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Science in East Asia

The Sciences, Scholarship On East Asian Science, Bibliography

The most familiar characteristics of modern science—rigorously demonstrated relationships based on a combination of experimentation and exact measurement—did not exist anywhere in the world before the seventeenth century. Any definition of science that holds for earlier times or for places other than Europe must be more inclusive. More useful criteria are the attempt to find rational explanations, rather than those based on gods and analogues to human will, and the use of abstraction to generalize from concrete data.

One can speak of East Asian science because the educated elite of China, Japan, Korea, and Vietnam shared a classical written language. To a large extent, literacy in East Asia meant being educated in the same Chinese classics and writing in a language based on them, just as Europeans for centuries learned and communicated in Latin. China, because of its size, wealth, and bookish literati, tended to dominate its neighbors intellectually in science as in other fields, but East Asians elsewhere made notable contributions, some of which are noted below.

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