Chinese translation of De re metallica discovered

Kunyu gezhi (1640): End of the table of contents, with seals and a note added by later reader Photo: Dr. Cao Jin, by courtesy of Nanjing Library

Scholars from the University of Tübingen have discovered a 17th century Chinese translation of large parts of De re metallica or On the Nature of Metals, a mining handbook written by Georgius Agricola in 1556.

Rapid Invention, Slow Industrialization, and the Absent Entrepreneur in Medieval China

17th century Map of China

For some sixteen centuries, about eight times the length of the period since the onset of England’s Industrial Revolution, China was the source of an astonishing outpouring of inventions that included a vast variety of prospectively valuable novelties as diverse as printing, the blast furnace, the spinning wheel, the wheelbarrow, and playing cards, in addition to the more widely recognized gunpowder and compass.

The First Great Divergence?


The ‘Papal Revolution’ in late eleventh and early twelfth century western Europe and the unsuccessful campaign by Wang An Shi and his followers to reform the imperial administration of Song China at just the same time are regarded as critical turning points in their respective histories.

Hellenes and Romans in Ancient China (240 BC – 1398 AD)

17th century map of China, by Johan Nieuhof (1618-1672)

In this article I have assembled elements from historical texts, archaeological discoveries and research from other scholars in order to establish the links between these civilizations.

How the Jin Loyalists Made a New Home in the South

17th century map of China, by Johan Nieuhof (1618-1672)

The events of the transition from the Western Jin (265-316) to Eastern Jin dynasties (317-420) at the turn of the fourth century affected not only the people and history of that era, but also the development of China and Chinese culture today.

Comparing China and India in the 9th century

Late 16th century map showing China and India - Abraham Ortelius (1527–1598)

A ninth-century Arabic text offers insights into daily life in medieval China and India.

The Pre-History of Gunpowder

An illustration of a fire arrow rocket launcher as depicted in the 11th century book Wujing Zongyao.

There is a Chinese tradition that a cook carrying a bowl of saltpetre slipped and dropped it onto a charcoal fire. That would certainly create a considerable conflagration but, as the ingredients were not mixed, hardly an explosion.

Small Talk: A New Reading of Marco Polo’s Il milione

Marco Polo

It is perhaps not that surprising that we find the narrative pattern reflected in Il milione conforms nicely to the expectations of the Chinese genre of small talk.

Maritime Southeast Asia: The View from Tang-Song China

southeast Asia

The following are annotated, critical translations of monographs from the Older and Newer Tang Histories concerning the foreign peoples and kingdoms of Maritime Southeast Asia.

Which Chinese Emperor Are You?

Which Chinese Emperor Are You?

Take this quiz to see which Ming or Qing emperor you are most similar to.

A First Escape from Poverty in Late Medieval Japan: Evidence from Real Wages in Kyoto (1360-1860)

Muromachi Samurai (1538)

This paper offers a first investigation of long-term trends in Japanese living standards from the mid-14th to the mid-19th century using urban daily wages and price data for a number of basic commodities.

Odorico from Pordenone and his encounter with China (1318-1330)


Odorico from Pordenone was a Franciscan Friar, who made a journey from Venice to Peking in the first half of the fourteenth century

Marvels and Allies in the East. India as Heterotopia of Latin Europe in the 12th Century

Medieval India

It has long been said that Latin Europe lost its connection to the East, specifically to Asia, in the early Middle Ages. But this is only part of the truth. From late Antiquity on, there were Christians in many places between the Mediterranean Sea and China.

Tremors in the Web of Trade: Complexity, Connectivity and Criticality in the Mid-Eighth Century Eurasian World

Map of Eurasia from 1706

Events within a fifteen-year period in mid-eighth century Eurasia included the Abbasid revolution, An Lu-shan’s Rebellion in Tang China, and the collapse or emergence of empires from Frankish Europe to Tibet to the kingdom of Srivajaya.

The Forbidden City comes to Toronto

Janet Carding

The Royal Ontario Museum will be hosting the exhibition ‘The Forbidden City: Inside the Court of China’s Emperors’ beginning on March 8, 2014.

Islamic Astronomy in Medieval China

A portrait of Khubilai Khanm First Emperor of the Yuan Dynasty

In 1271, Kublai Khan founded the Bureau of Islamic Astronomy in Peking, which operated alongside the long-established Chinese Astronomical Bureau.

Inter-religious Debate at the Court of the Early Tang: An Introduction to Daoxuan’s Ji gujin Fo Dao lunheng

Medieval China

During Six dynasties, Daoists as well as Buddhists gained access to the highest levels of society and to the imperial court in the south and in the north of China.

Western Turks and Byzantine gold coins found in China

Solidus-Justin II

In general, before the 1980′s, most scholars treated these finds as evidences for the frequent connection between Byzantine and China, which could be further associated with the seven-times visits of Fulin (Rum) emissaries recorded in Tang literature. However, after the 1980′s, more and more researchers tended to take these gold coins as a result of prosperous international trade along silk road.

The Trebuchet

Byzantine Trebuchet - 11th century

Recent reconstructions and computer simulations reveal the operating principles of the most powerful weapon of its time

Dark ages and dark areas: global deforestation in the deep past

Early Middle Ages - Dark Ages

The ‘darkness’ that envelopes the ages and areas of the forest of the past consists broadly of two elements. First, there are the problems intrinsic to forests as living ecosystems or entities. Many of these are still more or less uncertain and murky. Second, there are the difficulties of knowing what human activity took place.

Why the Scientific Revolution Did Not Take Place in China – or Didn’t It?

Chinese Science

Why, between the first century BC and the fifteenth century AD, Chinese civilization was much more efficient than occidental in applying human natural knowledge to practical human needs

Earliest historical records of typhoons in China

typhoon china

The typhoon as a weather phenomenon was frequently mentioned, described, and discussed in many works, including history books, poems and government documents, in the ninth century AD.

How Not to (Re)Write World History: Gavin Menzies and the Chinese Discovery of America

1421: The Year China Discovered America

The author’s attempt to rewrite world history, however, is based on a hodgepodge of circular reasoning, bizarre speculation, distorted sources, and slapdash research.

Lost Leviathans: The Technology of Zheng He’s Voyages

Early 17th century Chinese woodblock print, thought to represent Zheng He's ships

The key vessels of the voyages, Zheng He’s ‘Treasure Junks’ or Bao Chuan, had the purpose of displaying the might and awe of China to encourage other nations to enter the tribute system.

Singers, advisers, and servants: role of eunuchs from a historical context

Zheng He - eunuchs

According to the Book of Matthew, Jesus said that there were eunuchs made of men, who had made them- selves by their fathers to be that way for heaven’s sake, and if they have received such a procedure, then let them keep it. Jesus referred to castration as an infallible way to achieve celibacy. And records of Christian history indicate that many Christian religious figures were castrated.

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