A 32-volume work on The Origin of Sciences and Civilization in China：
40 years of human cognition-culture coevolution research in my life
Since the 1970s when I studied the periodic law of the development of sciences in
writing my New Agricultural Revolution, I have resolved to devote my life to the research on the origin of science and civilization in China. Up to now I have been striving perseveringly for realizing this ideal without any regretting or blaming. Why?
Hegel in his Philosophy of History concludes: “If we compare these kingdoms in the light of their various fates, we find the empire of the two Chinese rives the only durable kingdom in the world.” Why and how the Chinese culture could have cultivated the only durable civilization in the world? These have been long-standing, huge and arduous questions, while Chinese have been searching for answers, the academic circles of all times in the world have been puzzled by them. Even modern academic masters still emphasized these questions, such as Needham’s question “why the Chinese took a leading position in the science and technology in the ancient world?”, and a famous Chinese Archeologist, Mr. Su Bing-qi’s summary of the Chinese historic studies into his two themes: “why the evolution of Chinese culture and civilization could keep their continuity and how did Chinese people form a unified multi-ethnic nation.”…
Since the source of Chinese civilization has just traced to late Shang Dynasty (1300 B.C.) with the unearthed oracle bone inscriptions rather than the legendary “Yellow Emperor Era (3000 B.C.)”, the people’s thirst for solving these questions is getting urgent. As a result, Dr. Wang Wei, director of the Institute of Archeology of Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, points out, it is a critical task for Chinese nation to continue to write its genealogy. All the questions in searching the roots of their culture and exploring the origin of their sciences and civilization have been left unsolved in front of the Chinese people for more than 2500 years. Why? This is because of the lack of systematic studies of the unearthed materials from all the important excavated sites over the country.
To fill these gaps, I have accumulated and analyzed primary unearthed materials on marked and symbolized objects from 438 Pre-Qin sites in China, while learning from the advances in the Western archeology and anthropology. I have classified all the objects into four major categories and 28 subcategories and constructed their genealogies for tracing the evolutional process of each of them. Their genealogies can be used, as evidence chains in comparison with homologues of the cultures of the rest of world in the same period, to trace the evolution of ancient Chinese cognitive abilities in the relevant scientific and civilization fields. The results of these studies are presented in a work of 32 volumes totally titled “The Origin of Chinese Sciences and Civilization “.
Just like Charles Darwin’s tracing the evolution of organisms from original to highest by systematizing paleontological materials, this work traces the co-evolution of various artifacts and artificial symbols attached to them from the simplest observation of the natural phenomena to the ancient China’s four great intentions by systematizing the unearthed materials. Its database has accumulated so much materials that the worldwide application of the cross-cultural comparative method became possible and at the same time indispensable for verifying the unique continuity of Chinese cultural evolution. Based on this database, more and more the gaps in the pre-Qin record have been filled up, compelling us to acknowledge the striking parallelism between the historical sequence of the evolutionary process of ancient Chinese cognitive ability and the logical sequence in which Shang people thought with the oracle bone inscriptions, just as the evolution of an organism in paleontology is related to its development in embryology.
As the information processing means in ancient China, the counting items, the numbers and the numeral groups, and the pictographic characters indicted three major cycles of this process going continuously on through a million of years, each proceeding along the logic of the development of human thought from concrete to abstract and vice versa:
- In the first cycle from vague sense of numbers – concrete counting – abstract counting, ca. 1 million-years ago – 100,000 – 20,000 B.C., along with the development of lunar counting based lunar phasing, there appeared proto-science, advance of concrete to abstract counting and Chinese numerals.
- In the second cycle from abstract counting – concrete lore of proto-sciences – philosophic abstracting, ca. 20,000 – 8,000 – 700 B.C., with odd or even numerals being combined into numeral groups to represent the 4 directions and the 4 cardinal points through 8 period points of a solar year, the 8 trigrams and 64 hexagrams arose, and with them numeral groups were used as proto-writings in formulating and transmitting astronomical, handicraft, agricultural and other techniques of Yi-lore. By applying and advancing Yi-lore, more and more clan collective cooperation started and developed their civilization. With the growth of Chinese civilization from elementary to mature during 2,600-1,000 B.C., numeral groups turned into pictographic characters and Yi-lore was gradually deified and philosophized.
- In the third cycle from Yi-philosophic abstraction – concrete disciplines of Chinese traditional science, ca. 700 B.C. – 1,700 A.D., with further transforming of numeral groups into yin-yang symbolic groups and the increasing applications of Yi-classic, Yi-lore and bronze civilization were converted into traditional science and civilization based on ironware and then their evolution was finally stagnated in the late feudal society.
As the main product of abstract counting evolution under the frequently–occurring disaster conditions of continental monsoon climate, the emergence of numeral groups in the early Neolithic period, ca. 8,000-5,000 B.C., constitute a monumental turning point. They provided a peculiar manner of writing, of arithmetic, of seasoning and accounts. By using them in their application and development of Yi-lore, Chinese ancestors created and practiced an organic mode of thinking, including the induction from add/even dichotomy to 8 trigrams as its Yi-lore paradigm, for their learning to observe and reconstruct nature. Although it was their brilliant intuition, under the domination of such a mode of thinking their struggles for survive as a whole could objectively adapt to the most general laws of development of nature, human society and thought itself. Thus, with the accumulation of innumerable clans’ experiences and new innovations within the framework of this paradigm, they could continuously make various inventions and then take a leading position in the science and technology in the ancient world so that their civilization became the most sustainable one. Following the principle of unity of opposites (Yin/Yang) as the core of this mode of thinking, they overcame over and over again risks of destroying each other and united increasingly wide multi-ethnic tribes into a kingdom with biggest population in the world.
