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The Investigation Of Things (Gewu 格 物), Natural Studies (Gezhixue 格 致 學), And Evidental Studies (Kaozhengxue 考 證 學) Gewu In Late Imperial China, 1600-1800

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Chapter Summary

When Europeans reached China during the age of exploration, the scientia of their men of learning did not mean or connote natural science per se among humanists, Jesuits, or more secular scholars in early modern Europe. During the Jesuit-Chinese interaction in the seventeenth century, the investigation of things (gewu), exhaustively mastering principles (qiongli), and knowing heaven (zhitian) were at the core of the intellectual encounter between Chinese literati and the early modern West. Between 1865 and 1900, reformist Chinese officials and scholars reworked gezhixue to designate modern science. This repeated use of gezhifrom the late Ming to late Qingsuggests that native terms for Western science were contested at different times and in different ways. In contrast to their Ming Daoxue predecessors, eighteenth century evidential research (kaozheng) scholars stressed exacting research, rigorous analysis, and the collection of impartial evidence drawn from ancient artifacts and historical documents and texts.

Keywords: evidental studies; gewu; gezhixue; kaozhengxue; late imperial China; material investigations; natural studies



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