IQN and My Recent Academic Work

DENG Liang (Tsinghua University, former IQN program student)

I am now working at the Institute for History of Science and Technology and Ancient Texts at Tsinghua University. After having finished my master thesis, I got the chance to participate in the IQN program. I was in Erlangen between October 2002 and March 2003, and my research subject at that time was “Joseph Edkins’ scientific research in China.” The academic training in Erlangen was fundamental for my later academic career.

After I returned to China, I worked for a short time, from 2003 until 2004, in the Teaching and Research Department for Philosophy of Science and Technology at China Science and Technology University. From 2006 to 2009, I studied again at the Research Institute for History of Natural Science, Chinese Academy of Sciences, to obtain my doctor degree. My instructor was Prof. Han Qi, who was also a fellow of IQN. After that, I entered the Research Institute of Science and Society in Tsinghua University for postdoctoral research. Since 2011 I have being working in the Institute for History of Science and Technology and Ancient Texts at Tsinghua University.

The experience in Erlangen has left a mark on my research subjects. The interest in the knowledge exchange between West and China has resulted in my dissertation, which entitles “The Spread of Western Astronomical History in late Qing Dynasty (1853-1898) – Centring on Personages and Astronomic Discoveries.” The thesis was a preliminary study on the first spread of Western history of astronomy in the late Qing Dynasty with a focus on astronomers and astronomical discoveries. It contains textual studies of Ruan Yuan’s Chouren Zhuan (Biographies of Mathematicians and Astronomers) and case studies focusing on the introduction of Newton and new planetary discoveries to China in the late Qing Dynasty.

After the Ph.D. project I decided to deepen the understanding on the Chouren Zhuan. My post-doctoral research has resulted in a study entitled “Punctuation and Research of the Chouren Zhuan and its Sequels.” I studied the transmissions of the Chouren Zhuan and its sequels, punctuated and annotated the texts, made some reflections on research methodology. I added preliminary explorations of some Western writings by using cases of Dong Yuqi and Descartes as examples.

Finally, I would like to report some of my academic undertakings in the recent years: together with Professor Feng Lisheng and Zhang Junfen I published “The compilation of the Chouren Zhuan with annotation” in 2012. Furthermore, I have participated in the compilation work of the “Chinese Canon - Mathematical Canon.” Among others I was responsible for the compilation of mathematical works in the late Qing.

Looking back on my academic development it became very clear how influential my experience in Erlangen was: my scholarly focus on the interchange between Chinese and Western science and technology, my working methodology, and my academic network all started with the IQN project. Please allow me to thank Prof. Lackner and the IQN project!




The Turning Point of My Life: the Experience of IQN in Erlangen

FU Banghong (University of Science and Technology of China, former IQN program student)

The IQN experience in Erlangen is a turning point for me with regard to my development in the academia and my attitude towards life. My stay here was from April to October 2002. The research topic was “Sino-West exchange of optics at the late Ming (1368-1644) and early Qing (1644-1911).” Before coming to Erlangen, I was preparing the graduation of my master degree in order to get a management position in my university. After receiving the invitation letter from Prof. Michael Lackner, I changed the original plan, delayed the graduation, and started a real academic career.

In addition to my own research tasks, together with the other five Chinese program students and some German students, I took part in many academic lectures. Teachers like Prof. Lackner, Prof. Wolfgang Lippert, Prof. Xiong Yuezhi, Prof. Wang Yangzong, Prof. Iwo Amelung, Prof. Joachim Kurtz, and Dr. Michael Schimmelfennig offered various interesting courses for us. We also got German classes for two months. Among those teachers, Prof. Xiong Yuezhi, Prof. Wang Yangzong, Prof. Amelung and Prof. Kurtz were particularly influential for my later decision of the doctoral thesis.

After I returned to China, I received my master degree and began to work as a teacher in USTC. If I had not got the experience in Erlangen, this could not be possible. For my research, the IQN experience was very helpful. I specified my research field in the relationship of science and society in modern China, particularly from the perspective of knowledge exchange between China and the West.

Now, I am still following this research interest. My current work focuses on the popularization of knowledge about women's health care since the Republican period (1911-1949), especially with regard to the acceptance of the Western health knowledge, the conflict of social and historical ideas, as well as the relevant governmental policies. An example of my research topics is the induced abortion, which has become a serious social problem in present-day China. I focus on questions such as: what was the perception of abortion in Republican China, considering its terms, theories and discussions? What was the interaction between the new knowledge and the traditional view? What is the difference between abortion and other conceptions of science such as the planning activities of science? Knowledge exchange has always been a systematic matter – even the exchange itself could change a lot.

