The Center for Chinese Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, presents


Friday and Saturday, February 27-28, 1998
Institute of East Asian Studies Conference Room
2223 Fulton Street, 6th Floor
University of California, Berkeley

Co-sponsored by:

The Center for East Asian Studies, Stanford University
The Townsend Center for the Humanities, UC Berkeley
The Office for History of Science and Technology, UC Berkeley

Organizer: Roger Hart


The history of science--ostensibly a discipline united by the investigation of the single subject 'science' irrespective of any geopolitical boundaries--has instead remained divided along the lines of 'civilizations' that separate 'the West' and 'China'. This division is in part the legacy of ideological claims in the early twentieth century that Science was exclusively Western, and later charges that what Joseph Needham documented in China was not truly Science. The institutionalization of studies of Chinese science under the rubric of 'area studies' and sinocentric insularity further exacerbated this division. Questions about civilizations have often been the starting point for research on Chinese science: examples include Needham's 'grand titration' which was to redistribute among civilizations credit for scientific discoveries, and explanations for why China failed to produce Science, Modern Science, or the Scientific Revolution. Because of this division, studies of Western science have often paid little attention to research on China; studies of Chinese science have rarely addressed in any depth recent critical work in science studies. The turn toward the cultural contextualization of science, along with the continued cross-disciplinary credulity toward 'the West' still identified as the culture of Science, has perpetuated these divisions. Studies of medicine and technology remain similarly cleaved along this China / West divide.

This conference proposes to explore ways to bridge these divisions. The recent re-integration of fields once separated by artificial academic divisions has provided the catalyst to create some of the most dynamic new directions for research. One important example is studies of science, technology, and medicine (STM): once viewed as irreconcilably separate, research on these fields has been combined, and approaches from history, anthropology, sociology, literary studies, and philosophy integrated, resulting in the highly interdisciplinary field of the cultural studies of science, technology, and medicine. Following this example, this conference will bring together research on Chinese science, technology, and medicine which takes an interdisciplinary approach. But more importantly, this conference will seek specific ways to engage Chinese STM and mainstream [Western] STM in a dialogue: recent work from Chinese STM will be presented for critique by scholars in STM to suggest ways to better address current issues and theoretical approaches from STM; at the same time, these papers will explore ways that work on Chinese STM can contribute to a reformulation within mainstream STM of the questions of the 'non-Western' and, more generally, questions of culture.

In summary, the conference will facilitate a dialogue between scholars in Chinese and Western STM, encouraging though this engagement new directions for research in Chinese STM beyond existing approaches, and contributing to mainstream STM both a better understanding of current work in Chinese STM and, more importantly, a critical reformulation of the current approaches to the problems of culture and the 'non-Western'. As science, technology, and medicine become increasingly global enterprises, it is important that cultural studies of STM move beyond the origins mythologies of the West.



Wen-hsin Yeh (Director, Center for Chinese Studies, University of California, Berkeley)

 SESSION I: 3:15 - 6:00 PM

Chair: Roger Hahn (Director, Office for History of Science and Technology at the University of California, Berkeley)

Discussant: Timothy Lenoir (Department of History, Stanford University)

Benjamin Elman (Department of History, University of California, Los Angeles), "Reconsidering the Transition from the Pre-modern 'Chinese Sciences' to 'Modern Science' in China"

One of the most common generalizations scholars make concerning the role of science in late imperial China is that studies of astronomy and mathematics were in steady decline there until the arrival of Jesuit missionaries in the sixteenth century. This long-standing perspective has been challenged by recent studies that indicate that mathematics and calendar reform were important concerns among Ming literati before the arrival of the Jesuits in China.

"Natural studies" in China had since the Yuan dynasty often been classified under the phrase ko-chih (lit., "inquiring into and extending knowledge"). This was a Tao-hsueh (lit., "Tao Learning") term borrowed from the Great Learning (Ta-hsueh) in the Record of Rites (Li-chi) classic, which was retained as the designation for science until its replacement by k'o-hsueh as "modern science" early in the twentieth century. Careful scrutiny of Ming dynasty examination records also reveals that the civil examinations themselves tested the candidates' knowledge of astronomy, the calendar, and other aspects of the natural world, which were referred to as "natural studies" (tzu-jan chih hsueh).

