|All talks will be presented in the Seminar Room at the Franke Institute for the Humanities, located on the first floor of the Joseph Regenstein Library, 1100 East 57th Street, University of Chicago.
For the location of the Franke Institute, see the University of Chicago map page for Regenstein Library. Enter the Library through the main entrance on 57th Street.
For directions to the University of Chicago, see the University of Chicago map page.
All talks are free and open to the public.
Persons with a disability who may need assistance are requested to call (773) 702-8274 in advance.
Chair: Daniel Garber (Philosophy, University of Chicago)
Christopher Cullen (History, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London), "Actors, networks and 'disturbing spectacles' in institutional science: 2nd century AD Chinese debates on astronomy"
Donald Harper (East Asian Languages and Civilizations, University of Chicago), "Therapeutic Practice in Medieval Chinese Medicine: The Question of Medical Prohibitions"
Edward Shaughnessy (East Asian Languages and Civilizations, University of Chicago), "Recent Manuscript Discoveries Relating to the Yi Jing [Classic of Changes]"
Chair: Prasenjit Duara (History, University of Chicago)
Juliette Chung (Hofstra University), "Struggle for National Survival: Social Darwinism and Chinese Eugenics"
Tong Lam (University of Chicago), "Making Facts, Writing Fictions, and Authoring the Chinese Nation"
Chair: Anthony Yu (Divinity School, East Asian, English, and Comparative Literature, University of Chicago)
Karine Chemla (Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, France), "What was a mathematical problem in ancient China? A historical approach"
Roger Hart (History and Asian Studies, University of Texas at Austin), "Quantifying Ritual: Political Cosmology, Courtly Music, and Precision Mathematics in Sixteenth-Century China"
Nathan Sivin (History and Sociology of Science, University of Pennsylvania), "Calendar Reform and Occupation Politics"
Chair: Alison Winter (History, University of Chicago)
Hsiang-lin (Sean) Lei (Institute of History, National Tsing-hua University, Taiwan), "How Did Chinese Medicine Become Experiential? The Political Epistemology of Jingyan"
Yi-Li Wu (History, Albion College), "Gods Uterus: Benjamin Hobson and missionary midwifery in 19th century China"
Marta Hanson (University of California, San Diego), "'Understanding is Within One's Grasp' (Liaoran zai wo): Medical Hand Mnemonics in Early Modern China"
Chair: Robert J. Richards (History, Philosophy, and Psychology, University of Chicago)
Benjamin Elman (History, UCLA), "Naval Warfare and the Refraction of Qing 19th Century Industrial Reforms Into Failure"
Fa-ti Fan (History, SUNY Binghamton), "Science in Global Context and the National Question: Prehistoric Archaeology in China, 1910s-1940s"
Florence Hsia (History of Science, University of Wisconsin), "The Decline and Fall of Chinese Imperial Science as a Historiographical Motif"
Haun Saussy (Asian Languages and Comparative Literature, Stanford), "'Thunder, Rainbows and Spicy Herbs': The Lore of Qi and the Tokens of Chineseness"
Roger Hart (History and Asian Studies, University of Texas at Austin)
Robert Richards (History, Philosophy, and Psychology, and Director of the Fishbein Center for the History of Science and Medicine, University of Chicago)
Kevin Chang (History, University of Chicago).
For more information on the conference, please contact Kevin Chang (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Roger Hart (email@example.com).
The history of Chinese science is a field of study marked in crucial ways by its own history. In the early twentieth century, Chinese and Western scholars agreed that China had failed to develop science on its own. Science, it was believed, came to China from the West. In the latter half of the century Joseph Needham's encyclopedic Science and Civilisation in China demonstrated China's considerable scientific achievements. Yet what Needham shared with previous scholarship was a science-and-civilization framework: civilizations were seen as distinct, coherent unities defined by essential distinguishing characteristics; science was conceptualized as a unified body of knowledge, based on a common methodology, developing teleologically toward universal truths. Science thus provided a measure for gauging the progress of civilizations toward modernity. Even recent studies have often continued within this science-and-civilization framework, conceptualizing world history, for example, as a contest of civilizations, in which science explains the triumph of the West.
