Nathan Sivin Bibliography Example

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N. Sivin

This annotated bibliography covers science and medicine in traditional and modern China. It is organized as follows:


Reference Works*


Science and Society*

Science and Philosophy*

Science and Religion*

The Early Encounter With Europe*

Mathematics and Divination*


Alchemy and Early Chemical Arts*

Siting (geomancy), Cartography, and Earth Sciences*



Reference Works*

Studies Useful for Orientation*

Medicine and Related Topics*

Materia Medica*


Reference Works*

Medicine and Related Topics*

This list emphasizes recent publications, for two reasons. With respect to China before ca. 1800, the bibliographies in Joseph Needham’s Science and Civilisation in China (see below, p. *) are extremely rich, and merely need to be supplemented. Although they are unannotated, the reader can easily use the indexes to find evaluations of sources. There is no correspondingly thorough survey for the last two centuries, but on the other hand a large part of the literature on that period published more than a decade ago is already obsolete.

The obvious differences in the subdivisions of this bibliography reflect the varying character and extent of the literature in each category. Books on traditional medicine keep pouring out, most of them with no scholarly value, because, unlike the old astronomy, alchemy, and so on, medicine is still widely practiced and the commercial demand, outside China as well as inside, is enormous. Historians have conspicuously neglected recent technology and science. Most publications are concerned with policy about them rather than the work and the people who did them.

Publications are included mostly because of their quality and usefulness, a few in order to warn readers that the promise of their titles is specious. Most of the books about Chinese medicine not listed here are of no use at all.


Reference Works

Cullen, Christopher. 1983. Science and Medicine in China. In Information Sources in the History of Science and Medicine, ed. Pietro Corsi & Paul Weindling, 476-499. Butterworths Guides to Information Sources. London: Butterworth Scientific, 1983. Introductory historic survey, oriented toward bibliography of secondary sources.

Fan Ka-wai. 2003. History of Chinese Medicine Online. A Guide to the Useful Sites on the WWW. The European Journal of Oriental Medicine, 4. 3: 52-60. General annotated list of sites.

Fan Ka Wai. 2004. Online Research Databases and Journals of Chinese Medicine. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 10. 6: 1123-28. Categorized list of main resources.

Ho Peng Yoke. 1977. Modern Scholarship on the History of Chinese Astronomy. Occasional Papers of the Faculty of Asian Studies, 16. Canberra: The Australian National University. A bibliographical essay on the state of the field, with a bibliography of about 400 items. See review in Chinese Science, 1982, 5: 42-44.

Loewe, Michael, editor. 1993 (publ. 1994). Early Chinese Texts. A Bibliographical Guide. Early China Special Monograph Series, 2. Berkeley: The Society for the Study of Early China and the Institute of East Asian Studies, University of California. Includes essays on early scientific texts.

Needham, Joseph, et al. 1954- . Science and Civilisation in China. 27 vols. to date. Cambridge University Press. The massive bibliographies in each volume provide the fullest documentation of most topics.

Pregadio, Fabrizio. 1996. Chinese Alchemy. An Annotated Bibliography of Works in Western Languages. Monumenta Serica, 44: 439-473.

Revue bibliographique de sinologie, 1955- . 1957- . Paris: Mouton. Valuable analytical annual bibliography of current sinological articles and books in humanities and social sciences published in Chinese, Japanese, and European languages. Wide coverage, but far from exhaustive. Abstracts, 40-250 words in length, in English or French, are signed by experts. Section VII, Histoire des sciences, includes astronomy, medicine, and technology.

Selin, Helaine. 1992. Science across Cultures: An Annotated Bibliography of Books on Non-Western Science, Technology, and Medicine. Garland Reference Library of the Humanities, 1597. London: Garland Publishing. Useful for cross-cultural studies, but not a first choice for China. Entries are neither comprehensive nor carefully chosen. Notes generally give an accurate idea of topics, but do not evaluate. It is impossible to tell whether an item is a classic or incompetent, an especially serious problem with respect to medicine.

Selin, Helaine. 1997. Encyclopedia of the History of Science, Technology and Medicine in Non-Western Cultures. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers. Some articles are excellent and some embarrassing. The book is poorly integrated. Use only those you are prepared to evaluate.

Sivin, Nathan. 1981. Some Important Publications on Early Chinese Astronomy from China and Japan, 1978-1980. Archaeoastronomy, 4. 1: 26-31. Annotated, with analytic discussions. Includes collections of essays.

Sivin, Nathan. 1989. Chinese Archeoastronomy: Between Two Worlds. In World Archeoastronomy. Selected Papers from the 2nd Oxford International Conference on Archeoastronomy Held at Merida, Yucatan, Mexico 13-17 January 1986, 53-64. Cambridge University Press. Summary of recent work and research issues, with bibliography.

Sivin, Nathan. 2000. Editor’s Introduction. In Needham, Science and Civilisation in China, vol. 6, part 6, pp. 1-37. Recent and developing trends, important studies.

Wilkinson, Endymion. 2000. Chinese History: A Manual. Revised & enlarged ed. Harvard-Yenching Institute Monograph Series, 52. xxiv + 1181 pp. Cambridge: Harvard University Asian Center. Now the standard for Western, Chinese, and Japanese sources, esp. recent.


Bodde, Derk. 1953. Harmony and Conflict in Chinese Philosophy. In Studies in Chinese Thought, ed. Arthur F. Wright, 19-80. University of Chicago Press. A penetrating attempt at a synthesis of Chinese cosmology and values.

Bodde, Derk. 1957. Evidence for ‘Laws of Nature’ in Chinese Thought. Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies, 20: 709-727. Issue published 1959. Takes issue with Needham, who doubts that the word law is applicable to Chinese natural conceptions. Concludes at least a few early Chinese thinkers viewed the universe in terms strikingly similar to those underlying the Western concept of `laws of nature.’

Bray, Francesca; Vera Dorofeeva-Lichtmann; & Georges Métailié, editors. 2007. Graphics and Text in the Production of Technical Knowledge in China. The Warp and the Weft. Sinica Leidensia, 79. Leiden: Brill, 2007. Important papers on the relations of text and illustration.

East Asian Science, Technology and Medicine. Published twice a year by the International Society for the History of East Asian Science, Technology, and Medicine. Occasional reviews.Title was Chinese Science 1975-1999.

Elman, Benjamin A. 2005. On Their Own Terms: Science in China, 1550-1900. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. Excellent general history. Elman, Benjamin A. 2006. A Cultural History of Modern Science in China. New Histories of Science, Technology, and Medicine. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. Abridged textbook version of the 2005 book.

Elvin, Mark. 1973. The Pattern of the Chinese Past. Stanford University Press. A stimulating but problematic attempt to interpret Chinese social history in the light of the economics of technology, with some attention to science. Sivin, "Imperial China: Has Its Present Past a Future?" Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies, 1978, 38: 449-480, evaluates the book’s use of evidence pertaining to science and technology.

Elvin, Mark, editor. 1980. Symposium: The Work of Joseph Needham. Past and Present, 87: 17-53. Essay reviews of Needham’s writing on philosophy (W. Peterson), mathematics (U. Libbrecht), and astronomy (C. Cullen).

Elvin, Mark; Liu Ts’ui-jung, editors. 1998. Sediments of Time: Environment and Society in Chinese History. Cambridge University Press. Valuable conference papers on environmental history.

Fèvre, Francine; Georges Métailié. 2005. Dictionnaire Ricci des plantes de Chine. Paris: Éditions du Cerf. Lists 16,500 plants and 3500 medical plants, with definitions in French, Latin, and English.

Furth, Charlotte; Judith T. Zeitlin; Ping-chen Hsiung, editors. 2007. Thinking with Cases. Specialist Knowledge in Chinese Cultural History.Honolulu; University of Hawai’i Press. Essays explore what connects uses of the word an, "case," in law, medicine, religion and philosophy.

Graham, A. C. 1973. China, Europe, and the Origins of Modern Science: Needham’s The Grand Titration. In Nakayama & Sivin 1973: 45-69. A thorough and original critique of assumptions in Needham 1979.

Graham, A. C. 1978. Later Mohist Logic, Ethics and Science. Hong Kong: Chinese University Press. A translation and study of the Mohist Canons (ca. 300 B.C.), propositions that juxtapose ethics, logic, geometry, optics, mechanics, and other subjects. A major contribution.

Historia scientarum. Annual. 1962-1979. Tokyo: Nippon Kagakusi Gakkai. Originally published as Japanese Studies in the History of science. Frequently includes studies of China.

Huff, Toby E. 1993. The Rise of Early Modern Science. Islam, China, and the West. Cambridge University Press. Argues that science arose only in the West because of its legal concept of corporation, which gave rise to neutral space and free inquiry, concepts integral to modern science. Good example of fallacious, one-sided analysis.

Kim, Yung Sik; Francesca Bray, editors. 1999. Current Perspectives in the History of Science in East Asia. Seoul National University Press. Wide selection (53 papers) from a 1996 international conference.

Li Guohao et al., editors. 1982. Explorations in the History of Science and Technology in China. A Special Number of the Collections of Essays on Chinese Literature and History. Shanghai: Chinese Classics Publications House. Festschrift for the eightieth birthday of Joseph Needham. Pp. 703-720 are a complete list of Needham’s writings to 1980.

Lloyd, G. E. R., and Nathan Sivin. 2002. The Way and the Word. Science and Medicine in Early China and Greece. New Haven: Yale University Press. Uses a new methodology for comparative and other studies.

Nakayama, Shigeru; Nathan Sivin, editors. 1973. Chinese Science. Explorations of an Ancient Tradition. MIT East Asian Science Series, 2. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. A collection of essays on many aspects of science and medicine.

Nakayama, Shigeru. 1984. Academic and Scientific Traditions in China, Japan, and the West, tr. Jerry Dusenberry. University of Tokyo Press. English version of Rekishi toshite no gakumon (Academia as history; Tokyo, 1974). Important comparative study of educational institutions in China, Japan, Europe, and the Middle East.

Needham, Joseph. 1954- . Science and Civilisation in China (see above, p. *). "The single work of scholarship which in our time has raised the banner of human unity most bravely and most triumphantly" (Philip Morrison). Based on a great mass of scattered research in European languages and Chinese, and work in the sources by the author and several collaborators. Recent volumes are by other authors. Audacious, literate, and arranged for maximal accessiblity, with enormous bibliographies.

Needham, Joseph, et al. 1969. The Grand Titration. Science and Society in East and West. London: George Allen & Unwin Ltd. Needham’s collected arguments for the primacy of social and economic factors in the conditioning of Chinese scientific achievement. Particularly important is “Science and Society in East and West” (190-217) and his survey of noncyclical time conceptions, “Time and Eastern Man” (218-298). One can follow in this collection of papers, published from 1944 on, the development and modification of the author’s views. See the review in Journal of Asian Studies, 1971, 30: 870-873.

Needham, Joseph. 1970. Clerks and Craftsmen in China and the West. Lectures and Addresses on the History of Science and Technology. Cambridge University Press. Another gathering of contributions published from 1946 on, dealing with a spectrum of themes from the most general to articles on the earliest snow crystal observations. Includes a group of essays on medicine.

Needham, Joseph. 1981. Science in Traditional China. A Comparative Perspective. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Four informal lectures, of which only one is based on previously unpublished research.

Perdue, Peter C. 1999. China in the Early Modern World. Short Cuts, Myths and Realities. Education about Asia, 4. 1: 21-26. Rebuts common misconceptions: that Chinese humanism was anti-scientific, that the government was intolerant of commerce, that people lacked freedom; emphasizes China’s involvement in global system ca. 1500 on.

Ronan, Colin A. 1978- . The Shorter Science and Civilisation in China. An Abridgement of Joseph Needham’s Original Text. 3 vols. to date. Cambridge University Press. A readable but mechanical multi-volume condensation, which does not correct substantive errors, even those corrected by Needham in subsequent volumes of his series. Idiosyncratic short bibliographies. Skimming the original is likely to be more useful.

Sivin, Nathan, editor. 1977. Science and Technology in East Asia. History of Science: Selections from Isis, 4. New York: Science History Publications. Articles published in the international history of science journal over 60 years and still useful.

Sivin, Nathan. 1995. Science in Ancient China. Researches and Reflections. Variorum Collected Studies Series. Aldershot, Hants: Variorum. Eight previously published studies, three revised.

Science and Society

Huang, Ray; Joseph Needham. 1974. The Nature of Chinese Society: A Technical Interpretation. East and West, n.s., 24: 381-401. An attempt to specify material and social factors that impeded the development of capitalism and thus, in the authors’ opinion, modern science in China. Cf. Needham 1969. Emphasizes failure to fully develop a money economy.