Ⅲ．The first 8 volumes of this work
After the drafts of the 32 volumes were almost finished, I have completed the manuscripts of Chinese versions of the first 8 volumes of this work. The Chinese versions of its first 2 volumes have been published. Their titles are:
Volume 1 Exploring the Origin of Chinese Science:
The Million-year History of the Co-evolution of Human Culture
And Spherical Artifacts
Volume 2The Origin of Chinese Sciences of the Heavens:
The One hundred thousand-year History of the Co-evolution of
Human Culture and Astronomical Instruments
Volume 3The Four Great Inventions of Upper Palaeolithic China:
The Twenty thousand-year History of Upper Palaeolithic Chinese
Volume 4The New Monogenesis of Ancient Writing Systems in the World:
The Ten thousand-year History of the Evolution of Numeral Groups
Volume 5The Origin of Yin-Yang Cosmology and Eight Trigrams:
Fu Xi Yi-lore and the Early Period of the Beginning Stage of
Volume 6The Origin of Chinese Agronomy and Medicine:
Shen Nong Yi-lore and the Late Period of the Beginning Stage of
Volume 7 The Origin of the Five-phase Cycling Theory:
Huang Di Yi-lore and the Early Period of the Elementary Stage of
Volume 8 The Transformation of Prehistorical Yi-lore into Written
Five Emperors-Tree Dynasties and Transforming from
Elementary to Mature of Chinese Civilization
Ⅳ. Differences from the pre-Qin research projects occurred so far
Unlike the pre-Qin research projects supported officially in mainland China, my research has independently concentrated on tracing the human cognition and culture co-evolution in China. There are main differences from them as follows:
- New research object: it is different from their focus on the material cultural relies that the main object of my research is the spiritual cultural relies, especially the marked and symbolized materials from Pre-Qin sites– artificial memory systems left by ancient people for their remembering.
- New research fields: in contrast to the studies of the history of Chinese thought published in China so far that were almost about individual thinkers’ ideologies, a main task of this work is to trace the whole evolutionary process of ancient Chinese cognitive abilities.
- New research scope: the studies of the history of Chinese sciences occurred so far, including Needham’s Science and Civilization in China, dealt with tracing the evolution of scientific thought to the earliest textual source, at the best, to oracle bone inscriptions; whereas an aim of my research is to trace this process to its earliest origin by tracking Chinese ancestors’ counting and lunar phasing relies to Paleolithic antiquity.
- New research method: in addition to the regular method and the dual evidence method, which are commonly used in current studies of Chinese history, the co-evolution research method has been used in this work’s multidisciplinary analyses of non-writing materials to achieve adequate verification of hypotheses. As proven in Biology, a co-evolution study has an efficient and more accurate verification function than a user-defined verification.
Ⅴ. Experts’ comments
Dr. Wang Rusong, academician of Chinese Academy of Engineering and senior research fellow of Research Center for Eco-Environmental Sciences of Academia Sinica, wrote in his recommend: “Deng’s work provided overwhelming and systematical evidence for the whole process of co-evolution of human cognition and culture going continuously on through a million of years in China. The breakthrough contributions of his work to the substantial knowledge and understanding of our human’s most durable civilization can be summed up in tree points:
- He conducted the positive research on the origin of science and civilization in China for the first time with his proof that all cardinal roots and basic elements of Chinese traditional culture and civilization, including their material relies such as neoliths, pottery, agriculture, medicine, jades, cities, states, bronze, etc., and their spiritual relies such as counting-rods, counting-boards, abacus, calendars, 8 trigrams and 64 hexagrams, Yin-Yang cosmology, five-phase cycling theory, religion, Yi-classics, Yi-philosophy, etc., are the products of this process.
- He has verified and returned the old legendary Chinese chronology recoded in the extant transmitted texts into the true history for the first time with tracing the evolution of numeral groups into pictographic characters, particularly by using the series of pre-Shang writingsof succession from numeral groups to oracle bone inscriptions found in this tracing.
- He has not only given a serious answer to Needham’s questions for the first time, but also continued and developed his course to go far back beyond his vision with tracking back the whole process of Chinese scientific thought to Paleolithic antiquity. ”
Dr. Zhang Juzhong, archaeologist and professor of Department of Archaeology in Chinese Scio-Tech University, wrote in his recommend: “Deng’s work systemized a vast amount of archaeologically excavated material and ancient literature materials, including relevant materials from West and the other continents, so that open up a new and international field of vision of the history of sciences and civilization. I believe the publication of his work will have extreme interest with in academic communities and play a positive role for developing the research on the history of both Chinese civilization and Eastern sciences in depth.”
Dr. Denise Schmandt-Bessrat, archaeologist and professor of the Department of Archaeology in University of Texas, pointed out: “I had great pleasure in reading the manuscript which is very clearly stated the theories and methodologies of great academic importance and major pioneering significance for exploring the evolutionary processes of various types of artifacts.”
- VI. About the author
With degrees from University of Hubei and Sichuan Academy of Agricultural Sciences, I was a senior research fellow of Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and visiting professor of the University of Alberta, conducted a series of multidisciplinary studies of Eco-economy, Scio-Tech economy, Scio-Tech philosophy and Scio-Tech history, and published 10 books and more than 150 papers in Chinese and English.
VII. Ask for help
So far without any support, it is so hard for my research to keep up that I am longing for funding aids, academic support and collaboration, information exchanges for completing the writing and publication of this work.
Honghai Deng President of the Canada Society of Yijing (the Book of Changes)
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