Looking at "natural studies" in late imperial China from the angle of this cultural hierarchy, which paralleled the social and political hierarchies, we see that such learning was justified as the proper concern of the moral generalist exactly because it could thereby be brought within the orthodox system. Experts, as long as they were subordinate to dynastic orthodoxy and its legal representatives, were necessary parts of the cultural, political, and social hierarchies. Animated by a concern to restore native traditions in the precise sciences to their proper place of eminence, after less overt attention during the Ming dynasty until the coming of the Jesuits in the sixteenth century, evidential scholars successfully incorporated technical aspects of western astronomy and mathematics into the literati framework for classical learning. Philology and natural studies were wedded together when Ch'ing literati scholars evaluated early modern European findings in astronomy and searched through the classical canon for evidence that this new knowledge was likely based on ancient Chinese knowledge, which had been transmitted to the western regions in antiquity.

Literati learning in the nineteenth century developed rhetorical strategies to legitimate elite interest in natural studies. In the process, by building on eighteenth century classicism, which had incorporated mathematics as a part of evidential studies, literati associated with Han Learning after the Taiping Rebellion created the intellectual space needed for literati to indulge in natural studies. Despite the relative success of natural studies and western science in developing together from the seventeenth to the late nineteenth century among literati elites in China under the rubric of ko-chih-hsueh, there was little attention by those same elites to European science as a form of practice requiring laboratories to replicate experiments and for such experiments to confirm or reject past scientific findings.

After 1905, however, when the civil examinations had been abolished, the ever increasing number of overseas Chinese students in Japan, Europe, and the United States perceived that outside of China the proper language for science included a new set of concepts and terms that superseded traditionalist literati notions of natural studies associated with ko-chih. Linkage between political revolution and the perception by many radicals that a scientific revolution was also required influenced the changes that occurred after 1911. Those Chinese who thought a revolution in knowledge based on western learning was required not only challenged what they called "Confucianism" (K'ung-chiao), but they also unstitched the interwoven patterns of traditional Chinese science, medicine, and classical learning long accepted as components of an ideological tapestry buttressing imperial orthodoxy.

In the process, post-imperial scholars initiated an assault on ko-chih-hsueh as a haven of superstition and backwardness. During the early Republic, the elite view of popular customs (feng-su) was also reconfigured in modernist terms. Traditional Chinese medicine, which was the strongest field of the Chinese sciences during the transition from the late Ch'ing to the Republican era, was also subjected to such derision, although it was more successful in retaining its prestige than Chinese astrology, geomancy, and alchemy, which were dismissed by modern scholars as purely superstitious forms of knowledge. During the transition from the Ch'ing dynasty to the Republic of China, then, new political, institutional, and cultural forms emerged that challenged the creedal system of the late empire and refracted the latter's cultural forms of knowledge, such as traditional Chinese medicine. Just as the emperor, his bureaucracy, and literati cultural forms quickly became symbols of political and intellectual backwardness, so too traditional forms of knowledge about the natural world, were uncritically labeled as "superstition" (mi-hsin, lit. "confused belief"), while "modern science" in its European and American forms was championed by new intellectuals as the path to objective knowledge, enlightenment, and national power. Even those who sought to maintain Chinese traditional medicine by modernizing it according to western standards of rigor, however, also played a part in the denigration of past medical practices.

What then ensued after 1911 was a remarkable intellectual consensus among Chinese and western scholars that imperial China had failed to develop science before the western impact. Even the Chinese protagonists involved in the 1923 "Debate on Science and Philosophy of Life" accepted the West as the repository of all scientific knowledge and only sought to complement such knowledge with moral and philosophical purpose. Many post-war scholars were so convinced that because China had had no industrial revolution and had never produced capitalism, therefore the Chinese could never have produced anything like science.

