The Dunhuang map or Dunhuang Star map is one of the first known graphical representation of stars from ancient Chinese astronomy, dated to the Tang Dynasty (618–907). Prior to this map, many of the star information mentioned in historical Chinese texts had been questioned. The map provides a graphical verification of the star observations, and are part of a series of pictures on one of the Dunhuang manuscripts. The astronomy behind the map is explained in an educational resource posted on the website of the International Dunhuang Project, where much of the research on the map has been done.
The scroll was discovered among the many manuscripts in the Mogao Caves by Chinese Taoist Wang Yuan-lu in the 1900s. One of the first public mentionings of this script in Western studies was from Joseph Needham’s 1959 version of the book Science and Civilisation in China. Since that time only a few publications have been devoted to the map, nearly all being Chinese publications.
The symbols for the stars are divided into three different groups. They groups are presented in three colors presenting the “Three Schools of Astronomical tradition”.