The Traditional Chinese Worldview

The aspect of worldview entails a set of values and beliefs that society attaches meaning to the reality surrounding it. The traditional Chinese Worldview thrives in logic and linear reasoning, but is often considered fictional or superstitious based on its key concepts, especially compared to the modern understanding.

According to the Chinese worldview, all that is natural and supernatural are different forms of “qi” and in theory, every existence consists of both “yin qi” and “yang qi.” These are neutral when existing in a balanced state but become good or bad when there is an excess of any of the two. The constant and ceaseless interaction between these two forces gives rise to growth and change in the whole cosmos, a three-tiered world made up of heaven above, earth in the middle, and the place below. The Chinese culture values the collective benefit over individual benefit, as well as the duty, and obligation over individual rights and roles, while the positions in society are emphasized compared to Western culture, which emphasizes on democracy. They value hard work and achievement in school and employment rather than emphasizing on personal adjustment and social responsibility.

However, according to Sivin, the discoveries in the past 30 years are not enough to indicate that the modern science evolved because of European efforts, and no other civilization had practiced science on its own accord. It has been understood that scientific traditions, which are different from European traditions, especially in fundamental aspects, existed in the Islamic world, India, China, and smaller civilizations (165). At the center of this unearthing, the record of innovation and technical endeavor has been fullest, continuous, accessible, and most exactly dated in China. If a Chinese visited a European city of his or her choice back in 1400, he/she would have considered it underdeveloped. So one wonders, “why the scientific revolution did not take place in China?” or why modern science did not develop independently in China. Sivin proceeds to answer these questions by explaining that some of the reasons for the reversal in technological dominance in China were affected by centuries of disastrous administration policies, increasing population, and a large degree of social stability and cultural uniformity that left traditional norms gradually incapacitated by intellectual doctrines. Other reasons arose in Europe, mainly a universally measurable approach towards the manufacturing process, which reshaped and redefined society, nature, and human consciousness (166).

The influence of the scientific and industrial revolution was so great that the earlier sciences of China and Europe resemble each other more than either resembles the modern variety. It is a practically universal modern assumption that technological progress and economic benefit are the natural culmination of new scientific knowledge. Before the mid-eighteenth century, emerging modern science did not affect European technology. China industrial revolution began less than 60 years ago. Previously we found sciences and manufacturing techniques that had little in common. The sciences reflected the concerns of the literate minority elite. The technology was a matter of craft traditions passed down privately from father to son or from master to apprentice. China was built mainly on these oral or manual traditions rather than cumulative science recorded in writing. Sivin believes that regardless of how clearly certain features of early science may appear to anticipate today’s knowledge, their contemporary meanings had little in common with those of modern science. Chinese breakthroughs in science are not displayed as a series of achievements derived from superstition but because of their rich culture (171). In essence, it is worth noting that no matter how fictional the Chinese worldview might sound in the modern context, it is, to some extent, a scientific worldview and describing it as superstitious and imaginary would not be a completely accurate assessment.


Works Cited

Sivin Nathan. Heritage of China: contemporary perspectives on Chinese civilization. Ed. Paul S. Ropp. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990.Print.

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