Department of History and Philosophy of Science

Twentieth Annual Hans Rausing Lecture

Bronze head

Metallurgy and Chinese Civilisation: An Historical Overview

Professor Jianjun Mei (Needham Research Institute, Cambridge)

Thursday 21 May 2015 at 4.30pm
McCrum Lecture Theatre, Bene't Street
Public lecture – all welcome

The significant contributions of the Chinese people to the development of world civilisation have been well documented in Joseph Needham's monumental Science and Civilisation in China series. Over the past two decades, new archaeological discoveries and research have revealed an increasing body of evidence showing that Chinese civilisation did not develop in isolation, but was the result of complex historical processes involving longstanding and extensive cultural and technological interactions with other civilisations. Taking bronze casting, cast iron and paktong (white copper) as typical examples, this lecture offers a historical overview of the role of metallurgical technologies in shaping the growth of ancient Chinese civilisation. It argues from a technological perspective that the interaction between China and the outside world has always been a crucial factor in stimulating the vigorous development of Chinese civilization since its very beginnings. The importance of technological 'institutionalization' in a given social context will also be emphasised.