In short, more than ten years have passed since I graduated from the IQN, but its impact on me has never ceased. Some of the memories are in deed unforgettable and lifelong. I want to thank Prof. Lackner and the IQN project for giving me the opportunity to come to Erlangen, to study how to do research and how to be an upright person.




From the Erlangen IQN to My Current Research

GUO Jinhai (Institute for the History of Natural Sciences, Chinese Academy of Sciences, former IQN program student)

Undeniably, the participation in the IQN project is an influential academic experience for me. As a member of the first group of program students, I came to Erlangen in October 2001. I spent one year in Erlangen as a Ph.D. candidate and left to China in September 2002. My research topic in the IQN project was investigating the roles of imported knowledge in the evolution of mathematics as a discipline at Tsinghua University and in China during the Republican Period (1911-1949).

The title of my doctoral dissertation is “The Department of Mathematics of Tsinghua University and Modern Mathematics in China.” Based on materials found in archives and other related original documents, my doctoral dissertation systematically studies the history of the Department of Mathematics at Tsinghua University from 1927 to 1952. In addition, it explores the Department's impact on the establishment and development of modern mathematics as a discipline in China; it reconstructs the historical process of the institutionalization as well as the development of modern mathematics in China, and further reflects upon the relationship between the modern mathematical education in universities and the social, cultural, economic and other factors.

One year after I graduated from the IQN project, I received my Ph.D. degree in Chinese Academy of Sciences in 2003. And then I worked at the Institute for the History of Natural Sciences of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. My main research field now remains the history of modern mathematics in China.

The IQN project’s impacts on me are threefold: firstly, it taught me new knowledge, broadened my academic horizon, and improved my research ability; secondly, I was impressed and encouraged by the teachers’ professional competence and diligence in academic research; thirdly, my academic experience in the IQN project laid an important foundation for the completion of my doctoral dissertation.
Finally, please allow me to express my sincere thanks for all teachers in the Erlangen IQN project.  




From IQN to IKGF: Review and Reflection of the Past Thirteen Years

Li Fan (Beijing Normal University, former IQN fellow)

From October 2002 to January 2003 I was invited to give the program students of the IQN a class on the “theory of the conjuncture between China and West” in the end of Qing dynasty (1644-1911). At the same time I was carrying on my own research on the sources of the Western knowledge of renowned Chinese scholars, such as Zhang Taiyan and Liu Shipei, especially on the relationship between the theory of the French sinologist Terrien de Lacouperie, namely the “Western origin of the Chinese race and civilization,” and the Nationalism in modern China. During my stay in Erlangen I collected many important materials in the library of the Sinology Department at the University Erlangen-Nuremberg as well as at the University Heidelberg.

The participation in the IQN program has deeply influenced my research. After I returned to China I decided to deepen the subject that I taught in Erlangen. And my research in this field has resulted in several publications, including Liu Shipei and the Chinese and Western Sciences, and Modern Science as the Convergence of Classic and Modern, China and West.

The influence of IQN goes on until today. In May 2011 I participated in the IKGF project (University Erlangen-Nuremberg). My former researches on the knowledge exchange between China and West in the end of Qing dynasty on the one hand, and the Neo-Confucianism during the Qing on the other hand have extended a new research subject on fate. During my stay at IKGF I undertook the research on the "study of fate" as seen in modern China's intellectual transformation, and published a paper together with Prof. Michael Lackner in the journal Shehui kexue (Social sciences).

From IQN to IKGF, without IQN my development as a scholar would be different today. In certain sense, the IQN and later the IKGF have accomplished my academic career. In addition, these two projects give me the chance to know the operation system of German academia, which enables me to compare with and reflect on the situation in China. In deed, the Sinology Department and the vivid research projects here in Germany can provide us a lot of experience in training young scholars. I could use my own background in Erlangen as reference to rethink how to improve the disciplinary construction of the intercultural studies in China.




Reflections on My Experience of the IQN Project

LÜ Lingfeng (University of Science and Technology of China, former IQN program student)

When I came to Erlangen for the IQN program, I was doing my Ph.D. research on the conflict between the Western and Chinese astronomy with regard to the accuracy of calendar making during the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing dynasty (1644-1911). At that time I was a newcomer in the field of astronomical history.

Due to the lack of background knowledge, my research mainly consisted in data analysis before I came to Erlangen. During the IQN period I took the classes of Prof. Michael Lackner and Prof. Han Qi on the astronomical observations by the Jesuit missionaries in China during the 17th and 18th centuries. Prof. Han introduced us his experience of search for sources, and Prof. Lackner guided us to read the primary source The Ture Meaning of the Lord of Heaven. This was my first in depth encounter with the research field. Little by little I started to have a new understanding on my research interest: I no longer see myself as a natural scientist, but a historian with special focus on the history of knowledge exchange.

