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Why so little Inventions during the Qing Dynasty?


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#16 Rong Qin Wang

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Posted 12 March 2007 - 08:59 PM

What if the exams ware not so popular would the then pay more aattention to Inventions?
and is it not a prestege to make Invention?


Zunjing de Wei Feng,

Hmm, even if taking the Imperial Exam was not that popular, I really don’t think people would take that much more interests in creating inventions since quite a number of Qing people were not too opened with new ideas. Of course, without spending all the time covering the necessary materials for the Exam, people would have more spare time for other things. However, I would assume people would more likely indulge themselves in luxury. Please remember that people’s mindset were quite different back then.

I personally do think it would be a prestige to be the creator for a new invention; however, I would certainly never be an inventor myself since my brain just does not operate that way. I dislike new ideas and would rather keep things the same as long as they are not broken. In fact, I would probably be very happy to go back in time and live in the Qing Dynasty since I definitely have the passion to sit down and read classic literatures all day long. I also have a very good memory; hence, I can recite poems or any readings without any real problems. I prefer to live my life according to traditional rituals without having to worry about thinking of new inventions since something new would always be more dangerous.

#17 Tibet Libre

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Posted 19 March 2007 - 09:34 AM

Hence, why did the scientific progress dry up in 1250? Can you further elaborate on this? Was this because of the future Mongol invasion(s)?


This and also the plague which must have ravaged China at about the same time as Europe (Europe 1346-49).

William McNeill, specifically, made a point in his Plagues and peoples that the plague was at least as much responsible for the dramatic drop of the Chinese population in the Yuan period as the Mongol genocide. While, according to him, the effects of the plague effectivly ended the world historic role of the steppe people (which were later subjected one by one by the rising gunpowder empires), China managed to recover institutionally and economically, but the genius of the Song period was over. Politically, militarily, artistically and architecturally China IMO stagnated then, while in Europe - similarly hard hit by the plague - the development in practically all fields of human activity began to take up speed to the point that historians feel compelled to designate every 50-100 years of European history with a new era name (Renaissance, Reformation, Baroque, etc.).

As a personal note, I visited last week the Forbidden City in Peking and when I looked at the history of the individual buildings and temples, it was usually the same story: What the Ming had erected, the Qing had repaired or, in case of destruction, replaced by buildings in the Ming style. No evolution, no cultural surplus added, just repetition of the old.

#18 Rong Qin Wang

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Posted 27 March 2007 - 12:55 AM

Zunjing de Tibet Libre,

Hmm, thanks for your response!

I surmise the combination of the plague and the Mongol genocide were ultimately responsible for the huge decrease in Chinese population during the Yuan period. I knew the plague also hit China to a certain extent; however, I had no idea it had done so much damages! As technologies continued to expand, the steppe people gradually lost control over their territories and ways of life since the new weapons were too powerful for them to handle. With the plague going on at the same time, it was almost impossible for the steppe people to deal with these two major problems at once. Even though China managed to recover, its social, economics, art, politics, military, and architecture were stagnate and quite inferior to the previous Song Dynasty. However, since Europe was also effected by the plague, I cannot understand why Europe would be more technologically advanced than China was afterward. I mean the only thing China suffered that Europe did not would really be the Mongol genocide. In this case, would not it be fairer to say that the Mongolian Yuan Dynasty was more responsible for China’s decline and humiliation in technologies than the Manchurian Qing Dynasty?

I completely agree with you that Qing Dynasty was not a period of innovations since most people would rather just do things the normal things. In fact, it was quite common for people living under Qing Dynasty to be neo-phobia. However, I am not so sure if this was not also the insistence of the Han Chinese living under foreign rule.

Xie Xie,

#19 Yun

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Posted 27 March 2007 - 01:36 AM

I mean the only thing China suffered that Europe did not would really be the Mongol genocide. In this case, would not it be fairer to say that the Mongolian Yuan Dynasty was more responsible for China’s decline and humiliation in technologies than the Manchurian Qing Dynasty?


