This introductory chapter sets out the purpose of the book, which is to contribute to the study of science in the Qing period, specifically emperor Kangxi's engagement with mathematics. It relies on and hopes to further two major changes in the historiography. First, science was no longer seen as an immutable body of ideas that wins assent through its obvious truth (as missionaries once believed that the Christian religion ought to do). Instead, one has to account for the circumstances that gave rise to the circulation of knowledge and for the ways in which knowledge was shaped by this very circulation process. Secondly, this process cannot simply be reduced to a dichotomy opposing China to Europe. Rather, it is necessary to locate the various actors of ‘Western learning’, both Chinese and European, in order to understand its diverse content and the different stakes behind it. An overview of the subsequent chapters is also presented.
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