Proposal preview

The Interplay of Trade, Religion and Technology in China and Europe in the 16th-19th centuries

Since the beginning of the 20th century, economic history has paid special attention to the part played by religion in innovation and in technological dissemination, in the wake of Max Weber and Warren C. Scoville. Europe has been at the fore-front of these studies, at least for the early modern period (1). Our focus is twofold: broadening the perspective by bringing China on stage and questioning the interplay of trade, religion and technology.

Religion took a part in recent bibliographical corpus respectively on trade and technology in China, while these three topics are rarely connected together. Scholars have enhanced the impact of monotheist religions on knowledge, on the use of nature and on the search for profit. They also used religion in order to explain a so-called decline of Chinese science and technology featured in the famous “Needham question”. Needham made a distinction between Daoism and Confucianism regarding attitudes towards scientific and technological innovations (2). Although these approaches were quite forgotten in the debates on the « Great Divergence », they are now coming on the fore front. Karel Davids has recently proposed to pay attention to religious institutions in their promotion of technological culture and « human capital » and to patterns of circulation of knowledge, as explaining the divergence between China and Europe (Davids, 2013). In the meantime, other researchers used different approaches, by focusing for instance on the history of Taoist technology (Sheng, Weixia, 2002-2010) or dealing with the meaning of innovation in the Chinese cosmological context (Schafer, 2011). Recent studies also questioned the religious character of Confusianism and its impact on trade and technology, as Confusianism was the framework of religious syncretism in China that evolved from the concept of Three Teachings (Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism), the so-called Sanjiao heyi 三教合一 (Ledderose, 2000) .

The relationships between trade, technology and religion are also studied by taking into consideration the technological transfers between East and West. The technological and religious interplays are suggestive in the European history as well. Koen Vermeir has stressed after Peter Harrison that « early modern religion was closely intertwined with objects, artifacts, techniques and technologies, in a way we may find difficult to imagine today » (3). Until now, exchanges initiated and maintained by Jesuit missionaries drew attention of a large number of modern historians of sciences, technology and medicine. However, little attention was paid to several questions connecting Christian missionaries, trading companies, Chinese merchants, etc. in a religious and technological point of view. As some studies recently showed, trade and transmission of technological expertise were accompanied by the dissemination of religions via the Silk Road. The interplay of propagation of religions (including Buddhism and Christianity) and trade in the circulation and exchanges of technological expertise still await for a thorough investigation. What was the impact of trading exchanges between Europe and China on religious and technological aspects?

This panel will gather scholars from different subject areas to discuss and compare their views on the complex interactions of trade, religion and technology between East and West. We expect to have 8 to 10 presenters and two discussants. Each panelist will have about 15 minutes for presentation and 15-20 minutes for discussion. We will especially focus on the following aspects:
– The role of merchants, artisans, engineers belonging to religious groups as well as missionaries in the introduction and circulation of technological expertise, in the enhancement of trade and in the propagation of religion.
– The negotiations, concessions and assimilations among practitioners belonging to different religious communities.
– Comparative historical framework: comparisons of the parts played by religion in technological development in East and West.
– Anthropological dimensions: how different needs of artifacts for ceremonial display and religious interdictions influenced the adaptation and development of fabrication processes? What part played technology in the representations and identities of religious communities and actors?
– Historiographical issues: why some religions remain out of the focus? It is the case of Jews whose relationship with technology is still unquestioned.

(1) For more recent times, a major reference is Daniel Chirot, Essential Outsiders: Chinese and Jews in the Modern Transformation of Southeast Asia and Central Europe, 1997.

(2) Joseph Needham stressed the fact that the latter had played a part in the decline that supposedly took place after the Song period: « Wealth as such was not valued. It had no spiritual power. It could give comfort but not wisdom, and in China affluence carried comparatively little prestige » (Joseph Needham, « Science and Society in East and West », Centaurus, 1964, vol. 10, p. 174-197, p. 181).

(3) Peter Harrison, The Territories of Science and Religion, 2015 ; Koen Vermeir, « Techniques, rites, religion », in Guillaume Carnino, Liliane Hilaire-Pérez, A. Kobiljski eds., Histoire des techniques. Mondes, sociétés, cultures (XVIe-XVIIIe siècle), Paris, PUF (coll. Nouvelle Clio), 2016, p. 397-414.

