see sunspots.
On the wall behind you are pictures of comets taken by the same telescope in
the early 20th century, including Morechouse's Comet and Comet Brooks.
The fourth section introduces distinguished figures in the early history of
the observatory. You will see Stanislaus Chevalier in picture No. 121. He was
the first director of Sheshan Observatory and received the Chinese name Cai
Shangzhi. He drew the nearby pictures of Jupiter through his own astronomical
Others honored in this section are French priest Yan Yuefei and Chinese
astronomer Gao Pingzi who died in 1970. A crater on the moon is named after him.
The fifth section illustrates development of Sheshan Observatory after the
founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949. In photo No. 131, an old man
observes Halley's Comet with young astronomy-lovers. He was Li Heng, who died in
1989. He was the first director of the Shanghai Astronomical Observatory. It
includes both the Xujiahui Observatory and Sheshan Observatory.
On the right wall is a portrait of Chinese astronomer Chen Zungui, who died
in 1991. Some of his writings lie in the nearby case.
Walking through the corridor and entering the next room, you see a Prin
meridional instrument purchased in Paris in 1925. It is a special telescope to
measure time by observing the stars. The room you are in now was the old
observing room -- and its roof could be opened. Now the roof is sealed and the
ceiling is painted like a night sky spangled with stars.
Walk out into the encircling corridor. On the right side you will see
telescopes used in different eras. The left wall is hung with pictures depicting
the six great discoveries of Galileo. They changed people's concept of the
cosmos -- and provided evidence for Polish astronomer Copernicus' theory that
the Earth and the other planets revolve around the sun -- not the other way
Now, please go upstairs. The third floor houses the museum's century-old
treasure -- the huge 40-centimeter refracting telescope. It is still used
occasionally on clear nights to view special phenomena and to show budding
astronomers and schoolchildren.
The telescope and the retractable dome above it cost nearly 100,000 francs
when they were put into operation in 1901. Despite weighing over three tons, the
telescope can be rotated to target different planets and celestial phenomena.
It also takes photographs, since astronomers today observe the skies mainly
by taking pictures. Since the middle of the 20th century, celestial bodies
invisible to the naked eye have been captured on film -- these include dark
stars, comets, comet vapor tails and nebulas.
Photographs taken by the telescope are displayed in cases.
We hope you enjoyed your visit to the Shanghai Astronomical Museum.
The museum is atop Western Sheshan Hill in Songjiang District.
It's open from 8am to 6pm.
Although the museum has no admission charge, the fee is 30 yuan to enter the
Several buses can bring you here -- they are on the Nanshe Line, Hunshekun
Line, Shangshe Line, Hucheng Line and Shanghai Line.