Knowledge and Power: A Social History of the Transmission of European Mathematics in China during the Kangxi Reign (1662-1722)

Mon, Apr 10, 2017, 4:30 pm to 6:00 pm


In the last few decades much research has been devoted to the interaction of European and Chinese science in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Scholars have begun to consider social and political factors in their studies of Chinese mathematics. This approach, however desirable, needs more systematic exploration. Drawing on research findings in social and political history, I will analyse why the Kangxi Emperor (1654-1722) began to be interested in European mathematics and how he used his newly acquired mathematical knowledge as a tool to control and impress Chinese official scholars and so consolidate his power. In addition, I will point out the reasons why he changed his attitude toward Western learning and established an Academy of Mathematics in 1713. Then I explore how European mathematical books were introduced and circulated in the Kangxi reign (1662-1722). Further I discuss why the Kangxi Emperor became interested in traditional Chinese mathematics.

This lecture is connected to the April 11, 12-2 p.m. Lunch Workshop (a knowledge of classical Chinese will be necessary):

Between the Kangxi Emperor (r.1662-1722) and Leibniz--Joachim Bouvet’s Study of the Yijing at the Imperial Court

This talk and accompanying workshop is co-sponsored by Professor Benjamin Elman's Mellon Achievement Grant and the Program of History of Science at Princeton University.

202 Jones
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