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Clunas, Craig (2005) 'Text, Representation and Technique in Early Modern China.' In: Chemla, Karine, (ed.), History of Science, History of Text, Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science 238. Dordrecht: Springer, pp. 107-21.

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This paper examines ‘number’ and numerology as a discursive object among the elite of China in the Ming period (1368–1644). Starting from an anecdote conceming the poet, calligrapher and painter Wen Zhengming (1470–1559), whose refusal to learn these skills from his father led the latter to burn his books, it examines how technical knowledge of this sort was conceived in relation to the humanistic priorities of the Ming elite. It raises the question of how much and what kind of ‘numerology’, or shu xue, (also the modern Chinese word for ‘mathematics) learned men of the Ming knew, and in what contexts it was appropriate to admit to knowing it. The ownership and dissemination of the relevant texts is examined, along with the cultural implications of the numerical skills involved in administration and commerce. ‘Number’ is ultimately seen as problematic for an elite distrustful of ‘technique’ as a socially compromised form of knowledge.

Item Type: Book Chapters
SOAS Departments & Centres: Legacy Departments > Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Department of History of Art and Archaeology
ISBN: 9781402023217
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 09 Dec 2007 13:15

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