Technology Transmission in Premodern China

Systems, Tools, and Artifacts: Technology Transmission in Premodern China

bricks_presentation_negative.jpg

[Inscription on a brick from the walls of Yingtian Fu, modern Nanjing, circa 1373. The characters denote the rank, name or profession of officials and craftsmen involved in the production.]

This project examined how and when technology became an "object of knowledge" in Premodern Chinese Culture. Dagmar Schäfer enquired into methodological concerns on how technology history is pursued and what the Chinese view can contribute to it (in terms of non-European perspectives). A lacquer box, a gavel, a bridge across the Changjiang river, and a forger formed the heart of this research. They were the avatars with which Schäfer analyzed and selectively depicted the historical development and conceptualization of technological evolution, in particular (1) the social, political, institutional, normative etc. mechanisms of controlling practical knowledge flow; (2) the various means of knowledge dissemination, texts, sketches, instruments, the products, man’s skills, professionalism, and expertise; (3) the locality or universality of technology; and (4) the relation between use and production. As part of this project Schäfer explored the analysis of inscriptions on objects as a mode of knowledge appropriation and a mechanism of control.