Today the Chinese term tu 圖 usually refers to illustrations or maps. Historically, however, it denoted technical images: images which were designed as templates for specific forms of action or transformation. Some tu, like modern technical drawings, were a form of blue-print or flow-chart; others served rather as symbolic mediators, effecting transformation through the processes of drawing or contemplation. Since ancient times tu of both kinds have played a fundamental role in Chinese governance. Here I shall discuss the interplay between symbolic and representational tu, as deployed by rulers and officials to "promote agriculture", quannong 勸農, and to sustain the agrarian society upon which the Chinese imperial order depended.
Francesca Bray, Professor of Social Anthropology, University of Edinburgh, UK
Francesca Bray was born in Cairo and brought up in London and Paris. She holds a BA in Chinese Studies and a PhD in Social Anthropology from the University of Cambridge. On completing her BA she began work as a researcher at the East Asian History of Science Library (Needham Research Institute) at Cambridge, where she authored the volume on Agriculture in Joseph Needham's series Science and Civilisation in China. She spent several years at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique in Paris, then taught for nearly twenty years at the University of California, first UCLA then UC Santa Barbara. She has held visiting appointments at various institutions including Yeongnam University, Korea and the Centre for the History of Science, Technology and Medicine at the University of Manchester. She was appointed to the Chair of Social Anthropology at Edinburgh in May 2005.
Bray's research focuses on the macro- and micro-politics of science, technology and medicine, and on the politics of writing on these themes. She is especially interested in comparative approaches that offer alternatives to Eurocentric accounts of science and technology. She has published on technology and gender in imperial China; rice economies and productivist farming; critical history of science in China; public reactions to genetically modified crops in the USA and Europe; medicine and modernity in the People's Republic of China; and technologies of everyday life in California, including the flush toilet.