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Historiography of Science and Technology in China

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Chapter Summary

This chapter examines how the history of science and technology entered Chinese discourse during the beginning of the twentieth century. It analyzes the development of historiography of science and technology in China during the first half of the twentieth century. The modern word for "history of science", Zhongguo kexueshi, entered China as many other modern terms did from Japan, during the first years of the twentieth century. The theory of the Chinese origins of the Western sciences had two functions: (1) it served to confirm Chinese superiority since the incoming knowledge supposedly was of Chinese origin and (2) it made the application of new discoveries and technologies digestible to conservatives since the "new" knowledge supposedly was autochthonous. It is important not to forget that Science and Civilisation are based on Needham's interactions with China and with Chinese scholars, which had already begun in the 1930s.

Keywords: Chinese origins; history of science; history of technology; Japan; Joseph Needham; twentieth century; Western sciences; Zhongguo kexueshi



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