China and Inner Asia
Organized Panel Session
This project investigates the beginning of historiography of Chinese artisans in the context of industrialization and state building. In conversation with other presentations of the panel, I examine the relationship between the administrative texts of the prime minister and businessman Zhu Qiqian (1872–1964) and the artifacts exemplifying artisanal work that his team collected. By analyzing how the textual description and systemization subsume information extracted from artifacts according to political and economic agendas, I hope to understand how the so-called technocratic approach that Zhu acquired in his early training at the Qing imperial court impacted his collecting of artisanal knowledge and initiation of state-building projects for the Republic of China in the early twentieth century.
First, I try to detect what his agenda was in the preservation of artisanal knowledge. On both financial and intellectual terms, he founded the Society for the Study of Chinese Architecture and Engineering (Zhongguo yingzao xueshe) and mobilized a community of internationally educated scholars to retrieve artisanal technology. Second, I hope to position his historiography of the cultural heritage of handicraft in his overall industrial planning and the diplomatic stance in the negotiations concerning industrial opportunity and national sovereignty when confronting western representatives in railway construction and mining industry. In brief, I hope to explore how technocracy, especially the deployment of handicraft, bridged the statecraft from the late Qing empire to Republican China.