Characteristics of Ancient Chinese Science And Technology
Being a part of ancient Chinese civilization , ancient Chinese science and technology had their own characteristics distinctive from other ancient civilizations . The Chinese have been very pragmatically . The ancient Chinese science was marked by pragmatism . First , in the respect of astronomy . Ancient Chinese astronomy had great achievements . One reason for the astronomic achievements was that the pragmatic ancient monarchs had to prove they were “mandated by heaven”. So , they stressed observation of heavenly phenomena and calendared system . They considered calendar to be of “great importance to the state” , and set up a special office for observation of heavenly phenomena and for revision of calendar .
Even during the Wei-Jin-Northern-Southern Dynasties , when China was in a great turmoil , the tradition of stressing astronomy was not broken . Therefore , the records on astronomy and calendar in ancient China were very prolific . Next , in he respect of agriculture . Ancient Chinese agronomy was fairly developed . More than three hundred agronomic works appeared . The technique of land measurement and map drawing attained a high level . This was due to he policy of “state based upon farming” adopted by the monarchs . In the respect of physics , ancient Chinese physic scored great successes . High governmental officials had o take care of production in the different parts of the country . The renowned “four great inventions” came out from practical needs . The inventions of paper making , compass and printing were prompted by the needs of communication in a vast , centralized country . The invention of gunpowder was related to alchemy , but was also related to military purposes ..
Pragmatism enabled China to stand in the forefront of the world for a long time . Because of the pragmatic needs of the state , the monarchs of all the feudal dynasties were willing “to organize the social resources by means of the state power” to spur the evolution of science and technology . Occasionally this happened in ancient Greece , medieval Europe and Muslim empires too , but when the monarchs concerned died or lost the power , this soon ceased . In China , special scientific research institutes were established very early , including the royal observatory and royal medical college , etc . The sate gathered many specialists to engage in researches on astronomy , mathematics , medicine and technologies . For example , the astronomic data recorded in the books of history of all dynasties , the books on medicine and the pharmaceutical codes , etc ., all relied on the cooperation of many scientists organized by the state . Dynasties might rise and fall , but this tradition was always inherited .
Another characteristic of the development of ancient science and technology was the preponderance of empiricism . The ancient Chinese had many experiences from their work , and made inventions on the basis of the experiences . But they stopped at direct empirical inspirations and direct knowledge of the natural phenomena , and rarely proceeded further to explore natural laws and form scientific theories . For instance , the records of the experiences were very detailed and conscientious , far surpassing that in ancient and medieval Europe . But the ancient Chinese did not make further theoretical analysis to find out the natural laws . In the Chinese historical books were recorded thirty one times the appearance and disappearance of Halley comet , but it was the British astronomer Halley in the seventeenth century who worked out its average cycle .
The “Syllabus of Medical Herbs” , “Encyclopedia of Farming” , and “Technical Wonders” completed in the Ming Dynasty were three works of the highest level in the fields of Chinese medicine and pharmacology and agriculture and technology , but they were all limited generalization and sublimation . Although the ancient Chinese “put forward some ingenious ideas and foresaw some forthcoming discoveries” , yet they stayed at the directly perceived , general phase . They “knew what it was , but did not inquire into why it was .” No complete , scientific theoretic systems were formed . From the “empirical” soil , the spirit of analysis and positivism , vital to the development of science , could not germinate . The ancient Chinese empiricism conduced to the prolificness of scientific records but hindered the further development of science
When the Jesuits landed on China between the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries , they were amazed at the brilliant inventions of ancient Chinese science and technology , so as to exclaim earnestly that “the ancient Chinese were great creators.” In the countless inventions lay the wisdom of the Chinese nation .