Misconception 5: Traditional Culture Made China’s Science Lag
Looking from the 21st century back at ancient China, it may seem that society was backwards and lagged behind the rest of the world. But the reality was quite the contrary.
China’s science and technology were unsurpassed around the world until Europe underwent the Industrial Revolution. Indeed, some innovations crucial to European military and cultural development, like paper, printing, the compass, and gunpowder were first invented in China. They only spread westward some 700 years later.
Eras like the Han, Song, and Tang Dynasties are replete with brilliant doctors, poets, and generals who devised medicines, prose, and military tactics that would leave many of today’s experts in awe.
It was only after the Opium Wars in the mid-19th century that a chasm in scientific and technological development opened between China and the West. But this was precisely because the Qing Dynasty’s governments deviated from traditional China’s adaptive spirit and openness to innovation.
The gap was further widened in the 20th century with Mao Zedong’s Anti-Rightist Campaign that targeted intellectuals, and the Cultural Revolution that inflicted severe punishments on educated Chinese. Even today, despite China’s economic advancements, Communist Party repression, corruption, and censorship hinder Chinese intellectuals and scientists from reaching new heights.
Who knows what wonders a revival of traditional Chinese culture and openness in a globalized and technologically advanced world might give birth to?
This is precisely what Shen Yun seeks to find out.
September 12, 2011