Qiong Zhang (Center for Chinese Studies, University of California, Berkeley), "Rationalizing Animal Spirits and Inter-Species Transformation: The Nature of Nature in Xie Zhaozhe's Wuzazu"

This paper seeks to offer a Chinese counterpart of the [Western] CSSTM on early modern natural history as represented by the work of Paula Findlen, Lorraine Daston, and Katherine Park, among others, focusing on the discussions of the rare and marvelous (yiwu) in Xie Zhaozhe's (1567-1624)'s _Wuzazu_. Although recording and codifying yiwu had a long tradition before Xie's time, what makes Xie's work particularly interesting is that he subjects such phenomena to critical inquiries encompassing both empirical and conceptual dimensions. However, while weeding out many instances in areas such as divination through dreams or turtle-crack as incredible and ridiculous, he not only fully recognizes the existence of animal spirits and their ability to cross boundaries to assume human forms and communicate with human beings, but also attempts to locate them within the grand vision of natural, inter-species transformation stemming from qihua and xinghua. This paper tries to demonstrate how his discourse on naturalizing the "supernatural" is rendered possible through a conflation of ontological and cognitive categories that marks the gradation of reality indicators he uses ranging from the real, normal, abnormal, and plausible, to the impossible. I will also examine the modes of critical inquiry he undertakes in admitting or dismissing the existence of the miraculous as reflected in his narratives and his uses of terms such as cha, kao, and gewu. Ultimately, I hope to present Xie's ideas of nature, reality, and knowledge within the dense network of folkloric, popular-religious, and ethnographic subcultures of the late Ming and the traditional Chinese cosmic vision, thereby elucidating certain aspects of the cultural-embeddedness of early modern Chinese natural history.

Roger Hart (Department of History, Stanford University), "A Cultural History of Ritual, Music, and Mathematics in Seventeenth-Century China: Zhu Zaiyu's Complete Compendia of Music and Pitch:"

In the received historiography, the Song and early Yuan dynasties represent the apex that traditional Chinese mathematics never again attained: during the Ming dynasty treatises were lost, discoveries forgotten, and mathematics disdained. These claims have been circularly reinforcing--the absence of research on Ming mathematics has only reconfirmed that there was no mathematics worthy of study. In these accounts, the mathematical work of Zhu Zaiyu (1536-1611) is rarely even mentioned.

This received historiography has been framed within rational reconstructions of mathematical development: benchmark 'achievements' wrenched from mathematical context have been transfigured to fit into anachronistic teleologies leading to modern mathematics, its ideologies, and social institutions. In these accounts, 'correlative thinking', conservative Confucian textualism, the absolutist imperial court, and the commercial mathematics and abacus of the merchants all have been blamed for inhibiting development.

This paper takes a microhistorical approach to study mathematics in its cultural context--the humanistic scholarship of the late Ming. The philosophical system of the Records of Music (an example of what Needham termed 'correlative thinking') linked proper governance to proper expressions of music: the rites ordered heaven and earth; music harmonized them. The perceived decline in the late Ming moral order led to efforts to reconstruct the ritual systems outlined in the Confucian classics. Zhu Zaiyu systematically studied musical ceremony to recover these systems--instruments, dance, musical scores, and mathematical harmonics--and presented his proposals to the imperial court as solutions to Ming crises. He developed the base-nine number system and the equal-temperament of the musical scale; placing nine abacuses together, he calculated the lengths of musical pitch-pipes to twenty-five decimal places.

The new historiography of early modern Europe has documented the radical contingency of the historical circumstances of the emergence of early modern sciences. In seventeenth-century China, textual studies, the court, the abacus, and theories of music were not impediments but constitutive elements combined in the scientific knowledge Zhu produced.



 SESSION II 9:30 AM - 12:15 PM

Chair: Randolf Starn (Director, Townsend Center for the Humanities, University of California, Berkeley)

Discussant: Paul Rabinow (Department of Anthropology, University of California, Berkeley)

David N. Keightley (Department of History, University of California, Berkeley), "The Science of the Ancestors: Divination, Curing, and Bronze-Casting in Late Shang China (CA. 1200 - 1050 B.C.)

The institution of Late Shang divination operated within the context of an ancestor worship, whose practices and assumptions--which may be derived from some of the narratives recorded in the oracle-bone inscriptions--require careful definition and demonstration. Attention will be paid to the way the diviners dealt with such matters as illness, childbirth, and dreams, on the one hand (early medicine), and with the weather (early meteorology), on the other.