RQW and Tibet Libre, do be careful of using the word 'genocide' so loosely (as I'm sure Yihesan would agree). There is evidence of heavy loss of life during the Mongol invasions of Jin and Southern Song, but no evidence of a systematic policy of 'anti-Han' genocide conducted by the Mongols. Indeed, most scholars now see the late Yuan plague as far more responsible for the Chinese depopulation than any pre-Yuan killing by the Mongols. The idea of a 'Mongol genocide' is primarily a product of modern Han nationalists seeking to demonize the Mongols and Manchus and blame them for China's ills.
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#20 Tibet Libre

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Posted 27 March 2007 - 09:48 AM

However, since Europe was also effected by the plague, I cannot understand why Europe would be more technologically advanced than China was afterward.


A common, though obviously in its scope limited explanation is that Europe somehow got around to show the 'right reaction' to the massive shortage of labour caused by the plague, that is to expand labour-saving devices. Such a model is at least often forwarded in connection with the spread of so-called industrial watermills in medieval Europe (sawmills, tanning mills, ore-crushing mills, etc.). However, culturally, European society was massively traumatized by the effects of the plague, and deeply indulged in pessimism and doomsday beliefs. Just see the famous paintings of Hieronymus Bosch for what must have haunted the ordinary people then.

One also has to understand that Europe was the fastest growing world region then. Contrary to a wide-spread belief, medieval Europe was quite inventive, and unlike what Needham likes to postulates, evidence is that much, if not most of Europe's technology was invented independently. Out of the top of the head:

1140 rib vault (Gothic style)
1150-1350 blast furnace
1170 front-wheel wheelbarrows
1180 Vertical windmills
1185 pintle-and gudgeon stern rudder
13th century spinning wheel
1220 Treadwheel cranes
1220 Arabic numerals
1270-1350 Mechanical clocks (=weight driven clocks)
1280 Eyeglasses
1280s Paper mills
1282 Watermarks
1300 Dry compass
1320 Cannon
1345 Segmental arch bridge

1346-49 Great Plague

That means that the continent could build on a solid expansion of its technological foundation when coping with the plague. When you look at the following developments, despite the miserable mental and bodily condition of much of European population, then progress seemed to continue almost uninterrupted:

late 14th century plate armour, steel crossbow, quarantine, floating cranes, jacobs staff
15th century pile-driver
1420s double shell dome, grain powder, breach loading cannon
1430 laws of pespectivity
1445 printing press
mid-1400s railways (wagonways)
1474 patent law
1480 polygonal fortifications
1490 wheel lock

In a word, I would argue that the moment Colombis set foot on san Salvador, this was not the beginning of the so-called 'Rise of the West', but a stop-over. Actually, this movement had alreayd begun in the 11th century (Romanesque style) and there were only two events which could have forestalled it: The Mongol invasion which did not materialize, and the plague which could have put Europe back into the early Middle Ages, but may have had the reverse effect and accelerated progress and innovation.

@ Yun,

I was aware that more recent scholarship has placed greater emphasis on the desastrous demographic effects of the plague (which actually may have ultimately come from Yunnan as one of McNeill's theories goes), but not that scholarly opinions on the Mongol policy towards the Chinese population has been so much revised (note that I am not exposed to Han nationalist literature anyway).

#21 Rong Qin Wang

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Posted 06 April 2007 - 11:16 PM

Zunjing de Tibet Libre,

Hmm, I surmise discussions of this issue would again lead to the question of why did not China modernize in time. This question has already been asked in this forum many times before; hence, I will certainly end this discussion in here right now by not asking anymore questions. To truly understand why China and some other Asian nations lagged so far behind in technologies compared to Europe, one must be aware of the political and social situations as well as ideologies of the world as well as a lot of the Asian and European nations of the given time. Since I don’t have an adequate amount of knowledge on any of these subtopics, I will never understand why China and other Asian countries was not technologically advanced. Hence, of course, I would just accept and memorize the facts written in history books.

