The Chemical Arts of Old China

The Chemical Arts of Old China

The Chemical Arts of Old China

The Chemical Arts of Old China

Excerpt

Foreigners, when they discuss Chinese culture, have a tendency to admire only the high achievements of philosophy and literature and to pay but very little attention to China's work in the practical arts. At the end of the Ch'ing Dynasty or late in the nineteenth century, when the Chinese first made close contact with European civilization and with its applied science, when they saw the highly developed state of science in European countries, instead of treating this science with due respect, some of our countrymen declared that all the important scientific discoveries of European countries had already been made by the Chinese long ago. In order to support this view they produced many specious proofs and doubtful examples. Such an idea still prevails in certain Chinese circles, and statements to this effect are sometimes quoted by foreign authors. This holds true for the study of chemistry in China.

With regard to the history of chemistry in China, it is of course unnecessary to make exaggerated claims. On the other hand, we should not overlook the real contributions made by our ancestors to this subject. The study of modern chemistry in China began in the last century, but certain achievements which were made long ago should not be ignored. To write such a history it is necessary to examine carefully all important Chinese literature bearing on the subject, in addition, to inquire into existing native industrial methods. Furthermore, the old statements of the early writers ought to be interpreted in a most careful manner from the viewpoint of modern scientific chemistry.

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