Following the dictionary, I understand science to involve "the observation, identification, description, experimental investigation, and theoretical explanation of phenomena." I treat the Shang system of prediction and curing as scientific, accordingly, because of the elaborate, consistent, and impersonalized theological structures, ritual practices, and cosmological assumptions that the Shang elites developed to give them cultural advantage and assurance when confronted with the future in general and with disease in particular. Divination, as both science and technology, permitted the Shang, who paid much attention to the role of numeration, quantification, and timing, to test and implement the hypotheses they had formulated to explain their world.

A number of assumptions and techniques analogous to those involved in Shang divination and curing were present in the piece-mold technology of Shang bronze-casting, which was a craft primarily devoted to the creation of vessels for use in the ancestral cult. The analogies suggest not that Shang science impacted on Shang technology, or vice versa, but rather that Shang science and technology were both embedded in, and were expressions of, Shang culture and, particularly, of Shang religion. "Thick description" and context, accordingly, are all important to our understanding of what was going on.

Francesca Bray (Department of Anthropology, University of California, Santa Barbara), "The Altar, the Inner Quarters and the Study: Domestic Architecture as a Technology of Social Engineering in Late Imperial China"

Historians of technology tend to presume that the most significant technologies, those that shape (or fail to shape) the social formation, are universal: history lies in the evolution of energy conversion and mechanics, metallurgy and commodity production. Here I argue that to understand what role technologies really play in giving material expression to a society's goals and values, we need to reconsider our framework of analysis and ask more anthropological questions. We are all familiar with Le Corbusier's characterization of houses as "machines for living" . The meaning of this modernist expression is two-fold: houses should be designed to meet the requirements of everyday life as efficiently as possible; at the same time they mould their occupants into a certain life-style. Neo-Confucian moralists were not architectural engineers, of course, but given the articulations they made between the domestic, the social and the political, they naturally accorded great importance to house design and spatial practice. Here I analyze the role of three key architectural features that served to propagate and modulate neo-Confucian values and life-styles in the course of the late imperial period. I argue that the house can fruitfully be thought of in terms of a machine for living, a piece of hardware whose uses were familiarized by a range of users' guides, a material artifact around which crystallized a characteristic ideology and social order. In that sense, in the context of late imperial culture, I would argue that domestic architecture was a technology of significance comparable to that of machine-tool design in the nineteenth-century United States.

Lydia Liu (Departments of Comparative Literature and East Asian Languages, University of California, Berkeley), "Robinson Crusoe's Pottery: Science, Aesthetics, and the Metaphysics of True Porcelain in the Eighteenth Century"

Chinoiserie, which fetishized porcelain as a quintessential form of Chinese art, has been largely forgotten as one of Europe's numerous love affairs with exotic cultures in the past. Where it is not forgotten, however, it exists in our memory chiefly as an outdated form of orientalism and nothing else. Thus, a fundamental question remains unanswered or difficult to bring up: Why porcelain?

If Chinoiserie or the European taste has successfully rendered porcelain, especially Chinese trade porcelain, as an essential art form, what is it in the artifice itself that so fascinated the members of the European aristocracy and intellectual elite and made them believe that the object they beheld was, indeed, a form of 'Chinese' art? The situation is somewhat ironic because, as we know, the art of porcelain making has always existed outside the well-defined domain of traditional Chinese art and poetics, one that has been dominated by calligraphy and various genres of painting. This obvious discrepancy in the contemporary European and Chinese perceptions of the artistic again points to the question: why porcelain?

