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.
Mapping China and Managing the World focuses on Chinese constructions of order (zhi) and examines the most important ways in which elites in late imperial China sought to order their vast and variegated world. This book begins by exploring the role of ancient texts and maps as the two prominent symbolic devices that the Chinese used to construct cultural meaning, and looks at how changing conceptions of ‘the world’ shaped Chinese cartography, whilst both shifting and enduring cartographic practices affected how the Chinese regarded the wider world. Richard J. Smith goes on to examine the significance of ritual in overcoming disorder, and by focusing on the importance of divination shows how Chinese at all levels of society sought to manage the future, as well as the past and the present. Finally, the book concludes by emphasizing the enduring relevance of the Yijing (Classic of Changes) in Chinese intellectual and cultural life as well as its place in the history of Sino-foreign interactions.
Bringing together a selection of essays by Richard J. Smith, one of the foremost scholars of Chinese intellectual and cultural history, this book will be welcomed by Chinese and East Asian historians, as well as those interested more broadly in the culture of China and East Asia.
Compiled toward the end of the Former Han dynasty (202 BCE-9 CE) by Liu Xiang (79-8 BCE), the Lienü zhuan is the earliest extant book in the Chinese tradition solely devoted to the education of women. Far from providing a unified vision of women's roles, the text promotes a diverse and sometimes contradictory range of practices. At one extreme are exemplars resorting to suicide and self-mutilation as a means to preserve chastity and ritual orthodoxy. At the other are bold and outspoken women whose rhetorical mastery helps correct erring rulers, sons, and husbands. The text provides a fascinating overview of the representation of women's roles in early legends, formal speeches on statecraft, and highly fictionalized historical accounts during this foundational period of Chinese history.
Over time, the biographies of women became a regular feature of dynastic and local histories and a vehicle for expressing and transmitting concerns about women's social, political, and domestic roles. The Lienü zhuan is also rich in information about the daily life, rituals, and domestic concerns of early China. Inspired by its accounts, artists across the millennia have depicted its stories on screens, paintings, lacquer ware, murals, and stone relief sculpture, extending its reach to literate and illiterate audiences alike.