Graphics and Text in the Production of Technical Knowledge in China

The Warp and the Weft


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.

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Francesca Bray, Ph.D. (1985) in Social Anthropology, University of Cambridge, is Professor of Social Anthropology at Edinburgh. Her publications include Technology and Gender: Fabrics of Power in Late Imperial China (California, 1997).
Vera Dorofeeva-Lichtmann, Ph.D. (1992) in History, Moscow University, is Directeur de recherche at the CNRS in Paris. Her publications include “Mapping a ‘Spiritual’ Landscape: Representing Terrestrial Space in the Shan hai jing,” in: Political Frontiers, Ethnic Boundaries, and Human Geographies in Chinese History (London – New York, 2003).
Georges Métailié, Ph.D. (1974) in Far Eastern Studies, University of Paris 7, is Directeur de recherche at the CNRS in Paris. His latest publication is Dictionnaire Ricci des plantes de Chine (Paris, 2005).
"This massive and engaging volume, edited by sinologists Francesca Bray, Vera Dorofeeva-Lichtmann, and Georges Métailié, is an important addition to the literature. Devoted mainly to the study of Chinese graphic elements, the book examines their role in society, history, and culture. The volume’s significance lies as much in its methodology as in its broad coverage.(...) These essays, and particularly Bray’s introduction, set up a framework for the study of Chinese tu and raise many questions for further study. They will appeal to students and scholars of visual culture and of the history of science, the history of art, and the history of science, in both China and the West."
Jinbang Song, East Asian Science, Technology and Society: An International Journal (2011) 5
"a large and important book. We can congratulate the editors and contributors for a very useful set of essays and and introduction that goes as far as possible toward making them cohere."
Nathan Sivin, China Review International 2008: 15/4.
All those interested in the intellectual and cultural history of China, or in comparative studies of knowledge production and the history of science.