Research Project


Meteorology for a Troubled Age: The 'Weathermen' of Jiangnan and the Global Co-Emergence of an Early Modern Culture of Science-Making

Qiong Zhang

This book project investigates two interlinked developments in seventeenth-century Chinese natural studies within the broader context of the Ming-Qing transition and the Sino-European and Intra-East Asian cross-cultural interactions: the emergence of what appeared to be an integrated discourse about the weather, and the formation of a new culture of science-making with apparent parallels to that which gave rise to modern science in contemporary Western Europe. The central figures in both stories are members of a scholarly network based in the Lower Yangzi River Delta (“Jiangnan”) and adjacent areas: Xiong Mingyu (1579 –1649), Fang Yizhi (1611–1671), Jie Xuan (1613–1695), and You Yi (ca. 1614 –1684), as well as their sons. Of particular relevance to the theme of this fellowship is my study of how these scholars developed a synthesis of Neo-Confucian cosmology and Aristotelian meteorology from which to reconstruct two hitherto largely separately transmitted prognostic practices. The first is fengyu zhan 風雨占, literally, the prediction of wind and rain, while the second is Wangqi 望氣, the art of observing and interpreting phantom images presumably projected into the sky by the Qi of human individuals and entire communities.

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