Recent research in several related fields has suggested reasons to question the imagined unities and constructed continuities upon which this science-and-civilization approach is based. Recent studies in Chinese history have questioned the unity of Chinese civilization, challenging the asserted continuities in language, philosophy, or culture on which such claims of unity were based. More generally, recent critical and post-colonialist studies have challenged the assumed self-evidence of "nations" and "civilizations," revealing the complex historical and political processes through which these unities came to be imagined. And against the view of science as coherent, teleological, and universal, recent microhistorical analyses in science studies have suggested that sciences are local practices inseparable from cultural context. One of the most important results emerging from recent work in the history of science has been the argument for the fundamental disunity of science.
This suggests the importance of organizing a conference on Chinese science (conceived of broadly to include science, medicine, and technology) which assumes neither the unity of civilizations nor of science. The conference integrates a variety of disciplines in order to inquire into the directions that future studies of Chinese science might take. We also consider the ways in which these new approaches to the history of Chinese science can contribute to research in the history of science, world history, East Asian studies, and related fields. We have organized papers into the following panels:
"Early Texts, Early Sciences" examines recent discoveries and analyses of textual sources for the study of early Chinese science. In this panel we explore sources from early China ranging from the earliest written records to recently excavated manuscripts. We cover topics ranging from divination, prognostication, and prediction to astronomy and medicine, analyzed in cultural context.
"Cultural Studies of Chinese Social Sciences" examines the social, political, and cultural contexts of social science and its ideologies. We seek to understand the role of the ideologies of science, democracy, and modernity in twentieth-century China. We also examine the role of the social sciences in the constitution of conceptualizations of Chinese society, their function in disciplining and policing the populace, and their contribution to the formation of the modern nation-state.
"The Exact Sciences in Pre-modern China" focuses on mathematics and astronomy in their cultural context. We explore aspects of astronomy and mathematics, including the notions of "proof" and "problem" in early Chinese mathematics, and early Chinese astronomy in its cultural context. We also examine the cultural history of Chinese mathematics, music, and astronomy in the humanistic context of textualism, philosophy, ritual, and patronage during the Ming dynasty.
"Chinese medicine" presents the latest critical and historical work in the field. We explore both traditional Chinese medicine and its transformation by modern Western medicine.
"China and the West" offers important new perspectives on the introduction of Western science into China, and critical analyses of historical representations of these events, and the resulting conceptualizations of civilizations, sciences, and modernities.
In conclusion, this conference addresses the fundamental changes in our understanding of Chinese science that are now beginning to emerge, along with their larger implications for related disciplines. At a time when science, technology, and medicine are becoming increasingly global, this conference will help us move beyond simplistic science-and-civilization narratives toward a more precise historical understanding of the diversity of practices and contexts of Chinese science, medicine, and technology.
i) Papers will be pre-circulated. We will make papers available electronically via the conference web site if the author permits; otherwise the paper will be distributed only in xeroxed form. Please note that all papers are preliminary drafts only and are not for citation or distribution beyond the scope of this conference. We hope to consider publication of selected essays as a volume on Chinese science, technology, and medicine.
ii) Presentations will be 30 minutes each. The chair of the panel may offer brief comments; the remaining time will be for discussion. Attendees to the conference are requested to read the papers beforehand, especially if they wish to contribute to discussions.
To download the entire paper, click on the title of the paper. The papers are in one of three formats -- .pdf, .pdf page images, or .html. (Papers which do not have links are not available for downloading).
Notes on file formats: (1) .pdf files require Adobe Reader, a free, cross-platform utility that comes bundled with many computers and is also available for download from Adobe's web site. .pdf files are of better quality and considerably more compact than .pdf page images. However, we have had some difficulties converting Chinese characters in some of the .pdf files; these Chinese characters may appear as gibberish in Adobe Reader. (2) .pdf page image files are larger than .pdf files, and the quality of images is degraded by scanning or faxing; however, Chinese characters and other special formatting is preserved. (3) While the formatting of .html files is not as sophisticated as .pdf and conversion is more difficult, the files are compact and can be read with any web browser.