Lee, Thomas H. C. 2000. Education in Traditional China, A History. Handbuch der Orientalistik. IV. China. 13. Leiden: Brill.

Nelson, Benjamin. 1974. Sciences and Civilizations, `East’ and `West.’ Joseph Needham and Max Weber. Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science, 11: 445-493. A sociologist’s overview of the Scientific Revolution Problem.

Qian, Wen-yuan. 1985. The Great Inertia. Scientific Stagnation in Traditional China. London: Croom Helm. A shallow answer to the Scientific Revolution Problem uninformed by acquaintance with the primary literature.

Restivo, Sal P. 1979. Joseph Needham and the Comparative Sociology of Chinese and Modern Science. Research in Sociology of Knowledge, Sciences and Art, 2: 25-51. Excellent sociological assessment.

Science and Philosophy

Bodde, Derk. 1991. Chinese Thought, Society, and Science. The Intellectual and Social Background of Science and Technology in Pre-modern China. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press. A summing up by a substantial contributor to the history of Chinese philosophy. A major theme is that "written Chinese has . . . hindered more than it has helped the development of scientific ways of thinking in China," but the book does not study the scientific and medical literature, and does not directly link early philosophy and later technical activity or society.

Graham, A. C., translator. 1981. Chuang-tzu. The Seven Inner Chapters and Other Writings. London: George Allen & Unwin. By far the best translation to date of a classic influential upon attitudes toward Nature. For documentation see Graham, Chuang-tzu. Textual Notes to a Partial Translation (London: School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, 1982).

Graham, A. C. 1986. Yin-Yang and the Nature of Correlative Thinking. Occasional Paper and Monograph Series, 6. Singapore: The Institute of East Asian Philosophies. A philosophic analysis, with attention to pre-Han history, of yin-yang and the Five Phases. See also Sivin, Traditional Medicine in Contemporary China (below, p. *), pp. 43-94.

Lamont, H. G. 1973-1974. An Early Ninth Century Debate on Heaven: Liu Tsung-yuan’s T’ien shuo and Liu Yü-hsi’s T’ien lun. Asia Major, 1973, 18: 181-208; 1974, 19: 37-85. Lamont’s interpretation is debatable, but the translated documents are important, and deserve to be studied in context.

Major, John S., Sarah A. Queen, Andrew Seth Meyer, & Harold D. Roth. 2010. The Huainanzi. A Guide to the Theory and Practice of Government in Early Han China. Translations from the Asian Classics. xi + 988 pp. NY: Columbia University Press. Parts of this classic from the 2d century B.C. epitomize astronomical and cosmological knowledge of the time.

Yang Hsiung, ca. 4 B.C./1993. The Canon of Supreme Mystery, trans. with commentary by Michael Nylan. SUNY Series in Chinese Philosophy and Culture. Albany: State University of New York Press. Translation of a fundamental work on Chinese cosmology, based on the Book of Changes, but a systematic exposé in a form close to that of a prose poem.

Yosida Mitukuni [=Yoshida Mitsukuni]. 1979. The Chinese Concept of Technology: A Historical Approach. Acta Asiatica, 36: 49-66. Broad and general reflections on several landmarks of the literature.

Science and Religion

Harper, Donald J. 1997. Warring States, Qin, and Han Manuscripts Related to Natural Philosophy and the Occult. In New Sources of Early Chinese History: An Introduction to the Reading of Inscriptions and Manuscripts, ed. Edward J. Shaughnessy, pp. 223-252. Technical but fascinating account of the relations of popular religion and science in the 4th to 2nd centuries B.C. as based on recently excavated documents.

Ngo Van Xuyet. 1976. Divination magie et politique dans la Chine ancienne. Essai suivi de la traduction des ``Biographies des Magiciens’’ tirées de l’``Histoire des Han postérieurs.’’ (Bibliothèque de l’Ėcole des Hautes Ėtudes. Section des Sciences Religieuses, 78). Paris: Presses Universitaires de France. Illuminating on the connections between divination and technology in the Han period.

Robinet, Isabelle. 1984. La Révélation du Shangqing dans l’histoire du Taoisme (Publications de l’Ecole Française d’Extrême-orient, 87). 2 vols. Paris: Ecole francaise d’Extrême-Orient. Important for the pre-Taoist origins of alchemy and other disciplines for self-cultivation.

Schipper, Kristofer M. 1978. The Taoist Body. History of Religions,17: 355- 386. See also Schipper 1982 (p. * below).

Schipper, Kristofer M. 1982. Le corps taoïste. Corps physique, corps social. (L’espace intérieur, 25). Paris: Fayard. These two items are on interior cosmography in Taoist religious doctrine, but the theme is pertinent to medicine as well.

Schipper, Kristofer M. 1985. Seigneurs royaux, dieux des épidémies. Archives de sciences sociales des religions, 59: 31-40. On ideas of epidemics in Chinese popular religion.

Schipper, Kristofer, Franciscus Verellen, editors. 2004. The Taoist Canon. A Historical Companion to the Daozang. 3 vols. University of Chicago Press. A historical description and abstract of every book in the Taoist canon, with much additional reference material.

Schipper, Kristofer M.; Wang Hsiu-huei. 1986. Progressive and Regressive Time Cycles in Taoist Ritual. In Time, Science and Society in China and the West. The Study of Time, 5, ed. J. T. Fraser et al., 185-205. Amherst, MA: University of Massachusetts Press. Brilliant.

Schluchter, Wolfgang, editor. 1983. Max Webers Studie über Konfuzianismus und Taoismus. Intepretation und Kritik. Suhrkamp Taschenbuch, Wissenschaft, 402. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp. Essays by sociologists and Sinologists on Weber’s interpretations of Chinese religion.

Seidel, Anna, 1974. Taoism; Michel Strickmann, Taoism, History of; Strickmann, Taoist Literature. Encyclopedia Britannica (15th ed.), s. v. Long articles by two of the best historians of Taoism in the new Britannica. Concerned as much with religious as with philosophic Taoism, and with their links.

Sivin, Nathan. 1978. On the Word "Taoist" as a Source of Perplexity. With Special Reference to the Relations of Science and Religion in Traditional China. In Medicine, Philosophy, and Religion in Ancient China, chapter 6. Aldershot, Hants: Variorum, 1995. On common confusions due to vagueness in thinking about Taoism and its social contexts.

Sivin, Nathan. 1995. Taoism and Science. In ibid., chapter 7. On the mistaken assumption that Taoism played an important role in the evolution of science.

Skar, Lowell. 2003. Golden Elixir Alchemy: The Formation of the Southern Lineage and the Transformation of Medieval China. xiv + 375 pp. Ph.D. dissertation, Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, University of Pennsylvania. See especially chap. 2, "Nourishing the Vitalities and Embodying the Way," for a remarkable history of Chinese self-cultivation.

Strickmann, Michel. 1979. On the Alchemy of T’ao Hung-ching. In Facets of Taoism. Essays in Chinese Religion, ed. Holmes Welch & Anna Seidel, 123-192. New Haven: Yale University Press. On the relations between alchemy, revelation, and eschatology in writings by the founder of a major Taoist movement.

Ware, James R. 1966. Alchemy, Medicine and Religion in the China of A. D. 320. The Nei P’ien of Ko Hung. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press. Well-indexed but frequently careless translation of the Pao p’u tzu nei p’ien, a book written to prove that the hierarchy of the gods of popular religion really exists. Alchemy is among the techniques of transcendence explored. The translator’s parallels between Taoism and Christian mysticism are best regarded with caution.

Wolf, Arthur P., editor. 1974. Religion and Ritual in Chinese Society. Stanford University Press. Conference papers, mostly excellent, on popular religion in Taiwan and Hong Kong. The next best thing to a book on Chinese popular religion.

The Early Encounter With Europe

Chu, Ping-yi. 1994. Technical Knowledge, Cultural Practices and Social Boundaries. Wan-nan Scholars and Recasting of Jesuit Astronomy, 1600-1800. Ph.D. diss., History, UCLA. On local traditions and their response.

D’Elia, Pasquale M. 1960. Galileo in China. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. A partisan account of the introduction of astronomy in the early 1600’s, but provides a good chronological narrative.

Elman, Benjamin A. 1984. From Philosophy to Philology. Intellectual and Social Aspects of Change in Late Imperial China (Harvard East Asian Monographs, 110). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Council on East Asian Studies. A seminal work on a revolution in the content and social context of thought ca. 1600-1750, with a subtle analysis of the limits of European impact.

Engelfriet, Peter M. 1996. "Euclid in China: A Survey of the Historical Background of the First Chinese Translation of Euclid’s Elements (Jihe yuanben: Beijing, 1607), an Analysis of the Translation, and a Study of its Influence up to 1723." 428 pp. Ph.D. dissertation (cum laude), Sinologisch Instituut, Leiden.

Gernet, Jacques. 1985. China and the Christian Impact. A Conflict of Cultures, tr. Janet Lloyd. New York: Cambridge University Press. Translation of Chine et christianisme. Action et réaction (Bibliothèque des histoires; Paris: La Maison des sciences de l’homme, 1982). For a summary see Christian and Chinese Visions of the World in the Seventeenth Century, Chinese Science, 1980, 4: 1-17. Gernet writes with equal authority on science and religion.

Hashimoto, Keizo. 1988. Hsü Kuang-ch’i and Astronomical Reform. The Process of the Chinese Acceptance of Western Astronomy 1629-1635. Osaka: Kansai University Press. A Cambridge dissertation, which among other things documents the European sources of the missionaries’ early astronomical translations.

Henderson, John. 1984. The Development and Decline of Chinese Cosmology. Neo-Confucian Studies, 11. New York: Columbia University Press. An original look at changes in Chinese philosophy in the seventeenth and early eighteenth centures, with much material that suggests Jesuit influence through astronomy.

Martzloff, Jean-Claude. 1980. La compréhension chinoise des méthodes démonstratives euclidiennes au cours du XVIIe siÈcle et au début du XVIIIe. In Actes, IIe Colloque International de Sinologie. Les rapports entre la Chine et l’Europe au temps des lumiÈres. Centre de Recherches Interdisciplinaires de Chantilly (CERIC), 16-18 septembre 1977. La Chine au temps des lumiÈres, 4, pp. 125-143. Paris: Le Centre. On the character of Chinese responses to Euclid.

Spence, Jonathan D. 1969. To Change China. Western Advisors in China, 1620-1960. Boston: Little, Brown. Characteristically reflective, but uncharacteristically based on secondary sources, often unreliable ones.

Spence, Jonathan D. 1983. The Memory Palace of Matteo Ricci. New York: Viking Penguin Inc. On the transplantation to China of the classical art of memory. Not important but brilliant and curious. For background see Frances A. Yates’ equally brilliant and curious The Art of Memory (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1969).

Xi Zezong [=Hsi Tse-tsung] et al. 1973. Heliocentric Theory in China. In Commemoration of the Quincentenary of the Birth of Nicolaus Copernicus. Scientia Sinica, 16: 364-376.

Zürcher, Erik; Nicolas Standaert, S. J.; Adrianus Dudink. 1991. Bibliography of the Jesuit Mission in China (ca. 1580-ca. 1680). Leiden: Center of Non-Western Studies, Leiden University.

Mathematics and Divination

Chemla, Karine. 1982. Etude du livre Reflets des mesures du cercle sur la mer de Li Ye. Dissertation for doctorat de 3e cycle, University of Paris. 4 vols. Pathbreaking study of mathematical classic Ts’e yuan hai ching (1248).

Chemla, Karine; Guo Shuchun. 2004. Les neuf chapitres. Le classique mathématique de la Chine ancienne et ses commentaries. Paris: Dunod. Complete scholarly translation of a classic.

Cullen, Christopher. 1982. An Eighth Century Chinese Table of Tangents. Chinese Science, 5: 1-33. On a table of gnomon shadow lengths using third-order finite differences, perhaps the oldest extant tangent table in the world. Pertinent to astronomy as well.

Hoe, John. 1977. Les systèmes d’équations polyn"mes dans le Siyuan yujian (1303) (Mémoires de l’Institut des Hautes Etudes Chinoises, Collège de France, 6). Paris: L’Institut. A dissertation concerned with polynomials in the Ssu yuan yü chien (Jade mirror of the four unknowns) of Chu Shih-chieh. Good introductory orientation.

Jami, Catherine. 1990. Les Méthodes rapides pour la trigonométrie et le rapport précis du cercle (1774). Tradition chinoise et apport occidental en mathématiques (Mémoires de l’Institut des Hautes Etudes Chinoises, Collège de France, 32). Paris: L’Institut. Sophisticated analysis of a trigonometric treatise by the Mongol astronomer Minggantu. Important for its conclusions about how traditional methods and assumptions were imposed on techniques borrowed from Europe.