Organizer(s)

  • Liliane HILAIRE-PEREZ University Paris Diderot-7/EHESS liliane.perez@wanadoo.fr France
  • Chuan-Hui MAU National Tsing-Hua University chmau@mx.nthu.edu.tw Taiwan
  • Sébastien PAUTET University Paris Diderot-7 sebastien.pautet.edu@gmail.com France

Session members

  • Weichung CHENG , Academia Sinica
  • Chuan-Hui MAU, National Tsing-Hua University
  • Karel DAVIDS , Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
  • François GIPOULOUX , EHESS
  • Hui-min LAI, Academia Sinica
  • Evelyne OLIEL-GRAUSZ, Université Paris 1 Panthéon Sorbonne
  • Manuel PEREZ GARCIA , Shanghai Jiao Tong University
  • Ching-Fei SHIH , National Taiwan University

Discussant(s)

Papers

Panel abstract

Although religion was quite forgotten in the debates on the « Great Divergence », it is now coming on the fore front. Our aim is twofold: focussing on the religious meaning f technology and enhancing the relationship between trade, technology and religion. First, as Koen Vermeir has stressed, after Peter Harrison: « early modern religion was closely intertwined with objects, artifacts, techniques and technologies, in a way we may find difficult to imagine today ». We will then deal with religious institutions, the meaning of trade and technology in the Chinese cosmology and Confucianism. We will also pay attention to the intercultural trade and technological networks. As some studies showed, trade and transmission of technological expertise were accompanied by the dissemination of religions via the Silk Road. The interplay of propagation of religions and trade in the circulation and exchanges of technological expertise still await for a thorough investigation.

1st half

Keepers of the flame? Cathedrals as repositories of technological knowledge in 16th century Europe

Karel Davids

This paper examines the interplay of trade, religion and technology by looking at a particular religious institution in Europe during a period of profound social transformation: cathedrals in the Protestant Reformation. From the High Middle Ages onwards, cathedrals in European towns were vibrant hubs of religious life as well as important centres of creation and circulation of technological knowledge. What happened to the role of these institutions as repositories of technological knowledge, when the function of cathedrals in religious practices and ecclesiastical structures radically altered under the influence of the Reformation in the sixteenth century ? Did it persist ? did it change ? or did it disappear? And how can these outcomes be explained ? The paper will compare the role of cathedrals as storehouses of technological knowledge in different parts of Europe before and after the Reformation, taking account of variations in market relations and in government policies.

This paper examines the interplay of trade, religion and technology by looking at a particular religious institution in Europe during a period of profound social transformation: cathedrals in the Protestant Reformation. From the High Middle Ages onwards, cathedrals in European towns were vibrant hubs of religious life as well as important centres of creation and circulation of technological knowledge. What happened to the role of these institutions as repositories of technological knowledge, when the function of cathedrals in religious practices and ecclesiastical structures radically altered under the influence of the Reformation in the sixteenth century ? Did it persist ? did it change ? or did it disappear? And how can these outcomes be explained ? The paper will compare the role of cathedrals as storehouses of technological knowledge in different parts of Europe before and after the Reformation, taking account of variations in market relations and in government policies.

Three wondrous objects that came across the sea to China in late seventeenth century

Shi Chingfei

From Refreshment to Reflection: the early maritime tea trade in Asia and Europe (1642-1710)

Weichung Cheng

In the 16th century, the Europeans were first introduced to an exotic drink from China: tea, but it only became more widespread after the middle of the 18th century. Although Dutch, English and Portuguese residents of Asia became very accustomed to drinking tea, the VOC and EIC carried it as a profitable commodity and imported regular supplies to the homeland only after the 1680s. In the middle of 17th century, tea did gradually appear on the cargo lists of the VOC and EIC ships, but to supply the demand in India and Persia, especially Surat. This article sheds light on the Taiwan (in later period Amoy)-Surat tea trade from ca 1642 to 1710 and hopes to reveal the ways tea was prepared and consumed by Chinese, Persians and Europeans.