Most historians of science have tended to take the mathematical problems that composed Chinese ancient texts at face value, as if the category of a mathematical "problem" was a-historical. This talk would like to offer a historical approach to determine what a mathematical problem was in ancient China for the practitioners of mathematics. I intend to show that such a problem was not the same object as what we call a mathematical problem today. Moreover, I shall argue that the practice ancient China's practitioners in mathematics developed to work out mathematics on the basis of problems was specific. In fact, problems played a key part in the conduct of proofs. These results should guard us against jumping to the conclusion, as is too often the case, that the problems contained in ancient China's mathematical texts were merely practical.
Ancient Western records provide only fragmentary materials for a history of institutionalised science. But from ancient China the evidence is rich and plentiful. Not only can we trace the development of the technical aspects of state-sponsored mathematical and observational astronomy in detail from a relatively early stage, but we can also follow the course of a series of acerbic debates on astronomical questions that took place at the highest levels of the imperial court. The records of these debates have only now begun to be studied. As well as adding new dimensions to our picture of ancient science, they also prompt us to reassess and perhaps modify widely accepted views of a contrast between a contestational ancient west and a consensus-centred east.
Social Darwinism has been a driving force for the introduction of eugenics into China and Japan in the late 19th century. While Social Darwinism rationalized superiority and hence the domination of certain races, nations, ethnicities and classes over the lesser ones, eugenics worked both ways for the dominators and the dominated since it was considered as the science of human betterment through the application of genetic laws for the dominated to measure up to superior standards, and for the dominators to restrain tendencies of racial degeneration and maintain supremacy. This paper analyzes the development of Chinese eugenics within the frame of two historical moments, one when Japan provided peaceful technology transfer and help Chinese modernization after the first Sino-Japanese War (1894-95 and 1931-45), and another when Japan became the competitor prior to and during the second Sino-Japanese War. It analyzes the ways in which eugenics set forth themes, such as terminology, national character, population quality and growth, war deployment, and the split signification of the fittest and the survivors. In the first moment when both Japan and China were in the same struggle for Civilizational progress, Japan was a source of inspiration, mediation and emulation for Chinese eugenics development. However, Japan became the competitor after moving from the dominated to the dominator. Both Chinese and Japanese eugenicists defined the Sino-Japanese confrontation in the second converging moment as an evolutionary passage of becoming the fittest.
It was not until the Sino-Japanese War of 1894-95, when the Japanese navy, which was tied to Yokosuka military technology, decisively defeated the Qing navy, which was tied to Fuzhou and Shanghai technology, that the alleged superiority of Japan in modern science, or so it was interpreted, became common knowledge to Chinese and Japanese patriots. Although the Jiangnan Arsenal and Fuzhou Ship Yard had appeared superior in science and technology to the Yokosuka Dockyard until the 1880s, after 1895 each side then read their different fates in 1895 teleologically back to the early Meiji period (later even back further to Rangaku, "Dutch Learning," in Tokugawa Japan), in the case of triumphant Japan, or back to the failures of the self-strengthening movement after 1865 (later back to all classical learning), in the case of the defeated Qing. The paper will reconsider the "failure" narrative as it was read into modern Chinese history before 1895.
I want to examine the inter/transnational debate over the origins of Chinese and Chinese civilization in the late 19C and early 20C. The controversy involved participants from different nations and cut across a variety of disciplines - history, biology, philology, archaeology, anthropology, paleontology, etc. A close look at the controversy not only complicates national and ideological boundaries in scientific research and controversy, but also raises questions about science, ideology, and modernity in national and transnational contexts.
When medical authors included diagrams of hands with characters inscribed on them, the hand itself became a tu (diagram), a map, an illustration, or a chart--that represented knowledge in a form more concrete, succinct, visual, and potentially kinesthetic, than the written or spoken word could possibly be. Illustrations of hands as tu may also be read as traces in elite medical texts of a broader popular practice in Chinese culture whereby the hands were used as a means for intervening, learning, calculating, diagnosing, interpreting, confirming, and measuring. Such "zhizhang tu" (lit. "diagram of the fingers and palm") can also be found in other domains of Chinese knowledge including palmistry, geomancy, the calendrical sciences, divination, mathematics, philosophy, music, poetry, and legal procedures. In medical texts a considerable range of meaning and knowledge were embedded in the writing found inscribed on the inner divisions of the palms. We find the hands presented, for example, as powerful agents for exorcising demons, as diagnostic tools for determining the illnesses of infants, as surfaces for therapeutic intervention, as a microcosm of the cosmos, as a gauge of distance between points on the body, and, finally, as mnemonic instruments. This paper will focus on the use of the hand as a mnemonic device to master the complex calculations that synthesized the ten earthly branches and twelve heavenly stems (tiangan dizhi), the five circulatory phases and the six configurations of qi (wuyun liuqi), and the sexagesimal cycle into one medical-climatic system. Established during the course of the Northern Song dynasty, this conceptual system of medical-climatology was intended to better predict epidemics, illnesses, and aberrant pulses. Writing these complex doctrines on the natural divisions of the palm simultaneously naturalized these new doctrines as irrefutable truths and gave cultural authority to the literate practitioners who held them within their grasp. Through six examples of medical hand mnemonics from 1099 to 1742, this essay also addresses a gap in historical scholarship on Chinese arts of memory and examines the interplay between vernacular and elite knowledge in classical Chinese medicine.
