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Francesca Bray

Abstract

This chapter analyzes the role of technology in shaping Chinese material resources, society and governance over the longue durée. What place did technology occupy in Chinese experience and thought before the debacle of the Opium Wars, when there was no concept in the language that corresponded to our modern understanding of technology as sophisticated machinery, or as an irresistible force for progress? What role was attributed to technology during China’s subsequent struggles for survival and recognition as its technological landscapes were repeatedly and dramatically transformed: first, through the final years of the Qing when reformers turned to technological innovation as a way to stave off disaster, then through the Republican period as the government strove to build a modern infrastructure, through the years of war and revolution, during successive Maoist campaigns and finally into the current post-Reform era? How is technology understood and viewed in China today, now that the nation has transcended earlier stigmatization as an inherently non-creative culture capable only of copying Western innovations, to emerge as an acknowledged global leader in high-tech fields like biotechnology? I propose the paired concepts of technological landscape and technological culture as analytical tools for interweaving transformations and continuities in Chinese views and uses of technology between the late nineteenth century and today.

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Edited by Jongtae Lim and Francesca Bray

Science and Confucian Statecraft in East Asia explores science and technology as practiced in the governments of premodern China and Korea. Contrary to the stereotypical image of East Asian bureaucracy as a generally negative force having hindered free enquiries and scientific progress, this volume offers a more nuanced picture of how science and technology was deployed in the service of state governance in East Asia. Presenting richly documented cases of the major state-sponsored sciences, astronomy, medicine, gunpowder production, and hydraulics, this book illustrates how rulers’ and scholar-officials’ concern for efficient and legitimate governance shaped production, circulation, and application of natural knowledge and useful techniques.

Contributors include: Francesca Bray, Christopher Cullen, Asaf Goldschmidt, Cho-ying Li, Jongtae Lim, Peter Lorge, Joong-Yang Moon, Kwon soo Park, Dongwon Shin, Pierre-Étienne Will

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Edited by Francesca Bray, Vera Dorofeeva-Lichtmann and Georges Métailié

This collection offers a challenging new interpretation of technical knowledge in Chinese thought and practice. Conveying technical knowledge in China through charts, plans or drawings ( tu) dates back to antiquity. Earlier studies focused on specialised forms of tu like maps or drawings of machines. Here, however, tu is identified in Chinese terms, viz. as a philosophical category of knowledge production: visual templates for action, spanning a range from mandala to modernist mapping projects, inseparable from writing but with distinctive powers of communication. A distinction is made between two principal types of tu: ritual/symbolic and representational, highlighting essential issues such as historical shifts in their significance, the relations between tu and political power, media for inscribing tu and the impact of printing, and encounters with the West.