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The development of exchanges in science and technology between China and other counties in the Yuan Dynasty and the role of Shangdu

Li Di, Feng Lisheng (Huhehot, China)

The Yuan Dynasty was of great importance in the history of exchanges in science and technology between China and other countries. There have been many studies on the content of these exchanges and we intend to publish another paper on the topic. In the present paper we approach the topic from a general perspective. The paper composes of the following five parts:

1. The general situation: Exchanges during the Yuan Dynasty were more frequent than before. The content of these exchanges involved many subject areas, such as astronomy, mathematics, medicine, geography, firearms and mechanical tools, architecture, biology etc. The geographical area concerned was also very large, stretching to Central Asia, the Middle East, Western Asia, Southeast Asia, Indo-China, Europe and the banks of the Indian Ocean.

2. Factors in development: First, improved communications enhanced the chances foe exchanges in science and technology. Second, Mongolia's rise attracted many peoples interest in the "Orient". Third, military and political activities brought about exchanges in science and technology. Finally, the Yuan Dynasty's rulers took an active approach to the introduction of foreign science and technology.

3. Role of Shangdu: Shangdu (located at today's Zhenlan Qi, Inner Mongolia) was one of the political and cultural centres of China in the Yuan Dynasty. The famous Huihui Observatory and Huihui medical academy and other centres of learning were at Shangdu, and many scholars, both the native and foreign, were gathered here.

4. Characteristics of these exchanges: First, Yuan Dynasty rulers took the initiative in introducing foreign science and technology. Second, most of the exchanges in science and technology were concerned with state activities. Finally, any exchange in any subject with countries was welcome.

5. Experience and lessons: The most important factor of the development of exchanges was rulers' attitudes. Such exchanges were very active in the first half of the Yuan Dynasty but stagnated in the second half of that Dynasty, alternating according to the changes of the Emperors' attitudes. During the later Yuan Dynasty exchanges stagnated. Foreign knowledge introduced into China did not became widespread, limited only to some scholars and regions. Chinese scholars did not deeply study foreign science and technology introduced into Chinese.

It is useful for today's practises to study these exchanges in the Yuan Dynasty.

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