Jami, Catherine. 2012. The Emperor’s New Mathematics. Western Learning and Imperial Authority during the Kangxi Reign Period (1662-1722). Oxford University Press. Important study of European mathematics in imperial palace.

Lam Lay Yong. 1977. A Critical Study of the Yang hui suan fa. A Thirteenth-Century Chinese Mathematical Treatise. Singapore University Press. Complete translation of an important text of ca. 1270, with explanations.

Lam Lay Yong; Ang Tian Se. 1992. Fleeting Footsteps. Tracing the Conception of Arithmetic and Algebra in Ancient China. Singapore: World Scientific. Introduction to ancient Chinese computational methods and translation of Sun-tzu suan ching, a textbook of ca. A.D. 400.

Li Yan; Du Shiran. 1987. Chinese Mathematics. A Concise History, tr. John N. Crossley & Anthony W.-C. Lun. Oxford Science Publications. Oxford University Press. Uncomprehending translation of Du’s competent but positivistic textbook written for Chinese cadres in 1963.

Libbrecht, Ulrich. 1973. Chinese Mathematics in the Thirteenth Century. The Shu-shu chiu-chang of Ch’in Chiu-shao (MIT East Asian Science Series, 1). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Full of examples and informed discussions of differences in approach between Chinese, Islamic, Indian, and European mathematics. Emphasizes indeterminate equations.

Martzloff, Jean-Claude. 1981. Recherches sur l’oeuvre mathématique de Mei Wending (1633-1721). Mémoires de l’Institut des Hautes Etudes Chinoises, Collège de France, 16. Paris: L’Institut. Dissertation on a great seventeenth-century mathematician’s work on arithmetic and elementary geometry.

Martzloff, Jean-Claude. 1995. A History of Chinese Mathematics, tr. Stephen L. Wilson. Berlin: Springer-Verlag. Translation of Histoire des mathématiques chinoises (Paris: Masson, 1988). Highly competent historical survey, with equal attention to the intellectual and social contexts of mathematics and its technical content.

Mikami, Yoshio. 1913. The Development of Mathematics in China and Japan. Leipzig: B. G. Teubner; reprint, New York: Chelsea Publishing Company, n.d. Still worth consulting, particularly for details of operations.

Needham, Joseph, et al. 1959. Science and Civilisation in China. Vol. III. Mathematics and the Sciences of the Heavens and the Earth, 1-168. Cambridge University Press. A good survey of the literature and classic problems, but in other respects the weakest section of the series, superficial and largely reliant on obsolete Western-language sources.

Smith, Richard J. 1991. Fortune-tellers and Philosophers : Divination in Traditional Chinese Society. Boulder : Westview Press. Good non-technical introduction, with substantial bibliography.

Smith, Richard J. 2008. Divination In Late Imperial China: New Light On Old Problems. In The Imperative of Understanding: Chinese Philosophy, Hermeneutics, Comparative Philosophy and Onto-Hermeneutics, ed. On-cho Ng, pp. 273-315. New York: Global Scholarly Publications.

Vogel, Kurt, translator. 1968. Neun Bücher arithmetischer Technik. Ostwalds Klassiker der exakten Wissenschaften, n. s., 4. Braunschweig: View E G. A complete translation of the oldest text of the classical arithmetical tradition, the Chiu chang suan shu (late first century A.D.?), with scanty introduction and commentary. Largely based on a Russian translation by Elvira Berezkina.

Wagner, Donald Blackmore. 1978. Liu Hui and Tsu Keng-chih on the Volume of a Sphere. Chinese Science, 3: 59-79.

Wagner, Donald Blackmore. 1979. An Early Chinese Derivation of the Volume of a Pyramid: Liu Hui, Third Century A.D. Historia mathematica, 6: 164-188. On geometrical proofs, the use of which in China has often been denied.

Wylie, Alexander. 1897/1966. Chinese Researches. Reprint, Taipei: Ch’eng-wen Publishing Company. Wylie (1815-1887) was a polymathic missionary who wrote on topics in technology, mathematics, and science that have not been freshly studied since.

Yabuuti, Kiyosi. 2000. Une histoire des mathématiques chinoises. Regards sur la science, tr. Catherine Jami & Kaoru Baba. Paris: Belin-Pour la science. Tr. of Yabuuchi 1974, 2d ed.


Clark, D. M.; F. R. Stephenson. 1977. Historical Supernovas. London: Pergamon Press. The best comprehensive attempt to identify supernovas in early astronomical records. Uses Chinese and other materials in a sophisticated way.

Cullen, Christopher. 1996. Astronomy and Mathematics in Ancient China: the Zhou bi suan jing. Needham Research Institute Studies, 1. Cambridge University Press. Full translation and innovative study of one of the most important early books on cosmology (between 50 B.C. and A.D. 100).

Deane, Thatcher E. 1994. Instruments and Observation at the Imperial Astronomical Bureau during the Ming Dynasty. Osiris, 9: 127-140. On practical astronomy in the 14th to 17th centuries.

Eberhard, Wolfram. 1970. Sternkunde und Weltbild im alten China. Gesammelte Aufs„tze. Occasional Series, 5. Taipei: Chinese Materials & Research Aids Service Center. A useful collection, all except one article published 1932-1940. Often unreliable for astronomy and for interpretation, but many are the only secondary sources on interesting topics, e.g., aspects of early cosmology, writings of Buddhists on astronomy.

Ginzel, F. K. 1906-1914. Handbuch der mathematischen und technischen Chronologie. Das Zeitrechnungswesen der V"lker. 3 vols. Leipzig: Hinrichs. An introduction to the basic problems of calendar and ephemerides construction and their solutions in various cultures; none of the literature on Chinese astronomy provides full introductory information of this kind. For summary data, see Explanatory Supplement to the Astronomical Almanac (Mill Valley, CA: University Science Books, 1992).

Ho Peng Yoke [=Ping-yü]. 1966. The Astronomical Chapters of the Chin shu. With Amendments, Full Translation and Annotations. Paris: Mouton & Co. Definitive translation of the Astrological Treatise (T’ien wen chih ), which provides abundant data on positional astronomy and the astrological interpretation of observational data. Ho supplements this first translation of its kind with notes and introductory remarks on historiography and observatory practice.

Ho Peng Yoke. 2003. Chinese Mathematical Astrology. Reaching Out to the Stars. London: Routledge/Curzon. A deep technical discussion of various forms of divination.

Maeyama, Y[asukatsu]. 1975. On the Astronomical Data of Ancient China (ca. -100 D2D200): A Numerical Analysis. Archives internationales d’histoire des sciences, 25: 247-276; 1976, 26: 27-58. Through a strikingly original error analysis, redates a fundamental source of star data to roughly 70 B.C.

Maeyama, Y. 1977. The Oldest Star Catalogue of China, Shih Shen’s Hsing ching. In Maeyama & W. G. Salzer, editors. Naturwissenschaftgeschichtliche Studien. Festschrift für Willy Hartner, 211-245. Wiesbaden: Franz Steiner Verlag GmbH. A broader study that confirms Maeyama’s earlier work.

Martzloff, Jean-Claude. 2009. Le calendrier chinois: Structure et calculs (104 av. J.-C.–1644). Indétermination céleste et réforme permanente. La construction chinoise officielle du temps quotidian discret à partir d’un temps mathématique cache, linéaire et continu. (The Chinese calendar: Structure and computation, 104 B.C. – A.D. 1644). Celestial indeterminacy and permanent reform. The official Chinese construction of discrete, quotidian time from a mathematical time that is abstract, linear, and continuous). Sciences, techniques et civilizations du moyen âge à l’aube des lumières, 11. Paris: Honoré Champion. A study of the design of lunisolar calendars in official systems.

Maspero, Henri. 1938-1939. Les instruments astronomiques des Chinois au temps des Han. Mélanges chinois et Bouddhiques, 6: 183-370. Rigorous, accurate, and illuminating. Basic for early astronomy, and among Needham’s main sources.

Müller, Paul M. 1975. An Analysis of the Ancient Astronomical Observations with the Implications for Geophysics and Cosmology. Newcastle upon Tyne: The author. Dissertation. Considerable use of East Asian observations; many pertinent references in bibliography.

Nakayama, Shigeru. 1966. Characteristics of Chinese Astrology. Isis, 57: 442-454. A concise characterization, discussing the late importation of horoscopic astrology of the Hellenistic type.

Nakayama, Shigeru. 1969. A History of Japanese Astronomy. Chinese Background and Western Impact. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Contains one of the best characterizations to date of Chinese approaches to computational astronomy.

Needham, Joseph, et al. 1959. Science and Civilisation in China. Vol. III. Mathematics and the Sciences of the Heavens and the Earth, 169-641. Cambridge University Press. Excellent survey, with much attention to observational astronomy and instruments. Uses little important research by Japanese historians. Chinese astronomy was calendrical, that is, oriented toward the production of a complete ephemeris. Needham misleads the reader when he dismisses the calendrical problem as trivial, and deals with other aspects of astronomy as though they were autonomous. In most other respects accurate; in case of doubt, check sources.

Schafer, Edward H. 1977. Pacing the Void. T’ang Approaches to the Stars. Berkeley: University of California Press. Recreates with brio the sky as seen by medieval poets.

Schlegel, Gustave. 1875. Uranographie chinoise ou preuves directes que l’astronomie primitive est originaire de la Chine, et qu’elle a été empruntée par les anciens peuples occidentaux a la sphère chinoise. 2 vols. with star maps in folder. La Haye: Martinus Nijhoff. Despite Schlegel’s extravagant views on the antiquity of Chinese astronomy, this remains the basic Western-language reference on Chinese constellations and stars.

Sivin, Nathan. 2009. Granting the Seasons: The Chinese Astronomical Reform of 1280, With a Study of its Many Dimensions and a Translation of its Records. Sources and Studies in the History of Mathematics and Physical Sciences. Secaucus, NJ: Springer. A study of the high point of Chinese mathematical astronomy. Chapter 2 is a general briefing on the tradition up to ca. 1280.

Steele, John M. 2000. Observations and Predictions of Eclipse Times by Early Astronomers. Archimedes, 4. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers. Multi-cultural study of eclipses for which time of day was recorded.

Stephenson, F. Richard. 1978. Applications of Early Astronomical Records. Monographs on Astronomical Subjects, 4. Bristol: Oxford University Press. A technically sophisticated, but not mathematically difficult, introduction to the topic, using many East Asian observational records.

Stephenson, F. Richard; M. A. Houlden. 1986. Atlas of Historical Eclipse Maps. East Asia 1500 BC AD 1900. Cambridge University Press. Useful introduction, and maps and data on solar eclipses only.

Stephenson, F. Richard. 1997. Historical Eclipses and the Earth’s Rotation. University Press. Detailed theoretical and empirical study of historic records. Argues for variable non-tidal changes in day length in opposition to tidal ones.

Stephenson, F. Richard; Nha Il-Seong, editors. 1997. Oriental Astronomy from Guo Shoujing to King Sejong. Proceedings of an International Conference. Seoul, Korea. 6-11 October 1993. Seoul: Yonsei University Press.

Sun Xiaochun; Jacob Kistemaker. 1997. The Chinese Sky during the Han. Constellating Stars & Society. Leiden. E. J. Brill. Primarily a reconstruction, with attention to social imagery in asterisms.

Sun Xiaochun. 2000. Crossing the Boundaries between Heaven and Man: Astronomy in Ancient China. In Astronomy across Cultures. The History of Non-Western Astronomy, ed. Helaine Selin & Sun, pp. 423-454. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers. Good introductory essay for an encyclopedia.

Sun Xiaochun; Jacob Kistemaker. 1997. The Chinese Sky during the Han. Constellating Stars & Society. Leiden: E. J. Brill. Primarily a reconstruction, with attention to social imagery in asterisms.

Swarup, Govind, et al., editors. 1987. History of Oriental Astronomy. International Astronomical Union, Colloquium 91, New Delhi, India, November 1985. Cambridge University Press. Short papers on most of the Asian traditions, variable in quality.

Teboul, Michel. 1985. Sur quelques particularités de l’uranographie polaire chinoise. T’oung Pao, 71: 1-39. Demonstrates the vagueness of Han nomenclature for stars.

Xu Zhentao. 1989. The Basic Forms of Chinese Sunspot Records. Chinese Science, 9: 19-28.

Yabuuti, Kiyosi. 1979. Researches on the Chiu-chih li. Indian Astronomy under the T’ang Dynasty. Acta Asiatica, 36: 7-48. Revised translation of an important document for the influence of Indian mathematical astronomy and trigonometric functions in eighth-century China.

