Confucian Scholars and Specialized Scientific and Technical Knowledge in Traditional China, 1000-1700: A Preliminary Overview
- East Asian Science, Technology and Society: an International Journal
- Duke University Press
- Volume 4, Number 2, 2010
- pp. 207-228
- Additional Information
In this essay, I will provide a preliminary overview of the relation between the Confucian scholars and the specialized scientific and technical knowledge in traditional China. I will begin by analyzing various elements in the historical background of traditional China that had various different effects on the scholars' attitudes to the specialized knowledge—classical Confucian ideas and phrases, practical reasons, etc. I will then look at the actual examples showing the varying relations between the Confucian scholars and the specialized knowledge. I will end with a comparative look at the situation in the West, where there were developments both for separation and for convergence between general scholars and specialized scientific and technical knowledge. I will show that the relation, on the whole, was ambivalent in traditional China. Although there was some kind of separation of scholars from the specialized scientific and technical knowledge, the separation was not clear cut, and there was no solid ground for such separation; at times, there were convergences between the two. There was a wide spectrum of attitude among the Confucian scholars toward the specialized knowledge, varying according to different individuals, different periods, and different subjects.