Reviving Ancient Chinese Mathematics: Mathematics, History and Politics in the Work of Wu Wen-Tsun, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Reviving Ancient Chinese Mathematics

Mathematics, History and Politics in the Work of Wu Wen-Tsun, 1st Edition

By Jiri Hudecek


210 pages | 12 B/W Illus.

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Twentieth-century China has been caught between a desire to increase its wealth and power in line with other advanced nations, which, by implication, means copying their institutions, practices and values, whilst simultaneously seeking to preserve China’s independence and historically formed identity. Over time, Chinese philosophers, writers, artists and politicians have all sought to reconcile these goals and this book shows how this search for a Chinese way penetrated even the most central, least contested area of modernity: science.

Reviving Ancient Chinese Mathematics is a study of the life of one of modern China’s most admired scientific figures, the mathematician Wu Wen-Tsun. Negotiating the conflict between progress and tradition, he found a path that not only ensured his political and personal survival, but which also brought him renown as a mathematician of international status who claimed that he stood outside the dominant western tradition of mathematics. Wu Wen-Tsun’s story highlights crucial developments and contradictions in twentieth -century China, the significance of which extends far beyond the field of mathematics. On one hand lies the appeal of radical scientific modernity, "mechanisation" in all its forms, and competitiveness within the international scientific community. On the other is an anxiety to preserve national traditions and make them part of the modernisation project. Moreover, Wu’s intellectual development also reflects the complex relationship between science and Maoist ideology, because his turn to history was powered by his internalisation of certain aspects of Maoist ideology, including its utilitarian philosophy of science.

This book traces how Wu managed to combine political success and international scientific eminence, a story that has wider implications for a new century of increasing Chinese activity in the sciences. As such, it will be of great interest to students and scholars of Chinese history, the history of science and the history and philosophy of mathematics.

Table of Contents

1. Introduction 2. The Making of a Prominent Chinese Mathematician 3. Mathematics and Chinese Socialist Construction 4. The Transformative Effect of the Cultural Revolution 5. Wu Wen-Tsun's Construction of Traditional Chinese Mathematics 6. Independence and Inspiration: Wu Wen-Tsun's Work Since 1977 7. Saving the Nation with Mathematics and its History

About the Author

Jiri Hudecek is a Researcher at Charles University, Czech Republic.

About the Series

Needham Research Institute Series

Joseph Needham's 'Science and Civilisation' series began publication in the 1950s. At first, it was seen as a piece of brilliant but isolated pioneering. However, at the beginning of the twenty-first century, it is clear that Needham's work has succeeded in creating a vibrant new intellectual field in the West. The books in this series cover topics relating broadly to the practice of science, technology and medicine in East Asia, including China, Japan, Korea, and Vietnam. The emphasis is on traditional forms of knowledge and practice, but without excluding modern studies which connect the topics with their historical and cultural context.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / Asia / China
MATHEMATICS / History & Philosophy
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Ethnic Studies / General
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Regional Studies