EMPIRE OF TIME
Director(s): Cédric CONDON – Writer(s): Arya SUROWIDJOJO Contact Print page
EMPIRE OF TIME brings to life the history of China’s millennia-long enthrallment with the heavens and the science of time—and its dramatic repercussions on the ground. Modern-day astronomers, science historians, and time scientists draw on fascinating parallels between past and present: from modern time-keeping labs to 4,000 year-old Neolithic observatories; from 16th century court astronomical duels with Jesuit astronomer-mathematicians to today’s satellite-driven race for time-data superiority. An epic tale of science, imperial history and intrigue: this is the untold legacy of the Empire of Time.
Historical evidence points to ancient Chinese astronomy and timekeeping as being one of the oldest and most accurate in the world. Out of this scientific tradition, the ability to predict accurate seasons and maintain order through unified time became bound to Chinese Emperors’ right to rule—the Mandate of Heaven.
But by the 16th century, near the end of the Ming dynasty, an external challenge to the Chinese view of the cosmos arrived. A small group of European priests knocked at the door of the Forbidden City, bearing previously-unseen gifts of mechanical clocks. To a civilization obsessed with timekeeping, the doors were flung open for the foreigners bringing exotic technology—and an unprecedented historical epoch. Will the Chinese ruler and timekeepers accept Western innovations?
Through dramatic historical recreations and unparalleled access to the world’s time labs, The Empire of Time brings to life the story of how China’s enduring pursuit of perfect time brought East and West together. What the Jesuits could not have foreseen was the extent of China’s philosophical, scientific and cultural ties to astronomy and timekeeping—thwarting their attempts of imposing the West’s relatively new innovations. Weaved throughout is the parallel story of modern Chinese timekeepers adjusting to a reality following the vote to abolish the Leap Second—what it means for them to be divorced from natural time.