Actually my Ph.D. research almost does not touch the period of the beginning of the 20th century. But during the IQN period, I attended to some classes by Prof. Xiong Yuezhi, Prof. Wang Yangzong and Prof. Zhang Qing. These classes have enlarged my research framework and I was able to follow the latest research results. After my stay in Erlangen, I offered a class on the exchange history of science and technology between China and the West at my home university in China. The classes I had taken in Erlangen were very important reference for my own teaching.

Another unforgettable story in Erlangen was my experience with German scholars. At that time I decided to apply the Humboldt-Scholarship. As a young scholar from China I did not know how to apply such a renowned scholarship. Joachim Kurtz, who was a fellow of the IQN program at that time, provided me tremendous help in improving my application proposal. I was so impressed by his rigorous working attitude, especially his patience and skillfulness in dealing with details. For me, that experience was almost a shock. Until today I often teach my students with this example.

My experience in the IQN did not cease with the end of the program. Instead, the IQN members have naturally created an academic network, which has been very active in the past years. In 2009 my home institute in China has invited altogether 32 scholars from Europe and the USA for academic visits, many of them were old friends of the IQN program. In 2011 we organized the International Conference on the History of Science in East Asia, and in 2013 the 8th International Conference on the History of Astronomy in East Asia. Many of the attendants were directly or indirectly connected with the IQN program. For me, this is a clear sign how the IQN program has enriched our academic network, and indirectly pushed forward the internationalization of my field in China.

Erlangen was my first contact to the world outside China. When I was a program student of IQN, I could not foresee how this experience may influence my entire life. In the past twelve years, my connection to this city has never weakened. I spent altogether four years in this city and the Friedrich-Alexander-University of Erlangen-Nuremberg has become doubtlessly my second alma mater.  




Discovering Shanghai in Germany; Discovering Germany in Shanghai

SHENG Feng (Shanghai Morning Post, former IQN program student)

The story I would like to share is probably different from most of the former participants of the IQN program, because my personal development turned out quite different compared to most of them. Instead of academic field, I am working in the media sector. In my opinion, however, my story stands out to reflect upon another dimension of the IQN project. That is to say, it not only can train students to become scholars, but also nourish their talents in other working fields.

I came to Germany in October 2001 as one of the three master students of the first IQN project group. Like many other students it was my first time to come to Germany. Therefore, those six months were not only an academic experience, but also a life experience. Take me as an example, before I came to Erlangen, the things I knew about Germany were the German football teams and the cities they belong to - actually before I came to Germany I was supporting Italian football. But by the time I returned to China, I had already become a true fan of the German Football Team, and I am still supporting it even today.

I can still remember when first I arrived in Germany, I actually didn’t have any clearly defined research topic yet, I only knew I wanted to study something about the history of the city Shanghai. During the period when I was in Erlangen, I noticed one concrete research field: the Shanghai City Guide Book. Especially with the support of Prof. Michael Lackner and Dr. Michael Schimmelpfenning, I went to Lyon and Heidelberg to collect materials. There I found important documents and studies, which broadened my view on the research topic. I also met Prof. Rudolf Wagner and Christian Heriot, who are outstanding scholars for historical research on Shanghai. I have benefited a lot from the direct communication with them. In 2003, the Shanghai Outstanding Master Theses Selection awarded my MA thesis a prize. For that I must express my gratitude to the IQN project in Erlangen and all the scholars and program members for giving me support.

After graduation, I started to work at the influential Shanghai Morning Post. During my work I realize how much the IQN project has in fact influenced my career as a journalist. First, in 2004, the newspaper agency sent me to Athens for interviews at the Olympic Games, because I am familiar with Europe. At the same time, due to my former research on Shanghai history, I was the responsible editor for the newspaper’s Shanghai history and culture page. Within four or five years I have finished almost one hundred articles about various topics of the history of Shanghai.

Secondly, in 2009 I began to undertake exploration work for a project concerning local newspapers. Suddenly I remembered the several local newspapers I had read in Erlangen, and they have become an inspiration to me. When I just arrived in Germany, these newspapers made me immediately understand some of the local lifestyles, and I started to understand the city I was living in. For example, reading the match results of several Erlangen football teams every week was something routine in my life. Our local newspaper project now has already become exemplary for the transformation of the Chinese media: in Shanghai there are already 43 local newspapers with a volume of circulation of 1,500,000.

Until now I have already been working in the newspaper agency for twelve years. I would like to thank for my experiences in Erlangen, which allow me to become a good journalist today, one of the best reporters for topics on German culture in Shanghai, and one of the best reporters for topics on travelling in Europe.




