Cultures of Knowledge

Technology in Chinese History


Editor: Dagmar Schäfer
Looking at knowledge transmission as a cultural feature, this book isolates and examines the individual factors that affect knowledge in the making and created uniquely Chinese cultures of knowledge. The volume is organized into four sections: Internode, Imperial Court, Agora, and Scholarly Arts. Each has a theoretical introduction, followed by two core contributions from experts in Chinese history. The section concludes with a ‘reflection’ by a historian of Western Technology who scrutinizes each sphere and identifies the points that reflect universal technological experience. The combination of broadly sketched theoretical introductions and detailed core contributions provides an unparalleled insight into pre-modern Chinese history from the Song to early Qing dynasty, revealing Chinese attitudes towards innovation and invention.

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Biographical Note

Dagmar Schäfer heads a Research Group at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science. Her latest book is The Crafting of the 10,000 Things, Knowledge and Technology in Seventeenth Century China, (Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 2011).

Review Quotes

"This book provides a fascinating overview of current research on technology and its transmission in China. It combines in-depth case studies concerned with the material culture of various historical periods with a comparative perspective of parallel European developments. The book presents the results of a joint research venture in a coherent and very readable manner. It is a must not only for experts in Chinese history, but for everyone who is interested in understanding how technology evolves in dependence on social, cultural and political contexts." – Professor Dr. Jürgen Renn, Executive Director, Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin, Honorary Professor, History of Science, Humboldt-University Berlin, Honorary Professor, Physics, Free University Berlin, Adjunct Professor Philosophy and Physics, Boston University


Those who are interested in questions of knowledge transmission, cultural contexts of individual technologies in China and throughout East Asia such as porcelain, silk, agriculture and parallels to be found in medieval Europe.

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