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The Institute of Astronomy, Academia Sinica, was founded in Nanjing in 1928.The main task of the institute in early times was to establish the Purple Mountain Observatory (PMO). In 1934, PMO was put into the operation. In 1950, the Institute of Astronomy was changed the name as Purple Mountain Observatory, Chinese Academy of Sciences.

PMO is the first Chinese own modern astronomical research institution in China. Most of later Chinese astronomical branches and departments are dependent of or related to PMO. During the Japanese invasion, the staffs and some facilities of PMO were moved to Kunming, and in 1946 when PMO returned to Nanjing, there remained the Kunming observing station, based on which in 1972 Yunnan Astronomical Observatory was founded. In 1950. PMO took over two French Church observatories Xujiahui and Sheshan, and then in 1962 the Shanghai Astronomical Observatory was founded. In 1958 PMO arranged a group of people to prepare constructing Beijing Astronomical Observatory, and then the Beijing Astronomical Observatory, was formally founded in 1962. Besides, Nanjing Astronomical Observatory Factory was founded in 1966 with a leadership of PMO. Due to the history role, PMO has been famed as “the cradle of modern astronomy in China.”

PMO underwent several stages since its foundation: from 1928 to 1937 it was in the pioneering stage, when PMO facilitated the largest telescope in Far East area, 60cm reflector; from 1937 to 1949 it was in suffering stage, due to Japanese invasion, the staffs and some facilities of PMO moved to Kunming, and then returned in 1946; from 1949 to 1976 it was in developing stage, when it coordinated the whole development of Chinese Astronomical community, and PMO itself grew up to 8 research divisions. After “Great Culture Revolution,” PMO considered its developmental strategy and proposed 3 new directions: millimeter-wave astronomy, space astronomy, and applied celestial mechanics. Since then, PMO was on the track of quick development.