Events & Seminars

HUMA Seminar
Amendment: Figurative Language and Technology in Early China (Monday 16 September 2019)

Abstract:

 

Early China’s masters of philosophy frequently use metaphors and analogies to formulate their philosophical arguments. Often readers regard these as purely literary devices. In this seminar I will suggest a different approach and argue that figurative language in China belonged to the normal register of tools used to analyse and describe the world, including technical knowledge. I start from the premise that the technical (or “scientific”) and the philosophical (or moralistic and political) are not necessarily mutually exclusive and will show that metaphors are revealing not only for their symbolical or referential potential but also as a source of technical and social information. I will develop this argument using passages that deal with agriculture and agronomy in Warring States and early imperial texts.

 

Biography:

 

Roel Sterckx 胡司德 is Joseph Needham Professor of Chinese History, Science and Civilisation at the University of Cambridge and Fellow of Clare College. He is the author and editor of several books including The Animal and the Daemon in Early China (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2002); Of Tripod and Palate. Food, Politics and Religion in Traditional China (New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2005); Food, Sacrifice, and Sagehood in Early China (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2011); Animals through Chinese History. From Early Times to 1911 (with Dagmar Schäfer and Martina Siebert) (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018); Chinese Thought. From Confucius to Cook Ding (London: Penguin 2019) and Ways of Heaven. An Introduction to Chinese Thought (New York: Basic Books, 2019). He is a Fellow of the British Academy and a Trustee of the Needham Research Institute.   Abstract: Early China’s masters of philosophy frequently use metaphors and analogies to formulate their philosophical arguments. Often readers regard these as purely literary devices. In this seminar I will suggest a different approach and argue that figurative language in China belonged to the normal register of tools used to analyse and describe the world, including technical knowledge. I start from the premise that the technical (or “scientific”) and the philosophical (or moralistic and political) are not necessarily mutually exclusive and will show that metaphors are revealing not only for their symbolical or referential potential but also as a source of technical and social information. I will develop this argument using passages that deal with agriculture and agronomy in Warring States and early imperial texts. Biography: Roel Sterckx 胡司德is Joseph Needham Professor of Chinese History, Science and Civilisation at the University of Cambridge and Fellow of Clare College. He is the author and editor of several books including The Animal and the Daemon in Early China (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2002); Of Tripod and Palate. Food, Politics and Religion in Traditional China (New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2005); Food, Sacrifice, and Sagehood in Early China (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2011); Animals through Chinese History. From Early Times to 1911 (with Dagmar Schäfer and Martina Siebert) (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018); Chinese Thought. From Confucius to Cook Ding (London: Penguin 2019) and Ways of Heaven. An Introduction to Chinese Thought (New York: Basic Books, 2019). He is a Fellow of the British Academy and a Trustee of the Needham Research Institute.

Speaker(s)
Professor Roel Sterckx, FBA (胡司德教授)
Joseph Needham Professor of Chinese History, Science and Civilization, The University of Cambridge and Fellow of Clara College
Date
September 16, 2019 (Monday)
Time
5:00pm - 6:30pm
Venue
Library LG4 Multi-Function Room
Language
English
Sponsor
Co-organized by the HKUST Library