The IQN Program in Erlangen and My Academic Career

YU Wei (Fudan University, former IQN program student)

In October 2001, I became a program student of the first phase of the Erlangen IQN program. After an entire year of study I went back to China. Although my research focuses on the political history and historical geography of the Song, Liao and Jin periods in China, which were dynasties 1000 years ago, the experience of IQN has influenced me in various aspects during the past fourteen years.

Some of the experiences in Erlangen have had great impact on my development. One is Prof. Michael Lackner’s class on Chinese intellectual history. It was very different from the approach and research angle that Chinese scholars usually apply. From that time on I started to pay attention to scholarship outside China and also take it as a reference into my own research. In addition, the teachers and tutors of the IQN have given us comprehensive training. Iwo Amelung and Joachim Kurtz provided us various supports in life and work. Especially Joachim Kurtz, who was at that time my tutor, gave me in depth suggestions on my research subject, discussed with me how to search for sources and secondary studies. For the first time I experienced the process of a complete research. Last but not least, I learnt tremendously from the visiting scholars. Their lectures and classes have broadened my horizon, and the communications with them often resulted in deep admiration and inspiration.

The experience in the IQN program in Erlangen has definitely left a trace on my research habit. The training on research angle and methodology was so impactful that even today, when dealing with a new research subject or training my students, I always start with these two points. The seminars of IQN showed me how interdisciplinary research approach can stimulate our thinking and how discussions can contribute to our understanding. The passion for critical thinking and debate has become a “label” of mine in the research field I belong to. In the recent years, Fudan University increasingly emphasizes the role of seminars in the education of BA students. I encourage my students to enjoy the freedom of academic debates. Despite of many difficulties, the result is obvious: more and more students seem to be influenced by my passion. In this way I hope to pass my experience of the IQN program to more and more young Chinese scholars.  

As an approach to integrate students, the “program students” of IQN was an innovation. In this sense, we are the products of this experiment. For each of us, the concrete research during that short time might be limited, but the approaches, methodology, and concepts that the program taught us are influential for our academic development. More important, through us, they will be beneficial to more and more scholars in China. This is the extraordinary merit of the IQN program. Please allow me to show my gratitude to the Erlangen IQN program, to Prof. Michael Lackner, and to all teachers and tutors.




My Encounter with Erlangen IQN

ZHA Xiaoying (Sichuan University, former IQN program student)

Eleven years ago, I went abroad for the first time as a Ph.D. candidate. At that time, for me, out of China there were only two kinds of countries: the weaker ones comparing to China, and the stronger ones. Germany, France, Great Britain, USA… regardless of their differences, for me they all belonged to the Western stronger countries. On the other hand I learned from some researchers on Chinese modern history that the differences among these Western countries were in deed very important. They criticized phrases like the “Western influence” for being indistinct. Confronted with these two different views I wanted to feel by myself what kind of differences there were among the Western countries.

After I arrived at Erlangen, I remember, I had little heavy task to do. Slowly I began to adapt to the unfamiliar life circumstances: from white bread and black bread, Brussels sprout, to various cheese and bier, from Schlossgarten in Erlangen to Bayreuth, Bamberg… My first impression of this country was “green”: forests are always beside cities and towns - they are so beautiful especially in spring. The second cultural shock was the continuity of tradition: buildings with hundreds years of histories are everywhere and still accommodate residents; books published one hundred years ago are convenient to find.

At that time, my dissertation was focused on the history of Chinese archaeology of the 20th century, so I wanted to know the Western, especially the German-American scholars’ role in it. It was during the IQN period that I got to know scholars like Friedrich Hirth, Franz Boas, and Berthold Laufer and read some of their books. Hirth was born in 1845. He worked in the Chinese maritime customs, and learned Chinese history and culture; he later took charge of sinological research at the American Columbia University. Boas was born in 1858, learned geography and anthropology, and is considered as the “father of American anthropology”; Laufer was born in 1874, renowned as the most excellent sinologist in the 1930s in the USA. These three famous American scholars in fact were all born in Germany, educated here, and their lifelong researches all follow the theory of historicism, which also derived from Germany.

Boas was in particular important for my research. Li Ji, the “father of Chinese archaeology,” was deeply influenced by him. Li Ji was not a student of Boas, but his research agrees to a great extent with him: both emphasized that natural and cultural environments, especially the latter, could change physical traits; and both underlined the limitation of comparative methodology, and considered the historical method as fundamental.

The experience in Erlangen has broadened my horizon - not only I found important materials for my PhD thesis, it was also a chance for me to understand the rest of the world with my own eyes. I want to thank Prof. Michael Lackner for the IQN project and thank the University Erlangen-Nuremberg.