**From:** Christopher Cullen (*c.cullen@nri.org.uk*)

**Date:** Tue Jan 13 2004 - 12:39:54 EST

**Previous message:**Markus Scherer: "Re: German characters not correct in output webform"**In reply to:**Marco Cimarosti: "RE: Chinese rod numerals"**Next in thread:**Kenneth Whistler: "Re: Chinese rod numerals"**Messages sorted by:**[ date ] [ thread ] [ subject ] [ author ] [ attachment ]**Mail actions:**[ respond to this message ] [ mail a new topic ]

My submission is that the evidence I cite does show that the rod

numerals were used in writing. Of course some forms of writing are

more technical than others, and mathematics is a particularly technical

form of writing. Rod numerals functioned in the work of the Song/Yuan

algebraists in the same way that algebraic notation does for a modern

mathematician. Thus for example, referring to the page from a 13th

century book reproduced in Needham (1959) p. 132, I would translate the

passage from the bottom of the fourth column from the right (reading

right to left) roughly as:

" ... having done that, multiply the breadth of the yellow hypotenuse

by the unknown, to obtain (-2x^2 + 654x), then divide that by ..."

The expression shown here using algebra is set out in the original

using rod numerals. If that is not writing, then algebra is not

writing either. I revert again to the cross-cultural issue: why should

modern western mathematicians have the privilege of finding everything

they need in Unicode, whereas those who wish to write Chinese

mathematics have to resort to pasting graphics into their texts,

because someone decides that parts of those texts are not "real

writing"?

Incidentally, I do note that provision has been made to encode the 64

hexagrams of the Book of Change, and also the symbols used in Yang

Xiong's Taixuan jing. See

http://www.unicode.org/charts/

under "Yi Jing hexagram symbols" and "Tai xuan jing symbols". While I

think that the idea of "writing" may not be in the last analysis a

helpful one to use as a demarcation criterion for Unicode, given that

the home page does say "The Unicode Standard defines codes for ....

arrows, dingbats, etc.", I would think that if the hexagrams etc. are

in, then a fortiori so should rod numerals be. Much more if the Tai

xuan jing symbols are in, which I personally have never seen used

outside the context of the ancient book in which they occur (maybe I'm

just ignorant. Yes, I probably am).

Christopher

On 13 Jan 2004, at 16:05, Marco Cimarosti wrote:

*> Christopher Cullen wrote:
*

*>> (2) The Unicode home page says: "The Unicode Standard defines
*

*>> codes for characters used in all the major languages [...]
*

*>> mathematical symbols, technical symbols, [...]".
*

*>> I suggest that in an enterprise so universal and
*

*>> cross-cultural as Unicode, the definition of what counts
*

*>> as a "mathematical symbol" has to be conditioned by actual
*

*>> mathematical practice in the culture whose script is being
*

*>> encoded.
*

*>
*

*> I think that Ken Whistler point was simply this:
*

*>
*

*> OK, Chinese rod numerals may be symbols, but were these symbols used
*

*> in *writing*?
*

*>
*

*> Not all symbols are used in writing, and only symbols used in writing
*

*> are
*

*> suitable to be part of a repertoire of, well, encoding symbols used in
*

*> writing...
*

*>
*

*> A flag, a medal, a tattoo, T-shirt may definitely be calle4d
*

*> "symbols", yet
*

*> Unicode does not need a code point for "Union Jack" or "Che Guevara
*

*> T-Shirt".
*

*>
*

*> To stick to mathematics, a pellet on an abacus, a key on an electronic
*

*> calculator, or a curve drawn on a whiteboard may legitimately be
*

*> considered
*

*> symbols for numbers or other mathematical concepts. Yet, Unicode does
*

*> not
*

*> need a code point for "abacus pellet", or "memory recall key", or
*

*> "hyperbola
*

*> with horizontal axis", because these symbols are not elements of
*

*> writing.
*

*>
*

*> IMHO, in your proposal you should provide evidence that the answer to
*

*> the
*

*> above question is "yes". I.e., you don't need to prove that these
*

*> symbols
*

*> were used in Chinese mathematics, but rather that they were used to
*

*> *write*
*

*> something (numbers, arguably, or arithmetical operations, etc.).
*

*>
*

*> _ Marco
*

*>
*

*>
*

*>
*

*>
*

**Next message:**Addison Phillips [wM]: "RE: German characters not correct in output webform"**Previous message:**Markus Scherer: "Re: German characters not correct in output webform"**In reply to:**Marco Cimarosti: "RE: Chinese rod numerals"**Next in thread:**Kenneth Whistler: "Re: Chinese rod numerals"**Messages sorted by:**[ date ] [ thread ] [ subject ] [ author ] [ attachment ]**Mail actions:**[ respond to this message ] [ mail a new topic ]

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