Book ID: CBB001421327

Technology, Gender and History in Imperial China: Great Transformations Reconsidered (2013)


Bray, Francesca (Author)


Publication Date: 2013
Physical Details: xviii + 278 pp.; ill.; bibl.; index
Language: English

What can the history of technology contribute to our understanding of late imperial China? Most stories about technology in pre-modern China follow a well-worn plot: in about 1400 after an early ferment of creativity that made it the most technologically sophisticated civilisation in the world, China entered an era of technical lethargy and decline. But how are we to reconcile this tale, which portrays China in the Ming and Qing dynasties as a dying giant that had outgrown its own strength, with the wealth of counterevidence affirming that the country remained rich, vigorous and powerful at least until the end of the eighteenth century? Does this seeming contradiction mean that the stagnation story is simply wrong, or perhaps that technology was irrelevant to how imperial society worked? Or does it imply that historians of technology should ask better questions about what technology was, what it did and what it meant in pre-modern societies like late imperial China? In this book, Francesca Bray explores subjects such as technology and ethics, technology and gendered subjectivities (both female and male), and technology and statecraft to illuminate how material settings and practices shaped topographies of everyday experience and ideologies of government, techniques of the self and technologies of the subject. Examining technologies ranging from ploughing and weaving to drawing pictures, building a house, prescribing medicine or composing a text, this book offers a rich insight into the interplay between the micro- and macro-politics of everyday life and the workings of governmentality in late imperial China, showing that gender principles were woven into the very fabric of empire, from cosmology and ideologies of rule to the material foundations of the state and the everyday practices of the domestic sphere. This authoritative text will be welcomed by students and scholars of Chinese history, as well as those working on global history and the histories of gender, technology and agriculture. Furthermore, it will be of great use to those interested in social and cultural anthropology and material culture.

Reviewed By

Review Angela Ki Che Leung (2015) Review of "Technology, Gender and History in Imperial China: Great Transformations Reconsidered". East Asian Science, Technology and Society: An International Journal (pp. 319-321). unapi

Review Kim, Nanny (2014) Review of "Technology, Gender and History in Imperial China: Great Transformations Reconsidered". Technology and Culture (pp. 740-742). unapi

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Authors & Contributors
Zhang, Baichin
Chen, Zhihui
Min, Zong-dian
Di, Li
Ch'iu, Chung-lin
Wang, Guangchao
Ziran Kexueshi Yanjiu (Studies in the History of Natural Sciences)
Zhongguo Keji Shiliao (China Historical Materials of Science and Technology)
Nei Menggu Shifan Daxue Xuebao (Ziran Kexue Ban)
Lishi yuyan yanjiuso jikan (Bulletin of the Institute of History and Philology, Academia Sinica)
Studies in Dialectics of Nature
Guangxi Minzu Xueyuan Xuebao
Liaoning jiaoyu chubanshe
Princeton University
Hong Kong University Press
University of Washington Press
East Asia, civilization and culture
Cross-cultural interaction; cultural influence
Transmission of ideas
Medicine, Chinese traditional
Li Hongzhang (1823-1901)
Vagnoni, Alfonso
Shao Zeng (1832-1877)
Xue, Fengzuo
Yi, You
An, Qingqiao
Ming dynasty (China, 1368-1644)
Qing dynasty (China, 1644-1912)
17th century
Song Dynasty (China, 960-1279)
18th century
16th century
Jesuits (Society of Jesus)

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