Science and Confucian Statecraft in East Asia


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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EUR €79.00USD $95.00

Biographical Note

Francesca Bray, PhD (1985) University of Cambridge, is Emerita Professor of Social Anthropology at the University of Edinburgh. Recent books include Graphics and Text in the Production of Technical Knowledge in China: The Warp and the Weft (co-edited, Brill, 2007) and Technology, Gender and History in Imperial China: Great Transformations Reconsidered (Routledge, 2013).

Jongtae Lim, Ph.D. (2003), Seoul National University, teaches the history of science in East Asia at that university. He has conducted research on early modern Korean science, particularly the history of Western learning and the scientific exchange between China and Korea.

Table of contents


Figures and Tables
Notes on Contributors
 1 Introduction: Science and Confucian Statecraft in East Asia
  Francesca Bray

Part 1: Making State Sciences Work

 2 Confucian Statecraft and the Production of Saltpeter and Sulfur in Song Dynasty China
  Peter Lorge
 3 Song Government and Medicine – the Case of the Imperial Pharmacy
  Asaf Goldschmidt
 4 Forensic Science and the Late Imperial Chinese State
  Pierre-Étienne Will
 5 Calendar Publishing and Local Science in Chosŏn Korea
  Park Kwon Soo

Part 2: State, Science, and Legitimacy

 6 “As a Sage-king Reemerges, All Water Returns to Its Proper Path”: Xia Yuanji’s Water Management and the Legitimisation of the Yongle Reign
  Cho-ying Li
 7 Measuring the Rainfall in an East Asian State Bureaucracy: the Use of Rain-Measuring Utensils in Late Eighteenth-Century Korea
  Lim Jongtae林宗台
 8 Measures against Epidemics in Late Eighteenth-Century Korea: Reformation or Restoration?
  Shin Dongwon
 9 Delivering Whose Seasons?  Non-state Knowledge of the Heavens in Early Imperial China, and Its Official Appropriation
  Christopher Cullen
 10 From Local Calendar (hyangnyŏk) to Eastern Calendar (tongnyŏk): the Aspiration for an Independent Calendar of the Kingdom in Late Chosŏn Korea
  Moon Joong-Yang



All interested in the history of science in East Asia; anyone concerned with Confucianism and state bureaucracy in East Asia; anyone concerned with the relationship between science and the state.

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