Tuesday, June 03, 2008

What Happened to China?

While driving to appointments, I've been listening to the audio version of Simon Winchester's new book, The Man Who Loved China.

Professor Joseph Needham was the brilliant, though not completely admirable, intellectual whose years of labor produced a 15,000 page magnum opus called Science and Civilization in China. The multivolume work, which became Needham's passion, established that long before the West, the Chinese produced invented many extraordinary advances, a grand example being the printing press and a small but significant one being the stirrup.

One logical question resulting from a review of Needham's research is "What happened to distract China from its creative path?" Winchester discusses some possible culprits. (One of my favorites is the possibility that many of the brightest Chinese youths aspired to a job in the government bureaucracy instead of in business.)

All in all, a very interesting work. The audio version is read by Winchester himself and he does a fine job.

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