In the study of Chinese science it is important to take into account the fact that there are many Chinese terms which do not convey exactly the same meanings to traditional and modern scholars. It is essential to try to put ourselves in theshoes of the former in order to have a better understanding of classical Chinese texts. Take for example the simple term shuxue, which we all take to mean ‘mathematics’. Indeed we are quite correct to call it ‘ mathematics’ when it appears in a modern text, or after the time of Li Shanlan (1811–1982) who first used itwhen he translated Western mathematical works into Chinese. However, when the term shuxue appears in any text written before the time of Li Shanlan it can often be dangerous to use the modern meaning of the term without circumspection. I quote a passage on the Biography of Zhang Zhong from the Ming waish. contained in the Imperial Compendium Gujin tushu jicheng which reads:
(Zhang) Zhong was studying at his youth and presented himself at the jinshi level of civil examinations. However, he failed, and whereupon he gave rein to roaming among the mountains and streams. On one occasion he came across an extraordinarily gifted person and learned shuxue from him. (Henceforth) he talked about future destiny, and was often uncanny in accuracy.
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