Michael Nylan is Professor of Modern and Ancient Chinese Studies at Bryn Mawr College.
In The Crafting of the 10,000 Things, Dagmar Schäfer probes this fascinating text and the legacy of its author to shed new light on the development of scientific thinking in China, the purpose of technical writing, and its role in and effects on Chinese history. Meticulously unfolding the layers of Song’s personal and cultural life, Schäfer chronicles the factors that motivated Song to transform practical knowledge into written culture. She then examines how Song gained, assessed, and ultimately presented knowledge, and in doing so articulates this era’s approaches to rationality, truth, and belief in the study of nature and culture alike. Finally, Schäfer places Song’s efforts in conjunction with the work of other Chinese philosophers and writers, before, during, and after his time, and argues that these writings demonstrate collectively a uniquely Chinese way of authorizing technology as a legitimate field of scholarly concern and philosophical knowledge.
Offering an overview of a thousand years of scholarship, The Crafting of the 10,000 Things explains the role of technology and crafts in a culture that had an outstandingly successful tradition in this field and was a crucial influence on the technical development of Europe on the eve of the Industrial Revolution.
Exemplary Figures (sometimes translated as Model Sayings) is an unabridged, annotated translation of Fayan, one of three major works by the Chinese court poet-philosopher Yang Xiong (53 BCE-18 CE). Yang sought to "renew the old" by patterning these works on earlier classics, drawing inspiration from the Confucian Analects for Exemplary Figures. In this philosophical masterwork, constructed as a dialogue, Yang poses and then answers questions on philosophical, political, ethical, and literary matters. Michael Nylan's rendering of this text, which is laden with word play and is extraordinarily difficult to translate, is a joy to read-at turns wise, cautionary, and playful.
Exemplary Figures is a core text that will be relied upon by scholars of Chinese history and philosophy and will be of interest to comparativists as well.