This paper examines medieval Chinese medical knowledge from the perspective of the prohibitions imposed on the application of therapy. Prohibitions are recorded in medieval medical literature in connection with acupuncture and moxa treatments, but include other areas such as the compounding and administering of drugs. The plethora of prohibitions constituted part of the physicians' medical knowledge, while at the same time Sun Simo's Qianjin yaofang (Thousand-in-gold essential recipes) states at one place that the prohibitions may be ignored in a medical emergency and at another place that "the methods of the various prohibitions are intended for vulgar scholars." Sun's ambivalence concerning medical prohibitions may be attributed in part to the identification of prohibitions with iatromancy, or medical divination, as practiced by other specialists and widely accepted by the elite. This paper focuses on iatromantic and medical manuscripts from Dunhuang, most dating between the eighth and tenth centuries, which bear witness to the connection between iatromancy and the medicine of the physicians. Among the questions addressed are the influence of iatromancy on medical theory and practice, theoretical consistency in the medicine of the physicians versus their acceptance of cultural norms, and the influence of professional competition.
This paper presents a cultural history of Chinese mathematics and music in the humanistic context of textualism, philosophy, ritual, and patronage during the late Ming dynasty. I argue that the political cosmology of the Records of Music (an example of what Needham termed "correlative thinking"), the recovery of ancient musical ritual, attempts at patronage by buttressing conservative political theories, mathematical practices obtained from recluses, and the inelegant abacus of the despised merchant class were all constitutive elements of Zhu Zaiyu's (1536-1611) work in mathematics and the sciences. Yet, this work also has many attributes we usually associate with scientific modernity, such as the mathematization of nature, precision calculation, and physical experiment.
Little effort has been made to revise Needham's elegant but overly simplistic diagnosis of Jesuit scholarly schizophrenia with respect to Chinese scientific traditions. Fortunately, a promising path for such revision has been marked out by contemporary studies of late imperial scholarship, which have made clear that a complex combination of factors led Chinese scholars during the Ming and Ch'ing dynasties to creatively rethink how the history of science should be written. Jesuit obsession with the motif of Chinese imperial science is only to be expected, given how closely members of the Society of Jesus tied the political fortunes of the early modern Christian mission in China to their success in competing with Chinese scientific practitioners for recognition by the imperial court. But Jesuit expectations concerning the institutional power of Chinese imperial astronomy changed significantly over time, as did the 'habits of Western scholarship' concerning astronomy's past that shaped Jesuit assessments of the Chinese astronomical tradition. In this paper, I trace the evolution of a fundamental component in early modern Jesuit scholarship on Chinese science, namely, the conception of Chinese astronomy as an imperial science, in order to reveal a long-ignored complexity to Jesuit historiography on Chinese science.
This paper explores the question of authorship in social scientific knowledge-production by studying both the facticity and fictionality of the social scientific survey. Using examples of social and ethnographic surveys conducted in China during the first half of the twentieth century, I argue that the scientific survey as a mode of knowledge-production is simultaneously an operation of producing facts and narrating the imagined community. Surveys, in short, are fictions of modern social and political imaginaries based on facts. This paradoxical relationship between fact and fiction in the production and representation of social scientific knowledge raises questions about authorship and authority of social science. While social facts are believed to be value-neutral and producers of facts often assume anonymous identities or being relegated as unimportant, my paper suggests that the credibility of survey-based social science requires institutional and state endorsements as well as the mediation of the knowing subject.
