On Graphics and Text in the Production of Technical Knowledge in China: The Warp and the Weft

Volume 02, Issue 2

This book is a collection of eighteen papers that discuss how tu 圖 (technical images) and texts together conveyed a wide range of technical knowledge from cosmogram and religious talisman by 200 ad to illustrations of machines and coroners' charts by the nineteenth century. The title of this book indicates that both graphics and text are essential in conveying technical knowledge, just like the warp and the weft are inseparable. However, after browsing the table of contents, one may wonder why tu should be an independent research subject. The answer is not straightforward. In the shadow of Western drawings in the development in science, medicine, and technology, scholars tend to focus on the fact that Chinese technical illustrations lack accuracy and their failure in conveying scientific knowledge. The authors of this book are not satisfied with such a Euro-centric view. They feel that “scholars who were interested in tu usually adopted the perspective of classic history of science, which meant that certain important categories or dimensions of tu eluded their attention.” Therefore, the editors intend to include the whole spectrum of tu rather than focus on sub-sets of technical knowledge. They argue that the study of tu should focus on its intended purpose and the function it served, rather than its shortcomings and failures.

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