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Jiangnan Arsenal and Western Science and Technology into the Late Qing China

Zhang Zengyi (Shangong, China)

Translating Western scientific and technological works into Chinese is one of the most important ways for China to learn from the West in the late Qing China. The Translation Bureau, attached with the Jiangnan Arsenal, Shanghai, was the only professional translating and publishing organization supported by the Qing government at that time.

In the first part of this article I will give a brief introduction of its establishment and the background, which China needed to learn Western science, especially technology.

In the second part I will try to answer how many books were published by Jiangnan Arsenal and what the characteristics of each period during its more than 40 years translation were. According to the sources that I can find as many as possible, I think, Jiangnan Arsenal had published 200 books. They covered almost all scientific and technological disciplines of that time. I will show the translators paid more attention to technological books than to scientific ones in the first stage (1868 - 1979), but after 1880 the situation reversed.

In the third part I try to answer how about the published books and what fates of the books were. I focused on the scientific books and demonstrated that many of the scientific books were translated from masterpieces of that time. Maybe, so did the technological books. Unfortunately, these publications were not widely welcome among the whole society at least before 1895.

At last I try to evaluate its position during the translating activities in the late Qing China. I conclude that the Translating Bureau was the most important translating organization to introduce Western science and technology into China until the end of the nineteenth century.

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