Early Chinese Work in Natural Science: A Re-Examination of the Physics of Motion, Acoustics, Astronomy and Scientific Thoughts

Early Chinese Work in Natural Science: A Re-Examination of the Physics of Motion, Acoustics, Astronomy and Scientific Thoughts

Early Chinese Work in Natural Science: A Re-Examination of the Physics of Motion, Acoustics, Astronomy and Scientific Thoughts

Early Chinese Work in Natural Science: A Re-Examination of the Physics of Motion, Acoustics, Astronomy and Scientific Thoughts

Synopsis

This book re-examines the nature of early Chinese work in natural science, on the basis of original records analysis and artifacts discovered in recent decades by archaeological explorations of China's past.

Excerpt

Language difficulties, cultural differences, and religious bias have long been formidable barriers facing many European missionary scholars and other sinologists in their earlier attempts to decipher, and evaluate objectively, what has been so richly documented in the Chinese literature and archaeological records for millennia. Recognition of early Chinese technological contributions to world civilization through such fine products of invention as porcelain wares, silk textile, pulp paper, the printing press, the magnetic compass, pyrotechnic rocket propellants (gunpowder), etc., required little literary translations. These could be the reasons why so many Western scholars have concluded that there was no indigenous science in the Chinese civilization, only philosophy in humanity as exemplified by Confucius’ teaching, and technology.

The in-depth and extensive research by Joseph Needham and his distinguished co-workers, which resulted in the monumental book series published by the Cambridge University Press over the past four decades (1954-88), showed not only that mathematics and natural science did exist in China, but also that the ancient Chinese had excelled in algebra, digital algorism, astronomy, cosmology, cartography, and in many other areas over the long history of world civilization. in most cases, there was no question of indigeneity and originality. in some cases, questions were raised regarding the possibility of earlier Babylonian influence and transmission. One penetrating question asked by Needham and his coworkers was: Why did post-Renaissance modern science (or its equivalent) develop only in Europe, and in North America by extension, but not in China? This, incidentally, was also the same puzzling question that has been asked by all Chinese scholars and intellectuals troubled by the apparent decline of Chinese civilization over the last few centuries, especially when measured in terms of science and technology, after such

1. Joseph Needham, Science and Civilisation in China (Cambridge University Press,
Cambridge, 1959), vol. 3, p. 154.

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