#22 Rong Qin Wang

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Posted 06 April 2007 - 11:18 PM

RQW and Tibet Libre, do be careful of using the word 'genocide' so loosely (as I'm sure Yihesan would agree). There is evidence of heavy loss of life during the Mongol invasions of Jin and Southern Song, but no evidence of a systematic policy of 'anti-Han' genocide conducted by the Mongols. Indeed, most scholars now see the late Yuan plague as far more responsible for the Chinese depopulation than any pre-Yuan killing by the Mongols. The idea of a 'Mongol genocide' is primarily a product of modern Han nationalists seeking to demonize the Mongols and Manchus and blame them for China's ills.


Zunjing de Yun the Sage-King,

I must admit that I really don’t have a lot of knowledge on the Yuan Dynasty since all the books that I have read were written through the viewpoints of the Han Chinese of that era. Of course, it would be almost impossible for the Han Chinese to see the Mongolians in a neutral light.

I surmise the Qing Dynasty was also viewed negatively by some Han historians; however, it was certainly much more tolerable to the Chinese than the Yuan Dynasty. There were many famous Han scholars working for the Qing Dynasty both before and after the Beijing conquest. As Prince of the South has mentioned earlier, the gentry-scholar class of Qing Dynasty were extremely loyal to the Manchurians. Hence, I was able to find some neutral sources regarding the Qing Dynasty, and I have now had a decent knowledge on Qing’s history. Lately, I have been thinking of taking some Manchurian classes, so that I would be able to read some of the primary texts only written in Manchurian.

Well, of course, I would be ultimately responsible for what I say, but I was just using the word “genocide” in the form of hearsay. Sometimes I just believe everything I read. Heheheh! Boy, I can be so gullible. I think there would be a heavy loss of lives during any invasions, so the Mongolians were not really unique in this sense. Well, the Mongolians were very barbaric in how they handled their conquered subjects. The Han Chinese were extremely discriminated in the Yuan society. The Yuan did not just discriminate against Han Chinese, but virtually for any other ethnic groups as the Yuan society consisted of four different classes with very different privileges. I am sure the plague was largely responsible for China ’s depopulation; however, it would certainly be unfair to blame it on the Mongolians as this was only a natural disaster that nobody had control over. I am certain there were not any genocide from the Qing Dynasty; however, was this also the case for the Mongolians? I know modern Han nationalists can be way out of line sometimes; however, it would be improbable for them to just invent new “facts.” With the Mongolian’s barbaric nature, I would not be surprised if genocides of some sort did actually take place. I personally have no backup sources since this is more of just my own opinion(s).

By the way, I had a discussion with MING-LOYALIST the other day about whether or not the Qing Dynasty had the desire to conquer other people or were they merely doing it for the sake of survival. Hence, I would like to ask you if the Mongolians were defensive or offensive in their conquest of China and other parts of the world.

Xie Xie,

#23 Yun

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Posted 07 April 2007 - 04:44 AM

Hence, I would like to ask you if the Mongolians were defensive or offensive in their conquest of China and other parts of the world.


Obviously they were offensive. They attacked places that had never even heard of their existence. But clearly they did not set out with the objective of conquering all of China, or even the whole world. They successfully conquered Western Xia and Jin, and then found they could go further than that because other powers were also vulnerable. So they kept going and going. It was a cumulative kind of conquest.

Well, the Mongolians were very barbaric in how they handled their conquered subjects. The Han Chinese were extremely discriminated in the Yuan society. The Yuan did not just discriminate against Han Chinese, but virtually for any other ethnic groups as the Yuan society consisted of four different classes with very different privileges.


