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What Diagrams Argue in Late Imperial Chinese Combinatorial Texts


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Attitudes towards diagrammatic reasoning and visualization in mathematics were seldom spelled out in texts from pre-modern China, although illustrations figure prominently in mathematical literature since the eleventh century. Taking the sums of finite series and their combinatorial interpretation as a case study, this article investigates the epistemological function of illustrations from the eleventh to the nineteenth century that encode either the mathematical objects themselves or represent their related algorithms. It particularly focuses on the two illustrations given in Wang Lai’s (1768–1813) Mathematical Principles of Sequential Combinations, arguing that they reflect a specific mode of nineteenth-century mathematical argumentative practice and served as a heuristic model for later authors.


Affiliations: 1: Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg
andrea.breard@asia-europe.uni-heidelberg.de


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/content/journals/10.1163/15733823-00203p02
2015-07-20
2017-11-20

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