CCCH9020 China: Culture, State and Society
In spite of the vast and superior knowledge possessed by the ancient Chinese relative to the rest of the world, China did not develop into a dominant technoculture. This course will explore some of the lesser known inventions and scientific development in ancient China and factors that caused China to fall behind the West in technological development. The contents of the course include perception of the material world in ancient China, early Chinese views of the universe, earth and nature, changes in the perception of these entities over time, scientific inventions and theories of ancient China, and the linkage between science, art and literature in China. Guest speakers will give insights on specific areas of technological advancement in ancient China.
Course Learning Outcomes
On completing the course, students will be able to:
- Give an account of the extent of scientific achievements in ancient China and explain the social-environmental background governing the development of science and technology in ancient China.
- Deliver an in-depth account on why western style science did not flourish in China.
- Give a critical comparison of the approach and inquiry methods used by scholars in ancient China and in modern scientific studies.
Offer Semester and Day of Teaching
First semester (Wed)
|Activities||Number of hours|
|Reading / Self-study||80|
|Assessment: Essay / Report writing||20|
|Assessment: Debate presentation (incl preparation)||20|
Assessment: 100% coursework
|Book / Article analysis||30|
|Lecture recap / Discussion / Hands-on work||10|
- Andrade, T. (2017). The gunpowder age: China, military innovation, and the rise of the west in world history. Princeton: Princeton University Press. [Selected chapters]
- Morris, I. (2010). Why the west rules—for now: The patterns of history, and what they reveal about the future. USA: Farrar, Straus and Giroux. [Selected chapters]
- Needham, J. (1981). Science in traditional China: A comparative perspective. Hong Kong: Chinese University Press. [Chap. 1]
- Shen, S. (1987). Acoustics of ancient Chinese bells. Scientific American, 104-110.
- Siu, M. K. (2000). An excursion in ancient Chinese mathematics. In V. J. Katz (Ed.), Using history to teach mathematics: An international perspective (pp. 159-166). Washington, D.C.: Mathematical Association of America.
- Sivin, N. (1982). Why the scientific revolution did not take place in China —or didn’t it? Chinese Science, 5, 45-66. [Online revision by the author on 2005, 24 August]
- Chen, C. Y. (1995). Early Chinese work in natural science: A re-examination of the physics of motion, acoustics, astronomy and scientific thoughts. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press.
- Institute of the History of Natural Sciences, Chinese Academy of Sciences. (1983). Ancient China’s technology and science. Beijing: Foreign Languages Press. [Selected chapters]
- Needham, J., & Wang, L. (1954). Science and civilisation in China (Vols. 1-7). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. [Selected sections]
- Ronan, C. (1978-1995). The shorter science and civilisation in China: An abridgement of Joseph Needham’s original text. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.