A Philological Archaeology of Master Craftsmen
This is an investigation into how technical knowledge is represented in biographical writings and how craftsmen and their skills are perceived by Chinese scholars. The core text for this project is the Zhejianglu (Collected Biographies of Master Craftsmen) compiled under the direction of the eminent Chinese scholar Zhu Qiqian (1872-1964).
The Zhejianglu reveals the quest of a traditionally educated Chinese elite for an appraisal of their own cultural heritage in the light of Western concepts of science and technology. Zhu Qiqian attempted to establish a large scale research project to reconsider Chinese material culture as a whole by preserving, systemizing and analyzing textual sources as well as cultural relics. For this undertaking Zhu assembled experts with different specializations, including master craftsmen of the imperial workshops and foreign experts on Chinese material culture. The Zhejianglu was meant to be the first stage of this large-scale endeavor.
The Zhejianglu includes a wide range of materials which provide detailed information on the perception of craftsmen and technical skill in ancient China. Probing into Chinese assessments of practical knowledge and technical know-how, this research project aims to display how ascribing practical skills to a person influenced his characterization, and how achievements were rendered in terms of creation and imitation.