I think it is actually quite common for conquerors to enjoy more privileges and rights than those they conquered. The usual criticism of Mongol rule in China is that south Chinese were ranked below north Chinese (including 'Han', Jurchen, and Khitan), and north Chinese were ranked below the Central Asians and West Asians (including Tangut, Turks, Uyghurs, Persians, and Arabs). Mongols were of course at the top. But if we consider that the south Chinese were of more uncertain loyalty than the north Chinese, having been more recently conquered, then this hierarchy makes more sense. It has little to do with a policy of discrimination against 'Han culture'. In fact, the Yuan dynasty allowed Mongols, Arabs, Turks, etc. to take civil service examinations in the Confucian classics (this was how Neo-Confucianism first became the standard exam curriculum), and many of them became scholars who were very fluent in Chinese and on good terms with native Chinese ('Han') scholars. Hsiao Chi-ch'ing (Xiao Qiqing) of Taiwan has been studying this 'multi-ethnic literati circle' of the Yuan dynasty.

So the stereotype of Mongols as just bloodthirsty barbarians is a rather outdated and unfair one. When the Mongols were ruling China, they changed quite a bit.
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#24 vinceliang

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Posted 09 April 2009 - 10:37 AM

Why where there so littel inventions in the Qing Dynasty?Why dint the invent someting important like paper


Well apparantly something important was invented during the Qing Dynasty. A Chinese railroad engineer Zhān Tiānyòu, invented the locking mechanism used to link train carriages together. Before Zhan Tianyou's invention, train carriages has to be tied up manually but Zhan's locking mechanism can lock the carriages when two carrianges are moved to closed together. As a result westerner got this technology from China.

Here is some more information on Zhan Tianyou. Unfortunately nothing on his invention.
http://en.wikipedia....ki/Zhan_Tianyou

This website very briefly mentions his invention:
http://www.chinacult...ntent_26354.htm

Edited by vinceliang, 09 April 2009 - 10:41 AM.

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#25 Pax Americana

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Posted 04 June 2009 - 01:59 AM

Some argue the most important reason why China lost the dynamism and became complacent was due to the change in competitive environment. If we look at the pattern of Chinese dynastic changes, it is not a coincident that periods of fragmentation resulted in many of its great innovations in commercial and military technologies as rivalries between the states of a fragmented China had made for a greater aggressiveness and sense of competition to unify the empire. Such competitive environment was the stimulus for achievement and pushed it to great heights. The unifiers, especially the subsequent so called "Pax Sinica" era under the Han, Tang, Ming and Qing reaped the developments of their predecessors. With a more stable geopolitical environment, cultural development flourished. When the Ming declined, the Qing successfully claimed the "Mandate of Heaven" and era of complacency continued.

Warring States (Fragmentation)
Qin (Unifier)
Han (Pax Sinica)

Three Kingdoms & Six Dynasties (Fragmentation)
Sui (Unifier)
Tang (Pax Sinica)

Song and Tripartite political division (fragmentation)
Yuan (Unifier)
Ming (Pax Sinica)
-------------------------
Qing (Pax Sinica)

China was more successful at unifying than Europe, especially after the fall of Rome. The upshot was that China had more scale resulting in higher efficiency in periods of progress. However, when it took on an isolation policy, it in effect condemned all of China to embark on a path that ultimately not only sacrificed centuries of global leadership for itself and East Asia, but also a profound shift in global dominance in favor of the West. In contrast, Europe was more selective due to fragmentation, when Portugal slipped, Holland and England marched ahead and took up the slack. The competition that occurred in European civilization during that period had transformed it to a level of development that compared favorably with China in many areas. By the 18th-19th century, the Europeans caught up to China and eventually surpassed them. Here we need to interpret the 'what if' following the Ming. What if there was no ascendancy of Qing?

History stands still for no one. After all, one name for China used to be the Celestial Empire. "There is no permanence in ascendancy of power and greatness. The tenure of the splendor of any power is on borrowed time."

Edited by Pax Americana, 05 June 2009 - 03:22 PM.





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