Chinese Natural Science

By | October 6, 2021

Chinese natural science [ç-]. The first beginnings of a knowledge of nature can be seen in the writings of Mo Di (Mo Ti, † around 400 BC), Zou Yan (Tsou Yen) or Wang Chong (Wang Ch’ung, * 27, † around 97 AD).), but they had little effect on the educated. In many cases, Babylonian-Egyptian, Greek, Indian-Arabic or European influences were at work, which were able to assert themselves through the early trade relations (Silk Road) and due to a periodic opening to the west. Conversely, knowledge from China has reached the Middle East and India.

The natural research carried out by the Chinese, in contrast to the Greek-occidental natural science, was less characterized by a rational-objective observation of nature and a search for causal connections; Rather, it expressed itself in accordance with the teachings of Laozi (Lao-tzu, Laotse) and Confucius and the ideas of the world as a whole (Dao) more in a search for universal contexts of being, in which the human being and his actions (i.e. research) were included and in which the human being experienced a reaction from all parts of the Dao; however, one was always open to the practical effects of objective knowledge of nature. Accordingly, Chinese astrology, alchemy, magic and fortune-telling were shaped by these ideas, which is why a prediction (e.g. in the fortune-telling book Yijing [Yi-jing], “Book of Changes”) is one in astrology and one in magic and medicine It should be possible to influence these repercussions (for example, bronze mirrors were used to catch the dew as “water of the moon” at night and use it as a universal remedy). So the view was self-evident, that there is a close connection between the microcosm and the macrocosm. It is particularly expressed in the cosmological speculations of the natural philosophy of the Hanzeit (202 BC to 220 AD).

In astronomy to determine the length of the year comes to 365  1 / 4 days probably already in the 13th century, the civil year, however, as the lunar year, as a rule, each in 14 days full moon periods (Qi, Ch’i) was divided, which every two years a switching period has been added. The days were divided into 12 double hours, later also into 24 hours. The careful astronomical observations of the planetary locations and movements made for astrological purposes (they were later made with armillary spheres) also led to the recording of extraordinary celestial phenomena, such as the supernova of 1054. Sundials and water clocks were used to determine the time, and special night clocks for astrological purposes.

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In technology The practical use of knowledge of nature led to progress very early on: Ironworks and casting technology was already well developed in pre-Christian times. The invention of paper falls in the 2nd century, letterpress printing from carved wooden panels soon followed (the oldest surviving datable printing work dates from the year 868). Gunpowder was known in the 8th century; it was originally used as an incendiary device for celebrations and to drive away demons, and from the 13th century also as a propellant for fireworks. Other inventions that the West adopted or that were later reinvented there include: Porcelain and compass, kites, wheelbarrows, sailing wagons, chain bridges, piston blowers and water-powered bellows. These inventions became known in Europe through the early contacts and trade relations with the West, to which China opened up again and again in times of internal consolidation (especially under Mongol rule during the 13th and 14th centuries). Conversely, from the 17th century onwards, Chinese natural science experienced a new era of influence from the Jesuits, who came to the country as missionaries and also taught occidental sciences. It was also Jesuits who carried out the first major land survey in 1708-17. It has only recently been attempted in China to catch up with the technological western world and its theoretical foundations in the natural sciences at the expense of millennia-old traditions.

Chinese Natural Science