Euclid’s Elements in China

The AMS this month has a wonderful article on Euclid’s work and journey through the east. The famous mathematical text ‘Euclid’s Elements’ has a long and fascinating translation history in China. In the early 1600s, Italian priest Matteo Ricci brought a copy to China and collaborated with scholar Xu Guangqi to translate the first six books into Chinese. Their work introduced logical thinking into Chinese mathematics. Ricci died before finishing the translation. Over 200 years later, British missionary Alexander Wylie teamed up with renowned Chinese mathematician Li Shanlan to finally translate the remaining seven books. Their 1857 publication of the complete Chinese translation was a landmark event, formally bringing the entirety of Euclid’s influential geometrical framework to China. The completion involved pioneers from both Eastern and Western mathematical traditions, underscoring the power of cross-cultural collaboration.