Alchemy and Chemical Arts (see also "Science and Religion")

Eliade, Mircea. 1962. The Forge and the Crucible. New York: Harper. Original title Forgerons et alchimistes (Paris: Flammarion, 1956). A distinguished general study of the primitive roots of alchemical doctrines. The chapters on Chinese and Indian alchemy are suggestive despite the inadequacy of their secondary sources. For a survey of later developments, see The Forge and the Crucible: A Postscript, History of Religions, 1968, 8: 74-88.

Ho Peng-yoke. 1979. On the Dating of Taoist Alchemical Texts. Griffith Asian Papers. Nathan, Queensland: Griffith University. A methodological introduction, with examples. Ho has made important strides in applying dating techniques.

Kohn, Livia, editor. 2000. Daoism Handbook. Handbuch der Orientalistik. IV. China. 14. Leiden: Brill. Comprehensive, generally authoritative chapters, some topical, some chronological. This and Pregadio 2008 are essential guides.

Needham, Joseph, et al. 1974-1983. Science and Civilisation in China. Vol. 5, parts 2-5. Spagyrical Discovery and Invention. Cambridge University Press. A historical survey of alchemy (including the physiological and spiritual disciplines of internal alchemy ), mainly from the point of view of modern chemistry. This anachronistic bias often distracts from understanding what alchemists were trying to do; in particular, part 5 on “physiological alchemy” as “proto-biochemistry” is badly misleading, as are Needham’s arguments that alchemy is essentially Taoist in some sense. The comparative study of Chinese, Islamic, and Hellenistic alchemy in vol.5, part 4, 323-509, is exceptionally useful if approached critically.

Needham, Joseph. The Epic of Gunpowder and Firearms, Developing from Alchemy. In Needham 1981: 27-56 (see above, p. *).

Pregadio, Fabrizio, editor. 2008. The Encyclopedia Of Taoism. 2 vols. New York: Routledge.

Pregadio, Fabrizio. 2006. Great Clarity. Daoism and Alchemy in Early Medieval China. Asian Religions and Cultures. Stanford University Press. A detailed and learned study of an early Taoist movement that made use of alchemical writings. Readers will want to know something about the history of Taoism and of alchemy before reading it.

Pregadio, Fabrizio. 2011-2012. The Seal of the Unity of the Three. A Study and Translation of the Cantong qi, the Source of the Taoist Way of the Golden Elixir. 2 vols. Mountain View, CA: Golden Elixir Press. Vol. II catalogues and discusses commentaries, etc., and gives Chinese text. Translation of 周易參同契.

Schäfer, Dagmar. 2011. The Crafting of the 10,000 Things. Knowledge and Technology in Seventeenth-Century China. University of Chicago Press. Study of Tiangong kaiwu 天工開物.

Sivin, Nathan. 1968. Chinese Alchemy: Preliminary Studies. Harvard Monographs in the History of Science, 1. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Mostly discussions and heuristic studies aimed at developing a critical and analytical approach to the history of alchemy. Among the appendixes is a list of published translations of alchemical treatises.

Sivin, Nathan. 1976. Chinese Alchemy and the Manipulation of Time. Isis, 67: 513-527. Reprinted in Sivin (ed.), Science & Technology in East Asia (New York: Science History Publications, 1976), 108-122.

Sivin, Nathan. 1980. The Theoretical Background of Elixir Alchemy. In Needham et al. 1974-1983. vol. 5, part 4, pp. 210-297. A general reconstruction of the theories Chinese alchemists created to explain their work. For a concise summary see the preceding item, written later but published earlier.

Sivin, Nathan. 1990. Research on the History of Early Alchemy. In Alchemy Revisited. Proceedings of the International Conference on the History of Alchemy at the University of Groningen. 17-19 April 1989Z. R. W. M. von Martels, pp. 3-20. Leiden: E. J. Brill. Discusses the lack of vitality in research on the history of alchemy in China and worldwide.

Sivin, Nathan. 2005. Alchemy: Chinese Alchemy. In Encyclopedia of Religion, 2d ed., 15 vols., vol. 1, pp. 237-41. New York: Macmillan Reference. Reflects the state of the art.

Skar, Lowell. 1997. Administering Thunder: A Thirteenth-century Memorial Deliberating the Thunder Rites. Cahiers d’Extrême-Asie, 1996-1997, 9: 159-202. NS.

Skar, Lowell. 2003. Golden Elixir Alchemy: The Formation of the Southern Lineage and the Transformation of Medieval China. xiv + 375 pp. Ph.D. dissertation, Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, University of Pennsylvania. See especially chap. 2, “Nourishing the Vitalities and Embodying the Way,” for a remarkable history of Chinese self-cultivation.

Sung Ying-hsing. 1637/1966. T’ien-kung k’ai-wu. Chinese Technology in the Seventeenth Century, trans. E-Tu Zen Sun & Shiou-chuan Sun. University Park: The Pennsylvania State University Press. Translation of a 17th-century technological encyclopedia containing much information about chemical processes.

Wagner, Donald B. 2008. Science and Civilisation in China. Volume 5. Chemistry and Chemical Technology. Part 11. Ferrous Metallurgy. Cambridge University Press. Fresh and illuminating study of iron and steel technology.

Siting (geomancy), Cartography, and Earth Sciences

Bennett, Steven J. 1978. Patterns of the Sky and Earth: A Chinese Science of Applied Cosmology. Chinese Science, 3: 1-26. The best available introduction to geomancy, a misnomer; Bennett proposes "siting" instead.

Feuchtwang, Stephan D. R. 1974. An Anthropological Analysis of Chinese Geomancy. Vientiane, Laos: Vithagna. Concerned with both the ideas and the social functions of geomancy. Not a tightly integrated study, nor based on extensive research, but contains useful materials on the siting compass.

Harley, J. Brian; David Woodward. 1994. The History of Cartography. Vol. II, Book 2. Cartography in the Traditional East and Southeast Asian Societies. University of Chicago Press. Innovative and richly illustrated chapters on China, including celestial mapping and cosmological diagrams.

Smith, Richard J. Chinese Maps: Images of "All Under Heaven." 1996.New York: Oxford University Press. Good non-technical introduction.

Smith, Richard J. 1998. Mapping China’s World: Cultural Cartography in Late Imperial Times. In Landscape, Culture and Power in Chinese Society, ed. Yeh Wen-hsin, pp. 52-109. Berkeley: Center for East Asian Studies, University of California.Good non-technical introductions.


Buck, Peter. 1980. American Science and Modern China 1876-1936. Cambridge University Press. Based on superficial research on China, and concerned mainly with the social sources and social consequences of scientific development in the United States. Contains a couple of interesting interpretations, e.g., of the role of Progressivism in forming ideas of Chinese reformers.

Cao, Cong; R. P. Suttmeier. 2001. China’s New Scientific Elite: Distinguished Young Scientists, the Research Environment, and Hopes for Chinese Science. China Quarterly, 168: 960-984.

Conroy, Richard. 1987. The Disintegration and Reconstruction of the Rural Science and Technology System: Evaluation and Implications. In Ashwani Saith (ed.), The Reemergence of the Chinese Peasantry. Aspects of Rural Decollectivization (London: Croom Helm), 137-172. On science policy since the Cultural Revolution.

Elman, Benjamin, et al. 2007. Focus: Science in Modern China. Isis, 98. 3: 517-596. A collection of six articles that cast light on a wide range of topics. See especially Elman, New Directions in the History of Modern Science in China: Global Science and Comparative History, pp. 517-523.

Gould, Sidney H., editor. 1961. Sciences in Communist China. Washington: American Association for the Advancement of Science. Articles by experts; useful, among other things, to document U.S. ignorance of China during the period.

Orleans, Leo A., editor. 1980. Science in Contemporary China. Stanford University Press. Essays on science, engineering, and medicine by prominent U.S. scientists who have taken part in exchange delegations to China since the mid-1970’s.

Reardon-Anderson, James. 1991. The Study of Change. Chemistry in China, 1840-1949. Studies of the East Asian Institute, Columbia University. New York: Cambridge University Press. An excellent first attempt in a Western language to sum up its topic. Not generally technical; emphasizes institutions, with attention to ideas and language.

Schneider, Laurence A. 1982. The Rockefeller Foundation, the China Foundation, and the Development of Modern Science in China. Social Science and Medicine, 16: 1217-1221.

Schneider, Laurence A. 1986. Lysenkoism in China. Proceedings of the 1956 Qingdao Genetics Symposium. Special issue of Chinese Law and Government, 19. 2. Armonk, NY: M. E. Sharpe. Valuable introduction and summaries of the papers that stopped the persecution of genetics under Soviet Lysenkoist influence.

Simon, Denis Fred; Merle Goldman, editors. 1989. Science and Technology in Post-Mao China. Harvard Contemporary China Series, 5. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Council on East Asian Studies. Wide selection of up-to-date essays by political scientists, historians, and scientists. The best introduction to the topic, but see review in Minerva, 1992, 30. 3: 432-439.

Volti, Rudi. 1982. Technology, Politics, and Society in China. Boulder, CO: Westview Press. Mainly on agriculture, energy, ground transport, and medicine.

Yamada Keiji. 1971. The Development of Science and Technology in China: 1949-1965. The Developing Economies, 9: 502-537. Useful Japanese view.


Reference Works

Bensky, Dan, et al. 1986. Chinese Herbal Medicine. Materia Medica. Seattle: Eastland Press. Discusses and illustrates over 400 plants, with data from Chinese textbooks. Not scholarly, but relatively full and clear, with useful appendices.

Bynum, W. F.; Helen Bynum. 2007. Dictionary of Medical Biography. 5 vols. Tunbridge Wells: Greenwood. Includes 33 notices of Chinese physicians and physicians in China.

Chen Chan-yuen (Ch’en Ts’un-jen). 1968. Chung-kuo i-hsueh-shih t’u chien (‘History of Chinese Medical Science Illustrated with Pictures’). Hong Kong: Shang-hai Yin-shu-kuan. Pictorial archive with condensed English versions of the captions. Nothing in the sloppy text should be used without checking; the author has missed no opportunity to represent legends as historical facts and late imaginative depictions as portraits.

Cullen, Christopher. 1993. Patients and Healers in Late Imperial China: Evidence from the Jinpingmei. History of Science, 31. 2: 99-150. Enlightening on the social relations of medicine as reflected in a great novel.

Ferreyrolles, Paul. 1953. L’acupuncture chinoise. Lille: Editions S.L.E.L. Recommended solely for the bibliography of European writing on Chinese medicine from 1671 to 1950 (pp. 177-191).

Fèvre, Francine; Georges Métailié. 2005. Dictionnaire Ricci des plantes de Chine. 902 pp. Paris: Éditions du Cerf. Lists 16,500 plants and 3500 medical plants, with definitions in French, Latin, and English.

Hu, Shiu-ying. 1999. An Enumeration of Chinese Materia Medica. 2d edition. Hong Kong: Chinese University Press. A concise, authoritative reference list by Chinese names; provides pharmaceutical and botanical identifications. The most up-to-date handbook on botanical and pharmaceutic nomenclature in English; Read, Stuart, etc., are largely obsolete for Latin names of plants.

Huard, Pierre. 1968. Chinese Medicine, trans. Bernard Fielding. World University Library. New York: McGraw-Hill. This well-illustrated paperback deserves praise for its concern with the connections of other Asiatic traditions to that of China, and European knowledge of Chinese medicine and vice versa in the last three centuries. At the same time, it is perfunctory, carelessly thought through, and full of elementary errors of fact, interpretation, translation, and transliteration.

Keys, John D. 1976. Chinese Herbs. Their Botany, Chemistry, and Pharmacodynamics. Rutland, VT: C. E. Tuttle Company. Uninformative despite the rich sources that the author claims to have drawn on.

Read, Bernard E. 1931-1941. Chinese Materia Medica. Peking Natural History Bulletin. Standard references for animal drugs. For detailed list of fascicules, see Needham, Science and Civilisation in China, III, 784-785. Although Read’s publications are the best of their sort in English, recent publications in Chinese have rendered them obsolete.

Read, Bernard E.; C. Pak. 1936. A Compendium of Minerals and Stones Used in Chinese Medicine From the Pen Ts’ao Kang Mu. . . [of] Li Shih Chen . . . 1597 A.D. 2d ed., Peking Natural History Bulletin. Unlike Chinese Materia Medica, this is not a translation but an ill-digested mass of information from hither and yon. The order of accuracy is nevertheless high.

Sivin, Nathan. 1989. A Cornucopia of Reference Works for the History of Chinese Medicine. Chinese Science, 9: 29-52. Reports on a large number of reference sources published in China and Japan since ca. 1985.