This study will explore the technological, aesthetic, and material processes by which porcelain became incorporated into the everyday life of European cultures and quickly forgotten as such toward the mid eighteenth century. My research shows that major European lab work had been undertaken in the late seventeenth through the early eighteenth centuries to inquire into the chemical property of porcelain-related materials such as kaolin and petuntse and to invent kilns capable of firing at a higher heat level than required by the familiar glass and faience technologies that were more developed in Europe. Naturally, such experimental work would precede the emergence of Europe's own ceramic industries by many decades. England, for example, had relied on trade and its growing maritime power to meet the domestic demand for imported Chinese and Japanese porcelain and did not begin to acquire its own manufacturing capabilities until the mid eighteenth century. This situation raises some interesting questions about the European Enlightenment and its relationship with international trade. For example, What does the emergence of major European porcelain manufacturers tell us about the state of science and technology, trade, domestic market, aesthetic discourse, and cultural representations in the eighteenth century? How did Europe's increasing confidence in its mastery of the technology of porcelain making, which is typically anticipated by Defoe's 1719 writing of Robinson Crusoe's own solitary experiments with pottery, become the very ground on which future stories about the backwardness of the Chinese civilization would be told? Drawing on sources such as the Jesuit missionary eye-witness accounts of Jingde zhen and lab reports and popular scientific treatises on kaolin and other essential types of clay used in porcelain making published by or for the scientific communities of Europe, as well as on contemporary Chinese accounts of Chinese trade porcelain in the Ming and Qing dynasties, I hope to provide a new angle for rethinking the legacy of the European Enlightenment as well as the interpretations of early capitalism and its involvement with Asia.

 LUNCH 12:15-1:30 PM

Catered lunch provided.

 SESSION III 1:30 - 5:30 PM

Chair: Wen-hsin Yeh (Director, Center for Chinese Studies, University of California, Berkeley)

Discussant: Paula Findlen (Department of History, Stanford University)

Charlotte Furth (Department of History, University of Southern California), "Bodily Androgyny and Gender Differences in Ming Dynasty Clinical Narratives"

My paper is drawn from a larger project that brings the study of gender to Chinese medicine in the context of late imperial Chinese history (10th to 17th centuries). Classical medicine, described in canonical texts like the Yellow Emperor's Inner Canon, constructed a body of yin and yang forces and relationships. Yin and yang were never attributes of sexed bodies, but themselves the foundations of gendered meanings naturalized in the world. This body, then, was basically androgynous, its sexual capacities linked to cosmology. There is a seeming contradiction between this flexible and relational understanding of human variation and the strict gender hierarchies of Confucian social relationships.

I address this contradiction by looking at clinical narratives of individual illness in the practice of two 'literati physicians' (ru yi) who lived in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, one a man and one a woman. Here one can see how class, gender and kinship hierarchies shaped their vocational lives, and also how the androgynous language of medical theory was inflected according to the circumstances of clinical dialogue.

Through this exploration we are able to gain a deeper understanding of the possible meanings of androgyny for Ming Chinese, as opposed to contemporary Euro-American understandings of the concept.

Nancy Chen (Department of Anthropology, University of California at Santa Cruz), "Viewing Bodies: Corporeal Gazes in Contemporary Chinese Medicine"

Contemporary imaging technologies in biomedicine present multiple possibilities for viewing human bodies ranging from X-rays, sonograms, NMR, to even more complex projects such as "The Visible Man." These forms of gazing into and mapping bodies allow practitioners to interface with their patients in ways that depart from forms of diagnosis that depended upon touching and seeing the patient's corporeal body. Even as such technologies are gradually more available and even routine globally, few interventions are made to situate practices of body imaging and effects of the medical gaze in cultural context. This paper is concerned with the making of body images and meanings of corporeality in contemporary Chinese medicine and popular culture. How are body images in Chinese medicine related to historical framings of corporeality and notions of nationhood or social bodies? Rather than comparing how diagnoses are made in biomedicine and traditional Chinese medicine to reify the differences or otherness of each system, we will address instead how viewing bodies in Chinese socialist medicine is critically linked to scopic regimes of knowledge and culture.

Marta Hanson (Department of History, University of California, San Diego), "Robust Northerners and Delicate Southerners: Inventing a Southern Tradition of Chinese Medicine"

The study of Warm Factor disorders (wenbing) is one of the most important traditions in Chinese elite medicine, yet it did not exist before 1800. As a disease category, wenbing encompasses the range of illnesses from the common cold to epidemic diseases all characterized by different grades of fevers. Up to the end of the Ming dynasty (1368-1644), Chinese medicine was dominated by the Cold Damage tradition founded on the Treatise on Cold Damage and Miscellaneous Disorders (Shanghan zabing lun, 196/220 C.E.) from the Later Han dynasty (25-220). Yet during the Qing dynasty (1644-1911), physicians in the Jiangnan region transformed the narrow meaning of wenbing from an insignificant type of Cold Damage disorder (shanghan), which manifested in the spring and summer, to a separate class of disorders dominant throughout the year in the Jiangnan region, the wealthiest region in China along the lower reaches of the Yangzi river since at least the twelfth century. These physicians argued that this class of disorders required local medical responses different from the orthodox Cold Damage tradition. Why did this occur at this time?

