Chinese Encyclopaedias of New Global Knowledge (1870–1930): Changing Ways of Thought

Chapter

Abstract

Many aspects of the rapidly evolving engagement between China and the West during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries have been well enough explored to have entered schoolbook knowledge. These include war, trade, diplomacy, and missionary endeavors. The present volume explores what went on in Chinese minds during this turbulent process. It does so through a series of case studies on the Chinese adaptation of the increasingly globalized canon of modern knowledge and the shifts in the equally globalized software through which this process was articulated: in the taxonomy of knowledge, the hierarchy of relevance and usefulness, the standards for the reliability of information, and the tools to enhance the terminological precision of language. The footprints of these articulations are best visible in Chinese encyclopaedic works of what was called “new” or “Western” knowledge. They were published between the 1880s and the 1930s and were produced against the background of and in a critical debate with a well-established, traditional encyclopaedia culture. While present at the time in great diversity and in large print runs, the shelf life of these new works was short because they were quickly superseded by ever-newer works. These works have neither been reprinted, nor studied in any detail.

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© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Chinese StudiesHeidelberg UniversityHeidelbergGermany

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