Japanese Temple Geometry; Science and Art; Exclusive Online Issues; by Tony Rothman; 7 Page(s)
Of the world's countless customs and traditions, perhaps none is as elegant, nor as beautiful, as the tradition of sangaku, Japanese temple geometry. From 1639 to 1854, Japan lived in strict, self-imposed isolation from the West. Access to all forms of occidental culture was suppressed, and the influx of Western scientific ideas was effectively curtailed. During this period of seclusion, a kind of native mathematics flourished.
Devotees of math, evidently samurai, merchants and farmers, would solve a wide variety of geometry problems, inscribe their efforts in delicately colored wooden tablets and hang the works under the roofs of religious buildings. These sangaku, a word that literally means mathematical tablet, may have been acts of homage--a thanks to a guiding spirit--or they may have been brazen challenges to other worshipers: Solve this one if you can!