Smith, F. Porter. 1911. Chinese Materia Medica. Vegetable Kingdom. Revised edition, ed. G. A. Stuart. Shanghai: American Presbyterian Mission Press. Reprint (ed. Ph. Daven Wei), 1969, Taipei: Ku T’ing Book House. The fullest of the older monographs on Chinese materia medica. Still worth consulting, particularly in view of its indexes to Chinese names of herbs. There is also valuable translated material on identities and characteristics of medicinal plants in Bretschneider 1881-1895: Part III.

See also Sivin 2000 (p. * above).

Studies Useful for Orientation

Brieger, Gert. 1980. History of Medicine. In A Guide to the Culture of Science, Technology, and Medicine, ed. Paul T. Durbin, pp. 121-194. New York: Free Press. A discussion of issues and trends in the study of European medicine.

Chang, Kwang Chih, editor. 1977. Food in Chinese Culture. Anthropological and Historical Perspectives. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. Essays on the culinary arts, dynasty by dynasty, mostly by leading historians. Little on nutrition, but the book is the best of its kind.

Kuriyama, Shigehisa. 1992. Between Mind and Eye: Japanese Anatomy in the Eighteenth Century. In Leslie & Young 1992: 21-43. A sophisticated study of the interaction between Western representations of anatomy and traditional ideas of spirituality.

Lock, Margaret. 1980. East Asian Medicine in Urban Japan. Varieties of Medical Experience. Comparative Studies of Health Systems and Medical Care, 4. Berkeley: University of California Press. Excellent field study of Chinese-style medicine and its social matrix.

Lock, Margaret. 1993. Encounters with Aging: Mythologies of Menopause in Japan and North America. Berkeley: University of California Press.

McNeill, William H. 1977. Plagues and Peoples. Garden City: Anchor Press. On the role of micro-organisms and infectious disease in world history. Weak on China but important for epidemiology applied to history.

Ohnuki-Tierney, Emiko. 1984. Illness and Culture in Contemporary Japan. An Anthropological View. Cambridge University Press. A penetrating analysis of lay conceptions of body, illness and health care. Like Lock, a model for studies of China.

Medicine and Related Topics

Ågren, Hans. 1982. The Conceptual History of Psychiatric Terms in Traditional Chinese Medicine. In Li Guohao 1982: 573-581.

Anonymous. 1975. Herbal Pharmacology in the People’s Republic of China. A Trip Report of the American Herbal Pharmacology Delegation.Washington: National Academy of Sciences. In addition to first-hand reports on clinical use of herbal drugs and on the cultivation of herbs, includes overly brief but informative notes on 248 drug substances.

Benedict, Carol. 1996. Bubonic Plague in Nineteenth-Century China. Stanford University Press. Interesting study of epidemiology, tracing the advance of the plague from one locality to another.

Brownell, Susan. 1995. Training the Body for China. Sports in the Moral Order of the People’s Republic. University of Chicago Press. Excellent analytic study based on the author’s experience as an athlete on a Chinese national team, a Sinologist, and an anthropologist.

Chang, Che-chia. 1998. The Therapeutic Tug of War. The Imperial Physician-Patient Relationship in the Era of Empress Dowager Cixi (1874-1908). Ph.D. diss., Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, University of Pennsylvania. Uses the enormous Qing palace medical archives and other neglected sources in the first substantial study of doctor-patient relations in imperial China. An excellent study of the encounter of official and private medical subcultures. Offers the first solid solutions to enigmas in the medical histories and deaths of the Tongzhi and Guangxu emperors and the empress dowager Cixi.

Chang, Chia-feng. 1996. Aspects of Smallpox and its Significance in Chinese History. Ph.D. diss., School of Oriental and African Studies. Very general study of smallpox and its many historical dimensions.

Chao, Yuan-ling. 2009. Medicine and Society in Late Imperial China. A Study of Physicians in Suzhou, 1600-1850. Asian Thought and Culture, 61. New York: Peter Lang. Chapters on the social history of medicine in the lower Yangzi River region and in Suzhou.

Chiu, Martha Li. 1981. Insanity in Imperial China. A Legal Case Study. In Kleinman & Lin 1981: 75-94. On k’uang, a technical term for manic behavior or mania as a syndrome.

Chiu, Martha Li. 1986. Mind, Body, and Illness in a Chinese Medical Tradition. Ph.D. diss., History and East Asian Languages, Harvard University. Excellent critical study of the Inner Canon of the Yellow Lord (Huang ti nei ching t’ai su that finds exceptions to the predominant holistic viewpoint.

Demiéville, Paul. 1937. Byō. In Hōbōgirin. Dictionnaire encyclopédique du Bouddhisme d’aprés les sources chinoises et japonaises, ed. Demiéville, III, 224-265. Paris: Adrien Maisonneuve. Magisterial survey of the connections between Buddhism, sickness, and medicine. Trans. Mark Tatz, Buddhism and Healing: Demiéville’s Article ‘Byō ‘ from Hōbōgirin (Lanham, MI: University Press of America, 1985).

Despeux, Catherine. 1985. Shanghan lun. Traité des coups de froid. Paris: de la Tisserande. Translation of the Treatise on Cold Damage Disorders (Shang han lun, between A.D. 196 and 220).

Despeux, Catherine. 1987. Prescriptions d’acuponcture valant mille onces d’or. Traité d’acuponcture de Sun Simiao du VIIe siÈcle. Paris: Guy Trédaniel. Translation of part of Prescriptions Worth a Thousand (Ch’ien chin fang, with an introduction and scholarly notes.

Epler, Dean C. 1980. Blood-letting in Early Chinese Medicine and its Relation to the Origin of Acupuncture. Bulletin of the History of Medicine,54: 337-367.

Furth, Charlotte. 1995. From Birth to Birth. The Growing Body in Chinese Medicine. In Chinese Views of Childhood, ed. Anne Behnke Kinney, pp. 157-191. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press. On schemata of conception, growth, stages of sexual activity, etc. Offprint in file.

Furth, Charlotte. 1999. A Flourishing Yin: Gender in China’s Medical History, 960-1665. Berkeley: University of California Press. On medical care for women and childbirth, with a chapter on women as healers. NS

Goldschmidt, Asaf. 2009. The Evolution of Chinese Medicine. Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127). Needham Research Institute Series, 8. London: Routledge. Original study of the great changes in every aspect of medical thought and practice in a time of government involvement in health care.

Grant, Joanna. 2003. A Chinese Physician. Wang Ji and the ‘Stone Mountain Medical Case Histories.’ Needham Research Institute Series, 2. London: RoutledgeCurzon. Looks at gender issues, not narrowly in connection with gynecology and obstetrics (cf. Y. L. Wu 1998), but through the full range of disorders in men and women in Wang Chi’s Shih shan i an, a 16C collection of medical case records.

Hanson, Marta. Hanson, Marta. 2011. Speaking of Epidemics in Chinese Medicine. Disease and the Geographic Imagination in Late Imperial China. Needham Research Institute Series, 9. London: Routledge. Important on the nexus of medicine and politics.

Harper, Donald J. 1998. Early Chinese Medical Literature: The Mawangdui Medical Manuscripts. Sir Henry Wellcome Asian Series. London: Royal Asiatic Society. Meticulous translations of and excellent commentaries on important medical manuscripts excavated in 1973 at Mawangdui, Hunan. With long prolegomena and material from other archeological discoveries; indexes of materia medica, physiological terms, ailments.

Hillier, Sheila M.; John A. Jewell. 1983. Health Care and Traditional Medicine in China, 1800-1982. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul. Compiled from secondary sources of greatly varying quality.

Ho, Peng Yoke; F. P. Lisowski. 1998 (publ. 1999). A Brief History of Chinese Medicine and its Influence. 2d ed. Singapore: World Scientific. Frequently unreliable, partly obsolete sketch (China, 47 pp.; 11 pp; Japan, 10 pp.; Islam, 3 pp.). Ignores most important recent work.

Hoeppli, R. 1959. Parasites and Parasitic Infections in Early Medicine and Science. Singapore: University of Malaya Press. A large part of this collection of previously published essays is devoted to China and Southeast Asia.

Hoizey, Dominique. 1988. Histoire de la médecine chinoise. Des origines … nos jours. Médecine et sociétés, 12. Paris: Editions Payot. Based not on research but on recent Chinese textbooks. Primarily bibliographical, unreliable on such matters as translation of technical terms.

Hsiung Ping-Chen. 2005. A Tender Voyage. Children and Childhood in Late Imperial China. Stanford University Press. A fine history of child care and pediatrics.

Hsu, Elisabeth, editor. 2001. Innovation in Chinese Medicine. Needham Research Institute Studies, 3. Cambridge University Press. Papers, varying greatly in quality, illuminate many aspects of innovation.

Huard, Pierre; Ming Wong. 1971. Oriental Methods of Mental and Physical Fitness: The Complete Book of Meditation, Kinesiotherapy & Martial Arts in China, India & Japan. New York: Funk & Wagnalls. The authors’ usual chaotic more-or-less-historical once-over-lightly. Some of the material on calisthentics is novel, but only the illustrations (many of them excellent) can be trusted.

Hymes, Robert P. 1987. ‘Not Quite Gentlemen.’ Physicians in the Sung and Yuan. Chinese Science, 8: 9-76. Meticulous, important study of changing patterns of recruitment to medical careers.

Institute of Acupuncture and Moxibustion, Chinese Academy of Traditional Chinese Medicine. 1990. State Standard of the People’s Republic of China. The Location of Acupoints. Beijing: Foreign Languages Press. Profusely illustrated. Includes substantial material from early sources with discussions to resolve contradictions, and data on related anatomical, incl. nerve, structures. Does not discuss therapy. Makes previous publications on loci obsolete.

Kaptchuk, Ted J. 1983. The Web That Has No Weaver. Understanding Chinese Medicine. New York: Congdon & Weed. An insightful introduction for laymen. The author has had some training in a school of traditional medicine.

Katz, Paul R. 1995. Demon Hordes and Burning Boats. The Cult of Marshal Wen in Late Imperial Chekiang. Albany: State University of New York Press. On a popular religious cult concerned with epidemics.

Keegan, David. 1988. Huang-ti nei-ching. The Structure of the Compilation, the Significance of the Structure. Ph.D. diss., History, University of California, Berkeley. A pathbreaking technical study of how the Inner Canon (and by implication other Han classics) came together.

Kleinman, Arthur M., et al., editors. 1975. Medicine in Chinese Cultures: Comparative Studies of Health Care in Chinese and other Societies. Bethesda; Washington, DC: National Institutes of Health. This conference volume includes a couple of good historical papers. A number of the anthropological contributions are useful, but no one tests the applicability of field work in today’s Taiwan and Hong Kong to questions about traditional China.

Kleinman, Arthur M.; Tsung-yi Lin, editors. 1981. Normal and Abnormal Behavior in Chinese Culture. Culture, Illness, and Healing. Studies in Comparative Cross-Cultural Research, 2. Dordrecht: D. Reidel.

Kuriyama, Shigehisa, editor. 2001. The Imagination of the Body and the History of Bodily Experience. International symposium, 15. Kyoto: International Research Center for Japanese Studies.

Kuriyama, Shigehisa. 1999. The Expressiveness of the body and the Divergence of Greek and Chinese Medicine. New York: Zone Books. Sensitive comparison of experience of body in two cultures. Does not attempt to explain reasons for change.

Kuriyama, Shigehisa. 2001. The Imagination of the Body and the History of Embodied Experience: The Case of Chinese Views of the Viscera. In Kuriyama (ed.) 2001: 17-29. An important essay on how to look at old medical diagrams.

Leslie, Charles, and Allan Young, editors. 1992. Paths to Asian Medical Knowledge. Comparative Studies of Health Systems and Medical Care. Berkeley: University of California Press. One paper on Japan and four on China.

Leung, Angela Ki Che. 2009. Leprosy in China: A History. Studies of the Weatherhead East Asian Institute. New York: Columbia University Press. On li 癘, lai 癩, ta feng 大風, later mafeng 麻風, mostly from Ming through PRC.

Leung, Angela. 2011. “Evolution of the Idea of chuanran. Contagion in Imperial China.” In Leung and Furth, eds. 2011.

Li Guohao et al., editors. 1982. Explorations in the History of Science and Technology in China. Shanghai Chinese Classics Publishing House. Festschrift for Needham. See Ågren 1982 and Porkert 1982.

Lo, Vivienne; Christopher Cullen, editors. 2005. Medieval Chinese Medicine. The Dunhuang Medicine Manuscripts. Needham Research Institute Series, 4. London: Routledge Curzon. Sixteen papers on the trove of manuscripts, list of material medica mentioned in them, abstracts of medical manuscripts.

