Research Project


Mining and Deep Drilling in Chinese and European History: An Interface between Prognostication, Fate and Knowledge

Prof. Dr. Hans Ulrich Vogel

This project will investigate the relationship between prognostication, fate and knowledge in the history of mining and deep drilling in China and Europe. Based on a critical text analysis of a large variety of both Chinese and Western primary sources and secondary literature, it endeavors to compare, quantitatively and qualitatively, the different strands of thought in these domains in the Middle Kingdom and Europe, on both a spatial and temporal level. Starting from the reasonable assumption that mining and drilling for underground mineral resources in pre-modern times was predominantly characterized by a high degree of contingency, it can be hypothesized that, with the growth of useful and reliable knowledge about nature, especially the underground realm, man became increasingly able to understand the provenience, structure and composition of the geological and mineral world. At the same time, the progression in the increase of useful and reliable knowledge substantially reduced the experience of unfathomable contingency and thus pushed back – or even annihilated – other forms of explanations, such as those of a religious, magical, and cosmological-correlative nature.

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