Traditional Chinese Thinking and Its Influence on Modern Engineering and Social Development

  • Qian WangEmail author
  • Qin Zhu
Part of the Philosophy of Engineering and Technology book series (POET, volume 11)


In premodern China, the traditional Chinese thinking pattern had a strong influence on the practice of engineering and on social development. This thinking pattern is still both influential and valuable today. In this chapter, we characterize the traditional thinking pattern from four perspectives: (1) at the ontological level, it presents itself as an organic entity; (2) at the epistemological level, it relies on intuitional experience; (3) at the methodological level, it highlights the notions of ­correlation and flexibility; and finally (4) at the ethical level, it advocates the morality of yi dao yu shu (mastering technique with dao) and pursues the harmony between a number of related contextual factors. Moreover, in this chapter, we indicate the influence of the traditional thinking pattern upon the modern practice of engineering in terms of planning, design, implementation, testing, and maintenance. Finally, we argue the case that the traditional thinking pattern can be recommended as a method to improve the professionalization of engineering practice, the quality of engineering education, and the development of qualified engineers.


Engineering culture Thinking pattern Chinese culture Engineering practice Development 



The authors would like to thank Mike Murphy (Dublin Institute of Technology, Ireland) for his great work copyediting and proofreading this chapter.


  1. Andreas, Joel. 2009. Rise of red engineers: The cultural revolution and the origins of China’s new class. Stanford: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  2. Chen, Cheng-Yih. 1996. Early Chinese work in natural science: A re-examination of the physics of motion, acoustics, astronomy, and scientific thoughts. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press.Google Scholar
  3. Chen, Yun. 2009. Transition and development in china: Towards shared growth. Surrey: Ashgate Publishing Limited.Google Scholar
  4. Flyvbjerg, Bent. 2006. A Perestroikan straw man answers back: David Laitin and Phronetic Political Science. In Making political science matter: Debating knowledge, research, and method, ed. Sanford Schram and Brian Caterino. New York: New York University Press.Google Scholar
  5. Frisina, Warren G. 2001. Wang Yangming. In A companion to the philosophers, ed. Robert L. Arrington. Malden: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  6. Graham, Robert J. 1984. Anthropology and O.R.: The place of observation in management science process. The Journal of the Operational Research Society 35: 6.Google Scholar
  7. Guan, Shijie. 2000. A comparison of Sino-American thinking patterns and the function of Chinese characters in the difference. In Chinese perspectives in rhetoric and communication, ed. D. Ray Heisey. Stamford: Ablex Publishing Corporation.Google Scholar
  8. Harris, Charles E., Michael S. Pritchard, and Michael Jerome Rabins. 2008. Engineering ethics: Concepts and cases, 4th ed. Belmont: Wadsworth.Google Scholar
  9. Hermes, Amanda. 2009. The history of Chinese lanterns. eHow. Accessed 15 Jan 2011.
  10. Jenkins, T.N. 2002. Chinese tradition thought and practice: Lessons for ecological economics worldview. Ecological Economics 40(1): 39–52.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Johnson, Lauri Macmillan, Kim Duffek, and James Richards. 2008. Creating outdoor classrooms: Schoolyard habits and garden for the southwest. Austin: University of Texas Press.Google Scholar
  12. Li, You-sheng. 2005. A New interpretation of Chinese Taoist philosophy: An anthropological/psychological view. Ontario: Taoist Recovery Centre.Google Scholar
  13. Li-Hua, Richard. 2009. Definitions of technology. In A companion to the philosophy of technology, ed. Jan Kyrre Berg Olsen, Stig Andur Pedersen, and Vincent F. Hendricks. Sussex: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  14. Liu, Changlin. 1990. Chinese systematic thinking. Beijing: Chinese Social Science Press.Google Scholar
  15. Liu, Jee.Loo. 2006. An introduction to Chinese philosophy: From ancient philosophy to Chinese Buddhism. Malden: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  16. Munro, Donald J. 2009. Ethics in action: Workable guidelines for public and private choices. Hong Kong: The Chinese University Press.Google Scholar
  17. Perrow, Charles. 1984. Normal accidents: Living with high-risk technologies. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  18. Shanghai New and Press Bureau. 2007. Fish basin. Cultural China. Accessed 15 Jan 2011.
  19. The Chinese Academy of Engineering, The Engineering Academy of Japan, and The National Academy of Engineering of Korea. 2004. Declaration on engineering ethics, November, 1, 2004. The Engineering Academy of Japan. Accessed 6 Jan 2011.
  20. Wang, John, et al. 2008. A historical review of management science research in China. Omega 36(6): 919–932.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Yates, J.K. 2007. Global engineering and construction. Hoboken: Wiley.Google Scholar
  22. Zhu, Qin. 2010. Engineering ethics studies in China: Dialogue between traditionalism and ­modernism. Engineering Studies 2: 2.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of Humanities and Social SciencesDalian University of TechnologyDalianPeople’s Republic of China
  2. 2.School of Engineering EducationPurdue UniversityWest LafayetteUnited States

Personalised recommendations