Sinologie

Project

Translating Western Science, Technology and Medicine to Late Ming China: Convergences and Divergences in the Light of the Kunyu gezhi 坤輿格致 (Investigations of the Earth’s Interior; 1640) and the Taixi shuifa 泰西水法 (Hydromethods of the Great West; 1612)

Project Application of July 2017

A  ABSTRACT
This project has been prompted by the recent sensational rediscovery of the Chinese version of Georgius Agricola’s (1494-1555) De re metallica (1556). The Chinese rendering of this famous mining classic, initiated by the Ming official Li Tianjing (1579-1659) and carried out by the famous German Jesuit missionary Johann Adam Schall von Bell (1592-1666), was lost for more than 350 years. One of our aims is to translate this Chinese version, entitled Kunyu gezhi (Investigations of the Earth’s Interior; 1640), into English, with the inclusion of all relevant historical records. This will elucidate the Jesuits’ highly selective and complex approach to the translation, both with regard to passages in the Western reference texts as well as to new mineralogical ideas and concepts, and thus will provide unique insights into the scope and limitations of the transmission of European useful and reliable knowledge to the Middle Kingdom. Moreover, it is important to find out how this translation was received and perceived by Chinese readers and what the fate of this mining and metallurgy treatise was until its recent unexpected rediscovery. Furthermore, for comparative reasons we will investigate another important and largely neglected text, the Taixi shuifa (Hydromethods of the Great West; preface 1612), by addressing similar research questions to it. This technological manual, mainly composed by the Italian Jesuit missionary Sabatino de Ursis (1575-1620), contains a systematic discourse on both the theoretical and practical aspects of water and water management, including discussions about the medical benefits of hot spring treatments and distillation methods. …
Detailed Version of the Project Application