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The Emperor's New Mathematics: Western Learning and Imperial Authority During the Kangxi Reign (1662-1722)

By: Catherine Jami

464 pages, 26 b/w photos, 48 b/w line drawings

Oxford University Press

Hardback | Dec 2011 | #195112 | ISBN-13: 9780199601400
Availability: Usually dispatched within 6 days Details
NHBS Price: £60.00 $73/€67 approx

About this book

In 1644 the Qing dynasty seized power in China. Its Manchu elite were at first seen by most of their subjects as foreigners from beyond the Great Wall, and the consolidation of Qing rule presented significant cultural and political problems, as well as military challenges. It was the Kangxi emperor (r. 1662-1722) who set the dynasty on a firm footing, and one of his main stratagems to achieve this was the appropriation for imperial purposes of the scientific knowledge brought to China by the Jesuit mission (1582-1773).

For almost two centuries, the Jesuits put the sciences in the service of evangelization, teaching and practising what came to be known as 'Western learning' among Chinese scholars, many of whom took an active interest in it. After coming to the throne as a teenager, Kangxi began his life-long intervention in mathematical and scientific matters when he forced a return to the use of Western methods in official astronomy. In middle life, he studied astronomy, musical theory and mathematics, with Jesuits as his teachers. In his last years he sponsored a great compilation covering these three disciplines, and set several of his sons to work on this project. All of this activity formed a vital part of his plan to establish Manchu authority over the Chinese. This book explains why Kangxi made the sciences a tool for laying the foundations of empire, and to show how, as part of this process, mathematics was reconstructed as a branch of imperial learning.



Part I Western learning and the Ming-Qing transition
1: The Jesuits and mathematics in China, 1582-1644
2: Western learning under the new dynasty

Part II The two first decades of Kangxi's rule
3: The emperor and his astronomer
4: A mathematical scholar in Jiangnan: the first half-life of Mei Wending
5: The "Kings' Mathematicians"
6: Inspecting the Southern sky: Kangxi at the Nanjing Observatory

Part III Mathematics for the emperor
7: Teaching "French science" at the court: Gerbillon and Bouvet's tutoring
8: The imperial road to geometry: new 'Elements of Geometry'
9: Calculation for the emperor: the writings of a discreet mathematician
10: Astronomy in the capital (1689-1693): scholars, officials and ruler

Part IV Turning to Chinese scholars and Bannermen
11: The 1700s: a reversal of alliance
12: The Office of Mathematics: foundation and staff
13: The Jesuits and innovation in imperial science: Jean-Fran#ois Foucquet's treatises

Part V Mathematics and the empire
14: The construction of the 'Essence of numbers and their principles'
15: Methods and material culture in the 'Essence of numbers and their principles'
16: A new mathematical classic?


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Catherine Jami is a Director of Research at the French CNRS (SPHERE, Universit# de Paris-Diderot). She originally trained as a mathematician, and then in Chinese studies. In the past she has served as presidents for both the International Society for the History of East Asian Science, Technology and Medicine and the Association Fran#aise d'Etudes Chinoises. She was also treasurer for the International Union of History and Philosophy of Science (ICSU). Starting with her book "Les M#thodes Rapides pour la Trigonom#trie et le Rapport Pr#cis du Cercle (1774): tradition chinoise et apport occidental en math#matiques" (1990), she has published extensively on mathematics in seventeenth and eighteenth century China, as well as on the Jesuit missionaries and the reception of the sciences they introduced to late Ming and early Qing China.

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