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Different clusters of text from ancient China, different mathematical ontologies

Abstract : Sources attesting to mathematical activities in ancient China form at least four distinct clusters of texts, bespeaking at least four different—though overlapping—ways of practicing mathematics. This chapter focuses on two such sets of documents: the canons that in the seventh century constituted one of the two curricula taught in the Imperial “School of Mathematics,” and manuscripts recently excavated from tombs sealed in the last centuries BCE. I argue that these two sets of documents testify to two different ways of practicing mathematics, which related to different material practices. Accordingly, we can perceive that mathematical objects were shaped and explored in different ways, with significant consequences for the knowledge produced. This chapter is the reprint of an article published under the same title in HAU: Journal of Ethnographic Theory, 9, n° 1, 2019, p. 99–112. Can be downloaded from
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Contributor : Karine Chemla <>
Submitted on : Wednesday, January 6, 2021 - 9:03:42 PM
Last modification on : Thursday, January 7, 2021 - 3:38:15 AM


  • HAL Id : halshs-03100991, version 1


Karine Chemla. Different clusters of text from ancient China, different mathematical ontologies. Geoffrey E. R. Lloyd et Aparecida Vilaça (éds.). Science in the Forest, Science in the Past, HAU Books, University of Chicago Press, pp.121-145, 2020. ⟨halshs-03100991⟩



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