It is now common wisdom that Chinese medicine, unlike modern biomedicine, is founded on thousands of years' accumulation of jingyan [experience]. Although we take it for granted that traditional Chinese medicine was based on experience and progressed through accumulating experience; we note that this way of characterizing Chinese medicine is a completely modern phenomenon. The concept of jingyan-based Chinese medicine became prevalent after the historic struggle between Chinese doctors and Western-style doctors began in China in the late 1920s. This paper argues that this historic confrontation also constituted an epistemological event, which gave birth to the popular idea that Chinese medicine was based on jingyan. Following Wittgenstein's suggestion to "think of words as instruments characterized by their use," this paper shows how Western-style doctors used the concept of jingyan in a series of strategies against Chinese medicine: to demarcate the evolutionary stages of Chinese medical history, to dissociate Chinese drugs from Chinese medical theories, to impose the social division of intellectual labor between Western-style doctors and Chinese doctors, and to preclude the possibility of "scientizing Chinese medicine." As the result of those strategies, Chinese doctors encountered great difficulty in re-asserting the autonomy of Chinese medicine with an allegedly neutral notion of jingyan. Inasmuch as jingyan and related concepts functioned simultaneously as epistemological categories of Chinese medicine and instruments of political strategies, the subtitle of this paper is "The Political Epistemology of Jingyan." By situating this history within the context of the global expansion of Western science and biomedicine, in the conclusion, I take a reflexive stance towards my genealogical analysis of jingyan and explore its cross-cultural implications. To summarize, any attempt to understand indigenous medical knowledge requires critical awareness of the political epistemology of a concept like jingyan whose hegemonic effects endure precisely because they were strategically planned and organized.
It is well-known that the earliest systematic aesthetic writings from China take as their focus music, not visual arts, not verbal arts, and not hybrid arts such as drama. It is traditional to associate this penchant for treating music as the central aesthetic phenomenon with other leanings in Chinese culture: for example, with a "wave" model of natural science (Robinson in Needham's Science and Civilisation; De Woskin), or with an "expressive" (non-mimetic) stance as regards art (Miner). This paper will briefly characterize the function of musical models in a few influential early Chinese texts, asking what work those models perform and for whom (or what) they perform it.
This will be a briefing on a translation and study of the Season-Granting System (Shoushi li), the astronomcal treatise that the Mongols adopted when their conquest of the whole of China was complete at the end of 1279. Among the nearly one hundred calendrical treatises of which we have either the text or the basic parameters between the Han and the Qing, this treatise is unique because it incorporates a detailed committee report outlining the tests that were used to determine that the system merited adoption. The book reveals, among other things, what records of ancient phenomena were available in the Astronomical Bureau for use in testing. In addition to the technical riches of this treatise, there are considerable data in the Yuan History that reveal the political motivations and bureaucratic organization behind the calendar reform. Any adequate study is bound to incorporate all of these dimensions; the essay will outline that work in progress
It is well-known that nineteenth-century Euro-American missionaries actively sought to disseminate Western medicine in late imperial China. But what did this Western medicine consist of? How might the way that missionaries presented this foreign medicine influence how Chinese elites viewed it? This paper explores these questions by analyzing the Chinese language medical works published by British missionary doctor Benjamin Hobson, particularly his Fuying xinshuo (English title: Treatise on Midwifery and Diseases of Children, 1858). In his gynecological treatise, Hobson emphasized the central role of the uterus, which he portrayed as the key determinant of female health or pathology. This approach was driven by two motivations: a desire to impress Chinese readers with Western anatomical and surgical knowledge and the desire to use anatomical study to prove that the Christian God was the author of Creation. Furthermore, Hobsons text focused primarily on the disorders of childbirth, and he assumed that male doctors trained in anatomy should take over the management of obstetrics. Ironically, however, these etiological and therapeutic emphases meant that Western midwifery could not be easily absorbed into learned Chinese fuke practice. Chinese male doctors had no interest in delivering babies, Hobsons Midwifery offered few therapeutic alternatives for the female illnesses that they were interested in, and Chinese literati readers were ultimately unmoved or even wary of Hobsons religious message.