In this paper I discuss the invention of a southern medical tradition based on wenbing as part of a broader trend toward native-place identity in Jiangnan. Not only did this new tradition transform the theory and practice of medicine, it also reveals broad social and cultural changes in late imperial China. By anthologizing a Jiangnan-centered medical tradition, nineteenth-century authors and publishers of wenbing texts reinforced a regional Jiangnan identity. Their contrast between a robust northern body and a more delicate southern body mapped geography onto physiology and legitimated local knowledge over state-sanctioned universal orthodoxy.

Instead of attempting to fit these conceptions of human variation into the largely modern western categories of race and biological determinism, however, I show that wenbing physicians borrowed an ancient conception of resonant local qi to legitimate the appropriateness of their medical writings to Jiangnan patients. Furthermore, I argue that this north-south division of bodies occurred within the context of a heightened awareness of linguistic, cultural, and ethnic difference during the late Qing. Following the devastation of the Taiping Rebellion (1853-1864), wenbing medical texts explicitly articulated regional differences between Chinese as physiological.

Finally, the debate between Cold Damage and Warm Factor disorders during the nineteenth century reveals both a new social development and parallel epistemological shift. With the formation of this new social group of physicians, the epistemological framework underlying medical practice shifted from the Cold Damage tradition, which promoted universal medical knowledge, continuity with antiquity, and the canonical authority of the Han medical classics, to the wenbing tradition, which proclaimed regional variation, discontinuity with the past, and locally tailored prescriptions for the Jiangnan patient.

Judith Zeitlin (East Asian Languages and Civilizations, University of Chicago), "Ming Case Histories and the Literary Structure of Medical Authority: The Writings of Sun Yikui"

This paper is an attempt to analyze a set of medical case histories by a famous late Ming physician, Sun Yikui, from the perspective of literary history. It is part of a larger project by a number of scholars of China to explore the implications for a variety of disciplines of a large cache of previously unexplored medical casebooks published during the late Ming. It has become commonplace in what we may call cultural studies of the European and American medical case to emphasize the narrative nature of this genre as part of a broader argument about the narrative structure of medical knowledge. My own study of Sun Yikui takes this insight as a basic point of departure but insists that we must take into account the full range of literary strategies the physician employed in the casebook as a whole, and not restrict ourselves solely to exploring the narrative aspects of individual cases. In particular, it is important to see the medical case book as a writing process that was practiced, circulated, published, and read in a certain social context as part of late imperial print culture. Above all, the case book was designed to appropriate for the literatus-physician the prestige of authorship in a culture that prized literary composition so highly. For this reason, the first part of my paper argues that in packaging and positioning, Sun Yikui's published case book resembles the collected literary works of a scholar or official (a wenji); in its focus on the self-presentation of events in the author's life, the casebook also has something in common with the genre of autobiographical chronicle (zizhuan nianpu, sometimes translated as "annalistic autobiography"). Only then, in the second part of the paper, do I turn to close readings of three fascinating cases, all of which treat issues of gender and sexuality. Two of the cases involve prostitutes and one involves a case of postpartum madness as the site for a conflict with a woman doctor. These three cases (translated in their entirety in an appendix) offer some striking parallels to the literary techniques and cultural outlook of fiction and drama during this period. A major difference is that while the author of late imperial tales or plays typically tells a story that happens to someone else, the author of the medical case tells a story in which he is not only the narrator but the chief protagonist. Accordingly, my discussion in this section will focus on the narrative and rhetorical strategies through which Sun Yikui develops his persona as a medical authority.


RECEPTION 6:30 - 7:30 PM