Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Benjamin Elman on circulation of Jesuit knowledge in China

Fresh from EU China again: This might be paradigmatically important for our preface to the TWL translation, also because Elman is a prominent figure in the field (see his On their own terms - an almost entire version of this book is available on Google books).

Benjamin A. Elman,

“Who is Responsible for the Limits of Jesuit Scientific and Technical Transmission from Europe to China in the Eighteenth Century?”

pp. 45-66 of: Ho, Wing-chung, Clara (ed.), Windows on the Chinese world: reflections by five historians,
Lanham: Lexington Books, 2009 (135 p., ISBN 9780739127698).

This article contains the text of a lecture Elman gave at Hong Kong Baptist Universty in November 2006.

For a summary of a talk with the same title, but with slighty different contents (the titles of the sections 3-7 are the same), given at Brown University (Providence, Rhode Island, USA) in March 2008, see pp. 55-56 of:
http://www.ccha-assoc.org/journal/2009%20Fall/WebBack%20(3).pdf .
For an abstract of his talk (“Who is Responsible for the Limits of Jesuit Scientific and Technical Transmission from Europe to China in the Eighteenth Century?”) at the Folger Institute, Washington DC, September 2009, see http://www.folger.edu/template.cfm?cid=3239&CFID=2655504&CFTOKEN=63213632 . This talk was followed by: Mordechai Feingold, “Why blame the Jesuits: Some Revisionist Reflections on the Transmission and Reception of Western Learning in Late Imperial China”; for an abstract see: http://www.folger.edu/template.cfm?cid=3240&CFID=2655504&CFTOKEN=63213632 .
Last month (March 2010) Elman’s talk at Rowan University (NJ) was entitled: "Why Blame China? Who Was Responsible for the Limits of Jesuit Science and Technical Transmission to China in the 18th Century?" (see http://www.rowan.edu/colleges/las//events/event.cfm?id=19 ) .

Monday, April 12, 2010

New Book Mentioning "Tianwenlüe"

This just came in through EUCHINA, see below for Tianwenlue (the whole book might be interesting for the preface to our traduction):

Ian Inkster (ed.), History of technology, volume 29 (Dec. 2009).

London / New York: Continuum International Publishing Group
215 pp. (covering two special issues), ISBN 9781441136114

Special Issue: Kent Deng and Jerry Liu (eds.), Chinese Technological History: The Great Divergence., pp. 1-101

Abstract: The common question from the western point of view is of the sort; why did China lose its early leadership of productive technologies to Europe during the early modern period? Answers to this seemingly clear enquiry vary from general cultural inwardness to the interferences of imperial governance. This collection surveys such theories but alters the issue by raising the notion that Chinese technologies did not so much fail as move along a path different from that of Europe.

Table of contents:

pp. 1-2: Deng and Liu, “Editorial Introduction”

pp. 7-28: Patrick K. O'Brien, “The Needham Question Updated: a Historiographical Survey and Elaboration”

pp. 29-55: Jerry C.Y. Liu, “Cultural Logics for the Regime of Useful Knowledge during the Ming and early Qing China c. 1400-1700”

(p. 44: Ricci; p. 46; Kong Zhenshi, preface to Dias’ Tianwen lüe; p. 46/47: Wu Weizhong, postscript to Schreck’s Qiqi tushuo;
p. 50: “it is probably an understatment that there was never a pure transfer of useful knowledge from Europe to China during
the Ming and early-Qing times. The Jesuit activities in China may serve as an important indicator here ...”).

pp. 57-79: Kent G. Deng, “Movers and Shakers of Knowledge in China during the Ming-Qing Period”

Abstract: The period of 1600-1910 is commonly viewed as one of decline in Chinese science and technology in world history. This article examines the movers and shakers of knowledge to show how the Chinese tried to catch up with the advancing West. They were not as stubbornly conservative as one might think. However, a degree of openness did not guarantee China’s ability to modernize.

pp. 57-62: The Jesuit period, c. 1600-1840;
1) pp. 57-59: How did it all begin?;
2) pp. 59-62: Why did Western knowledge not take China by storm before 1800?;
pp. 63-74: The Westernization period, 1840-1910; pp. 74-79, notes and references

pp. 81-101: Harriet T. Zurndorfer, “China and Science on the Eve of the 'Great Divergence' 1600-1800: A review of recent revisionist scholarship in Western languages”

Abstract: The first part of this study considers both general and specific publications that have re-framed the way China specialist and others have conceived Chinese science and attempts to relate these representations to diverging patterns of economic development between China and Europe before the 19th century. In the second part, this essay focuses on the Jesuit transmission of European science to China, and its consequences. It argues that the Ming and Qing governments’ efforts to control the Jesuit-transmitted knowledge in these fields stimulated ever more interest among local scholars in Chinese traditions of mathematics and astronomy, which culminated in the 18th-century ‘evidential research’ movement. But because the scientific knowledge the Jesuits conveyed was already out of date, before their arrival in China, local scholars never had the possibility to make a complete reassessment of their own mathematical and astronomical practices. As the primary and – at times, the only – translators of Western scientific thought to China, the Jesuits had an enormous historical impact on how Chinese scholars became trapped in a pre-Copernican universe in which Chinese natural philosophy, with its focus on metaphysical interpretations of the natural world, remained entrenched until the 19th century.
pp. 81-86, Introduction to the histiory of Chinese science in a global perspectives: Old and new debates
pp. 86-91, Jesuit scientific mission in China: Flattery as strategy
pp. 91-93, Helping to make the earth stand still: The Jesuit agenda and Chinese priorities
pp. 93-96, The significance of the first encounter: Intellectual dead end?
pp. 97-98, Some further observations; pp. 98-101, Notes and references.