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3. 'Like obtaining a great treasure': The illustrations in Song Yingxing's the exploitation of the works of nature

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Chapter Summary

The Tiangong kaiwu (TGKW), whose title is perhaps best captured in English as "The Exploitation of the Works of Nature", is unique among Chinese writings on technology before the twentieth century. This chapter touches on Song Yingxing's philosophical ideas insofar as they help us to understand more fully our main concern, the TGKWs illustrations. These illustrations, like Song's book itself, are unique in the range of technologies portrayed. Historians of Chinese painting are in agreement that Chinese painting underwent a major shift in direction beginning around the southern Song. That change included, especially for painting generally judged to be of the best quality, a growing prejudice against the inclusion of accurate and detailed visual information. Good technical illustration strongly emphasizes the comprehension that comes from attention to accuracy.

Keywords: Chinese painting; Chinese writings; Song Yingxing; Tiangong kaiwu (TGKW) illustrations



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