Benjamin Elman - Professor of East Asian Studies and History, Princeton University
The Council is pleased to present the 47th Annual Edward H. Hume Memorial Lecture.
Benjamin Elman is Professor of East Asian Studies and History at Princeton University, with East Asian Studies as his primary department. His teaching and research fields include Chinese intellectual and cultural history, 1000-1900; the history of science in China, 1600-1930; the history of education in late imperial China; and Sino-Japanese cultural history, 1600-1850. He received his Ph.D. in Oriental Studies from the University of Pennsylvania (1980) and came to Princeton in 2002 from the University of California, Los Angeles. From 1999 to 2001, he was the Mellon Visiting Professor in Traditional Chinese Civilization at the Institute for Advanced Study (Princeton, NJ). He is the author of four books: From Philosophy to Philology: Intellectual and Social Aspects of Change in Late Imperial China (1984; 2nd edition 2001); Classicism, Politics, and Kinship: The Ch’ang-chou School of New Text Confucianism in Late Imperial China (1990); A Cultural History of Civil Examinations in Late Imperial China (2000); and On Their Own Terms: Science in China, 1550-1900 (2005). He is also the co-editor of two books and the creator of “Classical Historiography for Chinese History,” a Web-based bibliography published since 1996. Professor Elman teaches undergraduate courses on the cultural and social history of China and on perceptions of China and Asia in the West, as well as a documents-based course for sophomores in History addressing various topics in Chinese history, including the travels of Marco Polo, the Sino-Japanese War, and the Jesuits in China. He teaches graduate-level courses on the classical historiography of China, the history of education in China, the history of science in China, and (with Professor Susan Naquin) material culture and technology in China. His recently completed new project on science in China entitled: “A Cultural History of Modern Science in China,” which is forthcoming this fall from Harvard University Press in its “New Studies in the History of Science Series.”
The Edward H. Hume Memorial Lecture will address cultural interaction in East Asia during the 18th century, in particular the impact of Chinese classical learning, medicine, and natural studies on Tokugawa Japan. He is particularly interested in how Tokugawa scholars transmitted new Chinese classical and medical texts in Japan before and after the Kansei era (1789-1800) when Japanese leaders enforced a campaign supporting the classical orthodoxy. Remarkably, Qing China under the Qianlong emperor (r. 1736-1795) was more open intellectually to new currents of thought than was contemporary Japan. Indeed, many scholars in China, Japan, and Korea were not tradition-bound or so conservative that they could not also deal with the Western ideas that were increasingly present in East Asia as a result of the Jesuits and later the Protestants in their midst. The new trends in Qing evidential learning and the rise of new forms of traditional Chinese medicine (Kampo) competed with Dutch Learning in Japan. This research project will reintegrate currently disaggregated issues in the history of science and medicine with themes associated with the intellectual and cultural history of classical learning in East Asia from 1600 to 1850. Normally these fields are studied separately as “Confucianism” or “medicine” in China, Japan, or Korea with little effort to integrate theme thematically in light of the cultural geography of classical learning in East Asia. Physicians and philologists shared the same classical texts known in China, Japan, and Korea as the Confucian “Classics” and the Medical “Classics.” Indeed, physicians were as likely to be classically literate as Mandarin scholar-officials. A reception will follow the lecture in the 2nd Floor Common Room, Henry R. Luce Hall.