Lu Gwei-Djen; Joseph Needham. 1980. Celestial Lancets. A History and Rationale of Acupuncture and Moxa. Cambridge University Press. The first scholarly history of acupuncture. Esp. valuable material on its transmission outside China and its influence in Europe from the sixteenth century on.

Miyasita Saburo [Miyashita Saburō]. 1976. A Historical Study of Chinese Drugs for the Treatment of Jaundice. American Journal of Chinese Medicine, 4. 3: 239-243. This and the next three essays are concerned with historical changes in drugs of choice for various remedies. This and Miyasita 1980 are confusing because of careless editing.

Miyasita Saburo. 1977. A Historical Analysis of Chinese Formularies and Prescriptions: Three Examples. Nihon ishigaku zasshi, 23. 2: 283-300.

Miyasita Saburo. 1979. Malaria (yao) in Chinese Medicine during the Chin and Yuan Periods. Acta Asiatica, 36: 90-112.

Miyasita Saburo. 1980. An Historical Analysis of Chinese Drugs in the Treatment of Hormonal Diseases, Goitre and Diabetes Mellitus. American Journal of Chinese Medicine, 8. 1: 17-25.

Needham, Joseph; Lu Gwei-djen. 1970. Clerks and Craftsmen in China and the West. Cambridge University Press. ‘Proto-endocrinology in Medieval China’ (pp. 294-315) has not been incorporated in Science and Civilisation in China, vol. 6, part 6.

1. Fung Yu-lan's “Why China Has No Science”

In a paper titled “Why China Has No Science,” published in 1922, Fung Yu-lan [Feng Youlan] 馮友蘭 (1895–1990), then a student of John Dewey, argued that: “what keeps China back is that she has no science,” but that: “China has no science, because according to her own standard of value she does not need any.”(1922, 237 and 238). To make this argument, he introduces what he calls two tendencies in Chinese philosophy, which he calls “nature” and “art” or “human,” referring to the products of human artifice. On his account, the Warring States period (475–221 BCE) developed two philosophies, Daoism and Mohism respectively, which followed these two tendencies to extreme, and a third, Confucianism, which he represents as a compromise between them. On Fung's explanation, the Daoists considered nature perfect while the Mohists sought to improve on it (1922, 238–39). They valued utility above all else, and Fung considers them “scientific” in spirit, including their interest in logic and definition. Mohism, as he puts it, stood for art as over against nature (1922, 244–50). He does not explain how his “Confucianism” is a compromise between these two extremes, all the more so since he distinguishes the “nature” oriented Confucianism of Mencius (372–289 BCE) from the “art”-oriented Confucianism of Xunzi (313-238 BCE), who aspired to conquer nature instead of returning to it: “It is better to treat nature as a thing and regulate it than to consider it very great and always think of it. It is better to control nature and use it than to follow and admire it.” This, Fung remarks, is nearly the same as the Baconian conception of power (1922, 256, quoting from an unspecified passage in the “Discourse on Heaven” (Tian lun) chapter of the Xunzi. For a study of this chapter see Machle 1993).

Fung goes on to argue that, after the Qin dynasty (221–206 BCE) the “art” or scientific tendency within Chinese philosophy all but disappeared. Buddhism, like Daoism, was an extreme “nature” philosophy, and the interactions of Daoism, Buddhism and Confucianism did not produce interest in the understanding of the natural world. In the tenth century CE the Song Neo-Confucians combined Daoist, Confucian and Buddhist teachings into a new philosophy that has persisted to the present. According to the “Great Learning” (Da xue), the ancients who wished to enlighten their bright virtue “investigated things”:

Wishing to be sincere in their thoughts, they first extended to the utmost their knowledge. Such extension of knowledge lay in the investigation of things (zhi zhi zai ge wu 致知在格物). Things being investigated, knowledge became complete (Da xue, 412).

But Neo-Confucian philosophers disagreed about what “things” to investigate. Some took “things” as external, but did not pursue the investigation of the empirical world. The other, prevailing view took “things” to refer to the mind. Fung points out that the Song dynasty (960–1279) corresponded to the period of the development of modern science in Europe, but Europeans developed techniques for understanding and controlling matter, while the Chinese Neo-Confucians developed techniques for understanding and controlling mind (1922, 256–58).

The point of this discussion of Fung's study is his argument that, ever since the disappearance of the “nature” tendency, Chinese philosophy has devoted itself to the cultivation of the mind (xin 心), at the expense of any interest in, or need for, science, or any inquiry into nature. (Because the meaning of xin – “mind,” or more properly “heart-mind” – is much broader than the English term mind, cultivating it refers to a much broader kind of cognitive, intellectual, physical and spiritual cultivation than the phrase “cultivation of the mind” suggests.) By contrast, he argues, the ancestors of modern European philosophy had two “uses” for science: according to Descartes, it provided certainty; according to Bacon, it offered power. But, Fung argues, China did not discover the scientific method because Chinese thought started from the mind, and did not require proof or logical or empirical demonstration. Instead, Chinese philosophers preferred the certainty of perception, and thus: “would not, and did not translate their concrete vision into the form of science. In one word China has no science, because of all philosophies the Chinese philosophy is the most human and the most practical” (1922, 260). Fung concludes: “it is because of the fact that the Chinese ideal prefers enjoyment to power that China has no need of science, even though science, according to Bacon, is for power. The Chinese philosophers, as I said just now, had no need of scientific certainty, because it was themselves that they wished to know; so in the same way they had no need of the power of science, because it was themselves that they wished to conquer” (1922, 261).

In summary, although Fung Yu-lan's account of Warring States philosophy is open to question, he gives a compelling version of a type of claim for philosophical reasons why science did not develop in China. I now turn to the opposite argument that science did develop – and flourish – in both early China and the Song “Neo-Confucian” period.

2. Joseph Needham's History of Science in China

The question of the relation of Chinese philosophy and science is complicated by several factors. One is the need to define what we mean by science in the context of early China and early Chinese philosophy. This question includes the relationship of “science” to “technology,” as well as the question of what disciplines were considered sciences, and where they stood in indigenous hierarchies of knowledge.

These questions partake of an ongoing debate on the nature of Chinese science, which initially arose from the pioneering work of Joseph Needham. This debate focuses on the problematic question of why (or whether) the revolution that transformed scientific disciplines in Europe did not take place in China. It has tended to focus on the mathematization of science and on the activities of court astronomical officials (Needham 1956b, 1979). But these debates do little to clarify the relations between the origins and development of the sciences in China and Chinese philosophy.

This debate about the nature of Chinese science, which has been referred to as the “Needham problem,” has focused on variants on the important question of why (or whether) the scientific revolution that transformed scientific disciplines in Europe did not take place in China. In Needham's terms, the answers lie in the history of Chinese science itself, but Fung Yu-lan's argument provides an answer of a very different kind, which Needham would probably not entertain at all. (Although Needham's (1956b) own account of the history of Chinese philosophy and science repeatedly cites the scholarship of Fung Yu-lan, especially Fung 1983, he makes no mention of Fung 1922.)

Needham, himself an eminent embryologist (Needham 1931, 1934) was the primary author of the multi-volume ongoing Science and Civilisation in China (1954- ). His approach to the problem of the history of science in China was to try to fit the Chinese scientific tradition into the categories of twentieth-century western science. On the one hand, this approach enabled Needham and his collaborators to engage the wealth and variety of the many Chinese sciences from a perspective that took them seriously as contributors to an ongoing and universal history of science. This approach also allowed Needham's group to consistently and coherently refute “orientalist” claims or prima facie assumptions that science was the sole property of a European tradition extending backward in time to ancient Greece, with little or no influence from any other cultural tradition. On the other hand, Needham's “universalist” approach to the history of science in China has been rejected as anachronistic and culturally inappropriate (Yates 2003, 658).

As Nathan Sivin (1990 and 1995) has argued, Chinese accounts focused on specific sciences, rather than on one unified notion of science. These Chinese sciences were both quantitative and qualitative. Sivin (1982 and 1990) breaks down the quantitative sciences into three disciplines: mathematics (suan 算), mathematical harmonics or acoustics ( 律 or lü lü 律呂) and mathematical astronomy (li 歷 or li fa 歷法), considered related to harmonics. Sivin describes the qualitative sciences as: astronomy or astrology (tian wen 天文), medicine (yi 醫) and siting (feng shui 風水). Tian wen included the observation of celestial and meteorological events whose proper reading could be used to rectify the political order. Medicine included “Nurturing Life” (yang sheng 養生), a broad category that included a wide range of self-cultivation techniques with important philosophical implications. In later periods, medicine also included materia medica (ben cao 本草) and internal (nei dan 內丹) and external (wai dan 外丹) alchemy.

3. Chinese Science as “Daoist”?

The “Needham” problem overlaps, but is distinct from two other issues. One is the Chinese philosophical attitudes towards “nature.” Geoffrey Lloyd and Nathan Sivin (2002) note that “nature” was not a conceptual category in early China. Derk Bodde (1991) distinguished at least seven premodern Chinese attitudes toward what contemporary philosophy and science call nature, ranging from antagonistic and indifferent to wholly receptive. Nonetheless, Bodde – for slightly different reasons than Fung – argued that a wide range of obstacles hindered the development of science in China. These included: a written language ill adapted to the expression of scientific ideas, attitudes toward space and time that were out of step with the facts of nature (1991, 133), and the combined influence of an authoritarian imperial government, a conservative academic elite and a philosophical tradition preoccupied with morals and burdened by “organicist” thinking. Robin Yates (2003) has also noted the importance of the lack of an ex nihilo creator deity and the “non-privileged” status of humans in the cosmos of early Chinese philosophy. Humans were not distinct from other natural phenomena, and were part of a dao that was ultimately mysterious and incomprehensible.

The other is the topic of this essay: the problem of the specific engagement between science and early Chinese philosophy, and whether Chinese philosophy was in some way inimical to scientific inquiry. To answer the latter questions it is necessary to consider both the intellectual and social contexts of Chinese philosophy and Chinese science. Which sciences are relevant to Chinese philosophy? Using Sivin's categorization, the quantitative sciences are largely separate from the engagement between science and early Chinese philosophy. The greatest degree of engagement between philosophy and science comes from the qualitative sciences of astronomy (or astrology) and medicine.

How do we reconcile these two entirely different accounts, one by a Chinese philosopher and the other by several eminent historians of science in China? Part of the answer lies in clarifying several shared intellectual contexts for the origins of science in China, as well as several intellectual and social contexts that fostered their complete divergence, probably by the end of the Han dynasty (206 BCE-220 CE).

Chinese philosophy is often identified with “Confucianism,” understood to include both the teachings of the historical Confucius, his immediate intellectual descendants in the Warring States and Han periods, and later developments known as Neo-Confucianism in the Song, Ming and Qing dynasties and the present day. One source of this view is the explicit adoption of Confucian ideologies by the rulers of most but not all dynasties. Another is the intellectual sympathies of many generations of Chinese commentators, and also of particularly Anglophone Sinologists who have tended to focus on Confucian philosophies. Confucian philosophers – as distinct from rulers of a broadly Confucian persuasion – were often portrayed as humanists in the sense that they were more interested in problems of ethics and society than in the investigation of the natural world. This is very much the picture presented by Bodde in his negative assessment of the potential for science in premodern China.

But a perception that the history of engagement between philosophy and science is limited to “Confucianism,” would present only a partial picture. It is widely recognized that the earliest of what we would call scientific studies were conducted by the early Mohists, who wrote treatises on logic, optics and mechanics (Graham 1978, Needham 1956b, Fung 1922). Mohism did not persist beyond the Han dynasty as a textual lineage, but at least some Mohist texts are preserved in the Daoist Canon (discussed below). As such, while Mohism is fundamentally important to any history of science in China, it is not central to an account of the engagement between science and Chinese philosophy.

Needham – in complete contrast to Fung Yu-lan – represents the Daoists as both naturalistic and interested in natural phenomena. He described Daoism as “religious and poetical, yes; but it was also at least as strongly magical, scientific, democratic, and politically revolutionary” (1956a, 32). On this reading, the history of Daoism also presents a very different picture of science and medicine, especially.

But there are several problems with this picture. An initial problem is anachronistic understandings of the nature of early Daoism. These include an oversimplified emphasis on the schools and legendary authors of Daoist texts. There is also a problematic distinction between the so-called “philosophical” Daoism (Dao jia 道家) of the Daode jing, Zhuangzi, and Huainanzi and the so-called “religious” Daoism (Dao jiao 道教) of longevity practices, popular religion, and organized Daoist churches. As Sivin (1978, 1995b) pointed out in a series of article begun over thirty years ago, simplistic stereotypes of Daoism as mystical or naturalistic obscure understanding of the relations between Daoism and science.

