From Miscellanea to Natural History: Travel and Translation in Modern Chinese Cultural Production

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstract


In the traditional compendium of natural studies, namely Bencao gangmu (Compendium of Materia Medica, 1593) by Li Shizhen (1518-1593), Minzhong haicuo shu (Discussion on the Sea Life of the Fujian Region, 1596) by Tu Benjun (1542-1622), and Zhiwu mingshi tukao (Facts and Illustrations of Plants, Treatise on the Names, 1848) by Wu Qijun (1789-1847), where classification was based on functionality or appearance and empirical remarks emerged along with recipes, verses, notes on the environment, economic values, medical prescriptions and folklore. However, starting from the unusual appearance of atypical ocean species and the flora of Wenzhou as described in Zhao Zhiqian’s (1829-1884) painting and his manuscript, Zhang’an zashuo (Miscellanea from Zhan’an, 1861) to Cai Shou’s (1879-1941) illustrations in National Essence Journal (1907) that went beyond the traditional literati subject and presentation. Under the empirical pursuit of kaozheng scholarship, the travelling experiences and site visiting have widened the artistic creation and testing the realm of their study; the contact between the Chinese and the Western plant hunters and scientists also brought about the cultural exchanges and further raised an issue on how polarisation of indigenous tradition versus translated modernity in cultural production has been promoted from late Qing to the subsequent Republican era. Taking the cultural production in foreign colonized cities of Chinese coast-boarders as example, this paper addresses the delicate situation of modern Chinese intellectuals testing the balance between Western and Confucian learning through new translation-terms in late Qing, and examining how modern-day knowledge of natural history in particular has been translated into Chinese writing and visuality, and how this effort has invited synergy between evidential learning, the literary cosmos and the scientific investigation of nature.
傳統以來《本草綱目》(1593)、《閩中海錯疏》(1596)及《植物名實圖考》(1848)即以功能或外觀和經驗作為分類的基礎的討論,提供對環境的筆記,經濟價值,醫療處方與食譜的資訊 。然而,源於考據學的實證與觀察方法追求學問,遷徙城市以謀官維生的趙之謙在他的繪畫和手稿《章安雜說》記錄了非典型海洋物種的不同尋常的外觀和溫州的植物。到1907年蔡守更創作在《國粹學報》一系列的自然插圖(1907),更超越了傳統文人主題和創作形式。除了考證的影響,旅遊經驗和現場考察拓寬了藝術創作和他們的研究領域。此外,在晚清中國文人和西方的植物獵人和科學家之間的接觸也帶來了文化的交流,進一步提出對如何深化本土的傳統與文化碰撞中所產生的翻譯現代性的問題。以中國沿海殖民城市旅居者的文字與圖像紀錄為例,本文針對中國現代知識分子如何通過新的翻譯,西方學術和儒家思想之間取得的平衡,並研究現代知識如何在特定的自然歷史已經被翻譯成中國文字。
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2015
Event‘DIMENSIONS OF MOBILITY’ INTERNATIONAL NETWORK WORKSHOP - ECA, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, United Kingdom
Duration: 15 Jun 201516 Jun 2015


CountryUnited Kingdom

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