Tuesday, June 15, 2010

China and Technology; Gaming Assumptions

When ever there is talk about technology in ancient times, it seems there is always some misplaced reverence to china. Yes, china did have paper, crossbows, printing press, and other technologies ahead of other civilizations but at a difference of 200-400 years is just a notch in the life cycle of the ancient and medieval world.

I'm speaking this from my own readings about Chinese technology and the organization. To say one is better than the other, is rooted in a great misunderstanding of the unknown subject. It is true there are very few historical sources about Chinese history, technology and ancient anthropology but that should have made people more uncertain of any distinguishable advantage than be certain there is any definable advantage.

They are indistinguishable, when all the pros and cons are tallied. Note that the west had the Mediterranean and more varied geography which results to greater variety. China had to carve out canals when the west had the Mediterranean, Egypt and several Peninsulas.

Imperial China, or Rome in that matter was not as homogeneous or powerful as one would compare modern nations. China and Rome could only easily mobilize a tiny fraction of their resources because of their despotic and feudalistic organization.


Siskoid said...

Are we talking pure historical or time travel gaming? Or more fantastical?

Because if the latter, then the impression is more important than the reality. If our impression of ancient China has higher tech, wire-fu, etc., then a fantasy or pulp game should feature them, whether they're true or not.

As another example, James Bond and Mission Impossible have very little to do with true espionnage, but espionnage games are heavily informed by them. Why? Because that's what people think they know about espionnage.

Sean Holland said...

I am not entirely sure what your point is, I am afraid.

It strikes me that 200 to 400 hundred years of technological change can be pretty significant, even in the earlier, slower, periods of change. Compare bronze to iron, 11th c knights to 15th c ones, or matchlocks to flintlocks. I use military technology because I have a firm grasp of those, but I am sure someone else can point out agricultural or shipbuilding advances.

But it is what is done with that technology and how quickly those advances become distributed and widely available that really change things. So, even if China did have printing presses (for example) they were not really used to expand knowledge or get the printed page out to the people.

Just some thoughts.

justin aquino said...

sorry for not being clear. It is just 200-400 years is a relatively small difference of technology in eras that are 1000 and 2000 years long (medieval and ancient).

I should have gone with the economic explanation. As for quality of life, they seem relatively the same if not better in western civilization by the

The west had much better variety to trade among itself and neighbors compared to china. As china considered itself the "center" of the world and all new ideas had to gain credibility by association of old ideas (ex. Neo Confucianism), it was less open minded about new ideas and technologies.

Consider that when technology flowed from China, it didn't flow back to it. Glass making, Optics, Sailing, Corporations, all existed for around 200 years before china chose to adopt it.

There are many more tech that was taken for granted: rifling, muskets, military organization, constitutional monarchies etc. China only capitulated when the tech gap was Industrial age vs Medieval (since it regressed a bit because of the many civil wars in the Ching).