Sivin (1995a) points to important differences between popular religion and specifically Daoist religious movements that had little conection to either philosophy or the study of nature. His point is that most scientific and technical expertise arose from popular sources and not from Daoist schools; and once this key distinction is made, we no longer need to mis-classify all or most Chinese science as Daoist (as did Needham). This move also allows us to clarify that some Daoist masters, whose objective was union with divinity, were not pursuing the study of rational inquiry or systematic experimentation. Rather, they were making use of existing technical knowledge and practices, and adapting them to their own ends, but not generally improving on them in any way. However, the important point is that the Daoist schools kept written records, which the artisans who developed the original expertise, did not. As a result, historians of science have tended to credit the Daoists with innovations that they probably recorded, rather than developed.

Sivin’s account usefully explains why the fact that many records of scientific innovation appear only in the Daoist Canon does not make them inherently Daoist. The Daoist Canon (Dao zang 道藏) was first printed in about 1477, and was reprinted in a commercial edition in 1924–1926. The original edition consisted of some 5,305 volumes, on a wide range of subjects, including astronomy and cosmology, biology and botany, medicine and pharmacology, chemistry and mineralogy, and mathematics and physics. Much of the engagement with science after the Han dynasty is relegated the “non-philosophical” texts classified as Dao jiao, and often in ways that obscure the relation between philosophy and science in early China.

4. Shared Intellectual Contexts

There were important differences between the social and institutional contexts of early philosophy and science, as well as important differences between sciences. The authors of philosophical or “Masters” texts (discussed below) were private individuals who often sought, but rarely achieved political influence. By contrast, astronomy and calendrics in particular were closely linked to government and court patronage, and from Han times on, located in the Bureau of Astronomy (Loewe 1994, Pankenier 2013, Raphals 2013, Sivin 2009).

The origins of science in China seem to lie in an amalgam of ideas from both Masters textualists (philosophers) and technical specialists. According to Sivin (1988 and 1990) the basic Chinese sciences were established some time between the first century BCE and the first century CE through what he describes as a combination of Ru (“Confucian”) ideas and ideas from technical specialists, especially experts in yin-yang, Five Agents (wu xing) and technical expertise traditions associated with “Numbers and Techniques” (shu shu) and “Recipes and Methods” (fang ji, both discussed below.)

Key to this amalgam were several concepts shared by both groups but deployed in very different ways. Early cosmological thinking depicts a cosmos ultimately composed of qi 氣 (the energy that constitutes and organizes matter and causes growth and change) in processes of constant change, based on the interactions of yin and yang 陰陽 and the Five Agents (wu xing 五行, Graham 1986, Raphals 1998 and 2013).

Philosophers deployed these ideas in (1) the yin-yang cosmology of the Yi jing, (2) theories of correlative correspondence between Heaven, Earth and Humanity as a shared representation of cosmic order, and (3) the idea of a “classic” or “canon” as the founding text of a textual lineage. Practitioners of several sciences also deployed these concepts, in particular in models of the human body and of the movements of the sun, moon and stars.

Finally, both groups created textual lineages and accounts of textual authority. In a scientific context, authoritative texts were nominally attributed to a culture hero or divine source. Examples include the medical “classic” The Yellow Emperor's Classic of Internal Medicine (Huang Di nei jing, Unschuld 2003, Unschuld and Tessenow 2011) and the Zhou [dynasty] Classic of Gnomon Calculation (Zhou bi suan jing, Cullen 1976 and 1996). By contrast, the evidence of recently excavated texts indicates that such texts derived from prior textual traditions that were subsequently lost (Harper 1998). Other Masters created their own texts and apocryphal lineages, but did not appear to have debated each other extensively or to have taken self-consciously critical stances toward their human or textual predecessors (Lloyd 1996, Lloyd and Sivin 2002).

5. Generalist versus Specialist Knowledge

No one account categorizes the sciences of early China, but we find some account of them in the last two sections of the Bibliographic Treatise of the Han Dynastic History (Han shu, chapter 30). We see in the categorizations and authorship of the Treatise a polarization between two groups whom can be called Masters textualists and technical experts.

The Han shu Bibliographic Treatise consists of six sections: (1) the Six Arts (liu yi 六藝) or Classics (liu jing 六經), (2) Masters (zhu zi 諸子) texts of Warring States philosophy, (3) Poetry (shi fu 詩賦), (4) Military works (bing shu 兵書), (5) Numbers and Techniques (shu shu 數術), and (6) Recipes and Methods (fang ji 方技).

The “Numbers and Techniques” (shu shu) section includes the names of texts on astronomy, and cosmology in the sections titled Patterns of Heaven (tian wen 天文) and Calendars and Chronologies (li pu 歷譜). Additional information appears under sections titled Five Agents (wu xing 五行), and morphoscopy. Patterns of Heaven includes texts on divination by stars and weather phenomena (clouds, mists, qi configurations), and mapping the constellations. Calendars and Chronologies includes texts on calendric computations and movements of the heavenly bodies. Five Agents also contains mantic texts concerning prognostication by yin and yang and the Five Agents, including portents, hemerology, calendric astrology. A subsection titled Turtle and Yarrow (shi gui 蓍龜) contains texts on turtle-shell and yarrow divination, including the Zhou yi (Zhou Changes), the original text of the Yi jing or Book of Changes. Two other subsections address Miscellaneous Divination (za zhan 雜占) and Morphoscopy (xing fa 刑法), including works on geography, physiognomy, and topomancy.

Information on medicine and pharmacology appears in the sixth section, Recipes and Methods. It includes works on medicine and longevity, including medical classics, classical recipes, sexual arts, and immortality practices. These chapters reflect the concerns and expertise of the technical and ritual specialists closely associated with the “Recipe Masters” (fang shi 方士) associated with the Han court. But their concerns also appear in early philosophical texts, and the separation of philosophy from the categories of religion and science is artificial and problematic (Harper 1998 and 1999; Kalinowski 2004). Recipes and Methods (fang ji 方技) includes: Medical Classics (yi jing 醫經), Classical Recipes (jing fang 經方), Sexual arts (fang zhong 房中) and Immortality practices (shen xian 神仙).

Several things are striking about this categorization. The first is the relative confinement of “Chinese philosophy” to the first two (or arguably three) sections of the Treatise, particularly the Masters section. The eight sections of the Masters category include most of the texts of early Chinese philosophy. They are grouped under the rubrics of: “Ru” (Ru jia 儒家, often mistranslated as “Confucian”), Daoists (Dao jia 道家), Yin-yang (Yin-yang jia 陰陽家), Legalists (Fa jia 法家), Names (Ming jia 名家) Mohists (Mo jia 墨家), vertical and horizontal alliances (Zong heng jia 縱橫家, also known as “Militarists”), Miscellaneous (Za jia 雜家), the school of Shen Nong (Shen Nong jia 神農家) and Smaller Teachings (Xiao Shuo 小說). But it is important to note that these are the “schools” of Han anthologists and commentators. Recent scholarship and the evidence of texts excavated from tombs has shown the arbitrariness of these classifications. For example, texts excavated from Guodian 郭店 and the so-called Shanghai Museum texts resist classification as Ru or Daoist (Shi ji, 130, 3288–92; Csikszentmihalyi and Nylan 2003, Smith 2003).

A second important point is the very different preservation and authorship of the first and second half of the Treatise. While the first three sections contain many titles that are no longer extant, they all contain significant numbers of extant texts. By contrast, the last three sections consist almost entirely of the titles of lost texts.

The two halves of the treatise also differ in their authorship. The first three sections were compiled by Liu Xiang. The last three, by contrast, were compiled by technical experts. The fourth “Military Works” section of the Bibliographic Treatise was compiled by Ren Hong 任宏, a Colonel of Foot Soldiers under Han Chengdi (Yates 1988). The “Shu shu” category was compiled by an astronomical official: the Taishi 太史 Yin Xian 尹咸 (Han shu, 30, 1775). The Recipes and Methods section was compiled by the imperial physician Li Zhuguo 李柱國. This distinction between what appear to be three generalist and three specialist categories of the Treatise can be seen as a continuation of Warring States claims for the superiority of a flexible and general intellect over specific and technical arts. In this kind of Warring States argumentation, claims for comprehensive wisdom and universality sought to establish sole possession of way of the sage kings of antiquity, of which competing traditions possessed only part. Such claims appear in the Zhuangzi and in attacks on competing schools by Xunzi and Han Fei (Lewis 1999, Raphals 2008–2009). Thus the authors of Han collectanea privileged generalists in their comprehensive syntheses of competing traditions (Lewis 1999). In this way, the organization of the Treatise asserted the superiority of general and universal knowledge over military, mantic, and medical knowledge, deliberately framed as technical and limited in nature.

Finally, Masters texts suggest active competition between the textual specialists of the Masters schools and the technical experts whose knowledge and expertise is reflected in the last three sections of the Treatise. This competition involved career choice, patronage, students and the status of genres and modes of knowledge. For example, Michael Puett (2002) argues for an interwoven history of interactions between fang shi and the court officials in which court sponsored interpretations of ancient philosophical texts were in part a response to the fang shi.

Late Warring States claims for the superiority of a flexible and general intellect over specific and technical arts continued into the Han dynasty. In particular, claims for universal and comprehensive wisdom sought to establish sole possession of way of the sage kings of antiquity, of which competing traditions possessed only part. This attitude is reflected in the structure of Han collectanea, which also privileged general and universal knowledge over any specialist expertise, including science. The result is the formation and propagation of two distinct and sometimes competing intellectual communities of “philosophical” literary elites and technical experts.

6. Social Contexts of Practitioners

There were important differences between the social and institutional contexts of early philosophy and science, as well as important differences between sciences. Masters textualists were private individuals who often sought, but rarely achieved political influence. By contrast, astronomy and calendrics in particular were closely linked to government and court patronage, and from Han times on, located in the Bureau of Astronomy (Loewe 1994, Raphals 2013, Sivin 2009).

A closer examination of what we know of some of the early “scientists” shows close links to philosophical traditions. The apocryphal founder of scientific thought in China was Zou Yan 鄒衍 (305–240 BCE), who is associated with the so-called “Yin-Yang school” (Yin-yang jia). Zou Yan is credited with combining and systematizing yin-yang and the theory of Five Agents (Needham 1956b: 231–34), but none of his works survive. Sima Qian’s biography in Shi ji 76 describes Zou Yan as a member of the Jixia 稷下 Academy, originally from the state of Qi (in present day Shandong). The Jixia Academy is also associated with Warring States philosophers. Figures associated with it include Mencius, Xunzi, the Mohist philosopher Song Xing, as well as Tian Pian, Shen Dao, Peng Meng, and possibly Zhuangzi (Needham 1956a, 93; Sato 2003, 75–77). The Jixia Academy is also associated with the growth of Huang-Lao Daoism (Graziani 2008). According to the Shi ji biography of Zou Yan:

he examined deeply into the phenomena of the increase and decrease of yin and yang, and wrote essays totaling more than 100,000 words about their strange permutations, and about the cycles of the great sages from beginning to end. His sayings were vast and far-reaching, and not in accord with the accepted beliefs of the classics. First he had to examine small objects, and from these he drew conclusions about large ones, until he reached what was without limit. First he spoke about modern times, and from this he went back to the time of Huang Di. The scholars all studied his arts. Moreover he followed the great events in the rise and fall of ages, and by means of their omens and (an examination into their systems), extended his survey (still further) backwards to the time when the heavens and the earth had not yet been born, (in fact) to what was profound and abstruse and impossible to investigate.

He began by classifying China’s notable mountains, great rivers and connecting valleys; its birds and beasts; the fruitfulness of its water and soils, and its rare products; and from this extended his survey to what is beyond the seas, and men are unable to observe. Then starting from the time of the separation of the Heavens and the Earth, and coming down, he made citations of the revolutions and transmutations of the Five Powers (Virtues), arranging them until each found its proper place and was confirmed (by history). (Shi ji ch 76, slightly modified from Needham 1956b, 232–33).

On this account, Zou Yan's interests included both the “classical” learning of the Masters traditions and direct inquiry into natural phenomena, large and small. While this account gives no indication of specific direct contact between Zou and Masters textualists, it does suggest that the Jixia Academy patronized a range of thinkers who included what we would today call both philosophers and practitioners of the early sciences.

