David Pankenier

Dr. David Pankenier, Professor Emeritus
Professor Emeritus
c/o MLL Department, Lehigh University
Ph.D. Asian Languages, Stanford University, 1983


From the history of ideas in ancient China, to cultural astronomy, to archaeoastronomy.

My formal studies in Sinology, begun at the University of Stockholm with Göran Malmqvist, were augmented by three years of private study in the Chinese Classics with Aisin-Gioro Yü-yün in Taiwan (1974-77) prior to graduate study at Stanford (1978-83). 

I’m perhaps best known for my research focusing on the connection between astronomical phenomena and epoch-making political and military events in ancient China. The awe-inspiring presence of the sky has left its imprint on human culture at all times and in all places. It is only comparatively recently that we have managed to construct an artificial environment around ourselves. While insulating us from the elements and enabling our modern lifestyle, artificial surroundings also isolate us from the sky to an unprecedented degree. The result has been an impoverished understanding of the rhythms of nature, as well a lack of appreciation for how profoundly astronomical phenomena have influenced domains as disparate as art, myth, cosmology, calendars, literature, politics, and the built environment.

My current research interests range from the history of ideas in ancient China, to cultural astronomy, to archaeoastronomy. I have published (with Xu Zhentao and Jiang Yaotiao) two volumes of translations of many hundreds of ancient Chinese astronomical observations, a collection of my own research articles in Chinese,as well as numerous articles on ancient Chinese chronology, cosmology, classical literature, and intellectual history. A new book, Astrology and Cosmology in Early China: Conforming Earth to Heaven (Cambridge University Press, 2013) has just appeared. A representative selection of research articles is available in pdf by clicking on the titles in my curriculum vitae.