In the 16th century, the Europeans were first introduced to an exotic drink from China: tea, but it only became more widespread after the middle of the 18th century. Although Dutch, English and Portuguese residents of Asia became very accustomed to drinking tea, the VOC and EIC carried it as a profitable commodity and imported regular supplies to the homeland only after the 1680s. In the middle of 17th century, tea did gradually appear on the cargo lists of the VOC and EIC ships, but to supply the demand in India and Persia, especially Surat. This article sheds light on the Taiwan (in later period Amoy)-Surat tea trade from ca 1642 to 1710 and hopes to reveal the ways tea was prepared and consumed by Chinese, Persians and Europeans.

The tin trade and international exchange of technology in the Qing dynasty: Religious artefacts between Tibetan lamas and Jesuit missionaries

Lai Hui-Min and Techeng Su

Tin has had a long history of use in China. The well-known bronzeware in ancient times was made of alloy of copper and tin. In the Qing dynasty, the opening of Guangzhou port enabled foreign ships to transport raw tin materials from Malaysia, Singapore, and the United Kingdom. The trading volume reached over one thousand tons in the end of the eighteenth century. Thus, the price of tin products dropped and tinware became an everyday homeware for common people. It should be noted that tin was utilized in the Qing court for special objects. The first application was the production of ritual objects known as xiangtong. Secondly, the missionaries, such as Jean-Denis Attiret, drew oil painting on tin-mercury amalgam mirror known as reverse painting on glass. This article reveals the achievements and effects of the domestic tin trade and international exchange for the Qing Dynasty since the eighteenth century.

Tin has had a long history of use in China. The well-known bronzeware in ancient times was made of alloy of copper and tin. In the Qing dynasty, the opening of Guangzhou port enabled foreign ships to transport raw tin materials from Malaysia, Singapore, and the United Kingdom. The trading volume reached over one thousand tons in the end of the eighteenth century. Thus, the price of tin products dropped and tinware became an everyday homeware for common people. It should be noted that tin was utilized in the Qing court for special objects. The first application was the production of ritual objects known as xiangtong. Secondly, the missionaries, such as Jean-Denis Attiret, drew oil painting on tin-mercury amalgam mirror known as reverse painting on glass. This article reveals the achievements and effects of the domestic tin trade and international exchange for the Qing Dynasty since the eighteenth century.

2nd half

New Empirical Evidence for Global History in China: The Local Gazetteers to Analyze Consumption and Trade Networks (XVIth-XIXth centuries)

Manuel Perez Garcia

Maritime trade organisation in late Ming and early Qing ‘s China: Dynamics and constraints

François Gipouloux

Between Community, Trade and Finance: Communal Agents in the Sephardi Diaspora (18th Century)

Evelyne Oliel-Grausz

Catholic religion as a way for setting up trade relations and an intermediary for Sino-European technological exchanges in the 19th century

Chuan-Hui MAU

In 1844, when Théodose de Lagrené (1800-1862) was drafting the first Treaty between France and China (the Treaty of Whampoa黃埔條約) with the Imperial Commissioner Keying (Qiying耆英, 1787–1858), he believed that the Catholicism might have been useful for French interests in China. He thus managed to integrate into the Treaty articles allowing building Catholic churches in opened trade ports. Shortly after the Embassy of Lagrené, his secretary Charles de Montigny (1805-1868) had been appointed as vice-consul at French Consulate in Shanghai. During his term of office, he supported European missionaries and Chinese believers. Simultaneously he used the diligence of Christian communities for reaching industrial and commercial goals. The present paper will take the example of Mongtigny and his predecessors to examine the role of religion in the scientific, technological and commercial exchanges between France and China in the 19th century.

In 1844, when Théodose de Lagrené (1800-1862) was drafting the first Treaty between France and China (the Treaty of Whampoa黃埔條約) with the Imperial Commissioner Keying (Qiying耆英, 1787–1858), he believed that the Catholicism might have been useful for French interests in China. He thus managed to integrate into the Treaty articles allowing building Catholic churches in opened trade ports. Shortly after the Embassy of Lagrené, his secretary Charles de Montigny (1805-1868) had been appointed as vice-consul at French Consulate in Shanghai. During his term of office, he supported European missionaries and Chinese believers. Simultaneously he used the diligence of Christian communities for reaching industrial and commercial goals. The present paper will take the example of Mongtigny and his predecessors to examine the role of religion in the scientific, technological and commercial exchanges between France and China in the 19th century.