The Han shu describes Zou Yan as a “Recipe Master” or fang shi 方士. This term was applied to a wide range of practitioners of medical, mantic and technical arts. (The titles of their mostly lost works are listed in the shu shu and fang ji sections of the Han shu Bibliographic Treatise, discussed above.) Fang shi practiced divination and claimed to possess secret texts and formulae. They gained great influence during the earlier part of the Han dynasty, though their influence waned by the later Han (Kalinowski 2010; Ngo 1976). They used yin-yang and Five Agents cosmology, and seem to have originated from the Shandong peninsula. They were particularly associated with the mantic arts, including the use of the sexagenary cycle of stems and branches, the Yi jing, and divination by stars, dreams, physiognomy, the winds, and by the use of pitch pipes (Li Ling 1993, 2000). The fang shi became an important force in the Han court during the reign of Han Wu Di (r. 141–29 BCE), but their origins are probably much older. Practices attributed to them have clear antecedents in Warring States philosophical texts such as the Zhuangzi and the “Inner Cultivation” (Nei ye) chapter of the Guanzi.

References to their presence in the court of Qin Shi Huang秦始皇 (259–210 BCE), who ruled Qin from 246 to 221. They remained influential to the early part of the Six Dynasties (to the fourth century CE). Most came from outlying regions, and gained influence for their skills in medicine, astronomical prediction and omen interpretation, all of which were linked to the growth of science in early China. They used magico-medical practices on behalf of the health and vitality of the emperor, but also introduced standardized measurement of time, space, weight, and musical pitch.

An important source for our knowledge of their interests and expertise is the collected biographies of fang shi are recorded in the Standard History of the Later Han (Hou Han shu) under the heading “Fang Techniques” (fang shu 方術). The preface lists their expertise and interests as: fate calculation and prognostication, including astrology and the prediction of eclipses), medicine and a variety of magical practices. Over half of the fifty-seven specialists listed in the collected biography (twenty-nine) practiced some form of astrology (biographies 1, 11, 12,16, 18–20, 22, 23, 26, 27, 30–33, 35, 38–41, 43–46, 49, 51–53 and 55, as listed in Kalinowski 2010, 359–66). But they were also credited with expertise in classical texts and in Huang-Lao and Daoist lore. (Hou Han shu 82A and 82B. Most of these techniques date from the late Zhou. See Li Ling 1995 and Kalinowski 2010, especially Appendix 2.)

In summary, although Masters textualists and fang shi had some areas of overlapping expertise and interest, their practices and textual lineages diverged in very different directions.

7. The Early Science(s)

I conclude with a brief account of areas of relation between Chinese philosophy and the Chinese sciences, remembering that Chinese accounts focused on specific sciences, rather than on one unified notion of science. We find these primarily in the qualitative sciences of astronomy and astrology and medicine.

An important area of overlap between philosophy and science occurred in cosmology, mathematics and calendrics. An important aspect of cosmological interest is observational astronomy or astrology (tian wen). In an important recent study of Chinese archaeo-astronomy, David Pankenier (2013, 5) traces the Chinese coordination of human activities with the observation and positions of the sun, moon, and stars as far back as the Neolithic cultures of the fifth millennium BCE. Written evidence of royal interest in stars and winds clearly dates back to the Shang oracle bone inscriptions. As Nathan Sivin (1990, 181) puts it: “The difference between astronomy and astrology was a contrast of emphasis on the quantitative as opposed to the qualitative and on objective motions as opposed to the correlation between celestial and political events.”

These areas have only slight links to philosophy. Astronomical and astrological observation was an important part of court ritual, since they were used to determine auspicious times for a wide variety of events. It could be said that textualists approved of them as an aspect of the conduct of ritual, but there was little philosophical engagement with their details. (There are also slight but important connections between philosophy and mathematics. This question has been in many ways obscured by focus on the idea of mathematical or logical proof and its presence or absence in China (Chemla 2012, Chemla and Guo 2004).

During the Han dynasty, questions about the nature of the heavens were pursued by the fang shi (discussed in section 2). Fang expertise also included divination by the heavens, both by the stars, and by interpreting sub-celestial phenomena, including weather, clouds, mists, and winds (Ngo 1976, Li Ling 1993).

These activities were not invented by the fang shi. The Han shu Bibliographic Treatise also provides evidence of fang activity through the titles of lost books. Other evidence comes from late Warring States and Han texts such as the Lü Shi chunqiu and Huainanzi. The Huainanzi contains several chapters of astronomical interest (Major 1993). One passage describes the technical interests of the sage emperor Yu, who ordered his officials to measure the distances to the ends of the earth by pacing the distance to the eastern, western, northern and southern extremities of the earth (Huainanzi 4, 56). The exact numbers given are problematic to say the least, but the point is that the sage rulers of antiquity, in legendary accounts, interested themselves in the physical observation of the earth.

The third chapter of the Huainanzi ends with a section on the use of the measurements cast by shadows (gnomons) to calculate distances. This passage is probably a later addition, but for our purposes, its inclusion in the Huainanzi is indicative of the scientific concerns of the text. It gives directions for a series of measurements, including how to determine the directions of sunrise, sunset, and the cardinal directions. It also explains how to measure the “breadth and length of east, west, north, and south”:

If you wish to know the figures for the breadth and length of east, west, north, and south set up four gnomons to make a right-angled figure one li square. More than ten days before the spring or autumn equinox sight along the northern gnomons of the square on the sun from its first appearance to its rise above the horizon. Wait for [the day when] they coincide. When they coincide they are in line with the sun. Each time take a sight on it [the sun] with the southern gnomons, and take the amount by which it is within the forward gnomons as the divisor. Divide the whole width and divide the length [between] the standing gnomons in order to know the measurements east and west from here (Huainanzi 3, 53–54, translation after Cullen 1976, 116).

Another area of potential Ru interest in astronomy is calendrics, based on detailed observation of seasonal changes. One example is the Monthly Ordinance (Yueling 月令) calendars of the Huainanzi. Monthly Ordinances use Five Agents correlations to specify the correct social, ritual, and agricultural activities for each season. Rulers could use these texts to regulate state ritual activities over the course of the year. The ordinances cover such topics as state activities (fortification, planting, etc.) and the consequences of performing activities at incorrect times. These are the first texts in the received tradition to link the twenty-eight Lunar Lodges to the months of the year, associating each month with a lodge, which indicates the position of the sun among the stars for that month. (Ancient Chinese astronomers divided the celestial equator around the pole star into twenty-eight “lodges” (xiu 宿), each named by a star within it and each comprising some 13 degrees (du 度) of the circle.) The calendric tables list the days of the year in stem-branch sexagenary order, with annotations on the nature of different kinds of days, and which days were auspicious or inauspicious for particular activities. (Such calendars also appear in almost identical form in the Guanzi and Shi chunqiu, and were incorporated into the Li ji in the Later Han dynasty. See Guanzi, chs. 3.8 and 3.9, Rickett 1985, 148–192) They also included monthly and seasonal correlates. For example, the lodges were associated with the position of the sun, and dusk and dawn correlated to the five pentatonic tones, pitch pipe notes, numbers, tastes, smells, color of the emperor’s clothing, presiding deity, and yin and yang sacrificial organs, all described in terms of the Five Agents (Major 1993, 220–225).

It is almost impossible to separate Chinese ideas of body, state, cosmos and “nature.” Nathan Sivin (1995, 3n1) points out that there is no indigenous term for “nature” in China before the nineteenth century. Over the course of the last three centuries BCE, Chinese understandings of the physical world developed to reflect, and mirror, political consolidation (Sivin 1995). These new ideas of cosmic order—correspondence between microcosm (the body) and macrocosm (the cosmos)—appeared in new representations of the body, the state, and the cosmos that were based on systematic applications and correlations of the ideas of yin and yang and of the Five Agents (wuxing). They appear in medical texts such as the Huang Di neijing, in calendrics, in observational astronomy and the study of astronomical portents with political implications, and in the “correlative cosmologies” of many Han dynasty texts (Lloyd 1996, Lloyd and Sivin 2002).

Another important area of engagement between philosophy and medicine was in the theory and practice of “nurturing life” (yang sheng 養生). Fang shi medical practices and ideas included “recipes” for “Nurturing Life.” This broad category included a wide range of self-cultivation techniques.

References to yang sheng techniques appear in both accounts of self-cultivation in Masters texts and in the titles of (lost) recipes in the Han shu Bibliographic Treatise. Mark Csikzentmihalyi has argued that “material virtue” traditions drawing on yang sheng techniques appear prominently in the Mencius and in two versions of the Wu xing 五行 or “Five Kinds of Action” recovered from Guodian and Mawangdui. These texts provide “a detailed moral psychology describing the process of the cultivation of the virtues” (Csikszentmihalyi 2004, 7). Mencius (2A2) famously refers to “cultivating flood-like qi” and the third chapter of the Zhuangzi is titled “The Lord of Nurturing Life” (Yang sheng zhu). By contrast, references to yang sheng in popular culture and in the recipes in the “Recipes and Methods” section of the Treatise seem directly concerned with health and longevity (V. Lo 2001 and 2005, Raphals 2008–2009).

Yin-yang,qi and the Five Agents also informed medical theories, which were systematized in a cosmological framework in the Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine or Huang Di neijing (Veith 1972, Unschuld and Tessenow 2011). This complex and multi-layered text, probably compiled in the first century BCE, presents a systematic cosmology that analogizes the body, the state, and the cosmos in complex systems of “correlative cosmology” (Graham 1986; Sivin 1995; Lloyd and Sivin 2002). For example, the Huang Di neijing describes correspondence between the articulations of the body and the cosmos, specifically between heaven and earth and the upper and lower parts of the body, including relations and analogies between body, state and the cosmos, all expressed in terms of yin-yang and the Five Agents (Huang Di neijing lingshu, 71.2, 446). Such correlations seem a far cry from either cosmological speculation or empirical science in any modern sense. Between those extremes stand the mostly lost arts of technical traditions described in the Han shu Bibliographic Treatise: astronomy, medical, pharmacological, and mantic arts, whose practitioners were the counterparts and potential competitors of the Masters textualists or philosophers (Lloyd and Sivin 2002). Expertise initially developed by diviners and technical specialists became part of the Daode jing, Zhuangzi, and Huainanzi. It was also incorporated into the systematic cosmology and medicine of the Han (Lloyd 1996, Lloyd and Sivin 2002). The Huang Di neijing is listed (and first appears) in the Recipes and Methods section of the Han shu Bibliographic Treatise under the heading of Medical Classics (Han shu 30, 1776).

A particular problem raised by the application of yin-yang theory to medicine was the implications of yin-yang theories for accounts of gender (Furth 1986, Raphals 1998, Yates 2005), including the problem of the androgyny of what Charlotte Furth calls “the Yellow Emperor’s body.” Furth argues that the human body is understood as androgynous before the development of gynecology in the Song dynasty. These models of the body inform the early history of yin-yang theory, and the gender analogies that form part of that discourse. A central text to these analogies is the Huang Di neijing, which is striking for its overall androgyny. Overall, women are not specified as medically distinct from men, and where they do occur, discussions of sexual difference are usually linked to specific questions of fertility and reproduction (e.g., Huang Di neijing suwen 1.3.8 and 7.2.26).

Of more interest for a consideration of science and philosophy are a group of analogies in medical and philosophical texts between yin and yang and male and female. They describe the conditions of men and women by analogy with yin and yang, heaven and earth, and sometimes right and left. For example, the statement that women and men have opposite pulse patterns: “In women the right [pulse] manifests opposition, the left manifests obedience; in men the left [pulse] manifests opposition, the right manifests obedience” (Huang Di neijing suwen, 15.2.45).

Theories of yin-yang, qi and Five Agents were applied to the diagnosis and treatment of disease, using techniques such as acumoxa and herbal medicine. These theories were also applied to longevity practices designed to extend health and life and in some cases to produce literal, physical immortality.

Another very important area of overlap between philosophy and medicine is the significant number of important explicitly Daoist thinkers who were also practicing physicians and authors of important medical texts. (For more information on all these topics, see the entry “Chinese Medicine and Chinese Philosophy”.)


In conclusion, this brief account addresses important issues in the complex relations between philosophy and the early history of science in China, especially as they informed the qualitative sciences of medicine and astronomy, and their relations with early Chinese philosophy overall. It shows that the harsh assessment of Chinese philosophy quoted at the beginning of this essay over-simplifies several complex questions. The work of Joseph Needham, Nathan Sivin and others demonstrates that Chinese philosophy is not inherently “anti-science.” But it could be argued – and persuasively in the view of this author – that the priorities associated with the vexed term “Confucianism” have often (though not always) steered Chinese philosophy away from scientific concerns. A second question raised here is whether Chinese philosophy contributes to science in ways that constitute a culturally specific “Chinese science” that is different from modern science. This point remains a locus of strong disagreement among historians of science in China.


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