Cosmotechnic Craftsmanship: The Plane, Luban, and Guiju in Chinese Carpentry

Date : Vendredi 30 juin 2023, 17h-19h.
Lieu : Auditorium Dumézil, Maison de la Recherche

Image Souce:Xinjuan gongshi diaozhuo zhengshi Luban mujing jiangjiajing (《新镌工师雕斫正式鲁班木经匠家镜》明崇祯版),MingChongzhen Version, Collection of Beijing Library

With Ren Congcong

This research examines how tools, as “technical facts “, embody accumulated knowledge within a cultural context, here the Chinese one. The perspective encompasses both explicit and tacit knowledge, revealing the multi-dimensional aspects of cosmic technology when understood as a mix of nature and culture, thereby allowing us to question the modes of existence of various cosmotechincs. Based on the examination of the ongoing inheritance of Chinese craft tradition, our approach extends from the immediate to the distant, starting from the closest extension of the body, which is the tool controlled by the subject. It examines the historicity of bodily techniques. Ultimately, it discusses the norms related to technology within Chinese society.

In line with this theoretical framework, we first focus on the “operational chains” of the production of a specific woodworking tool: the plane, which is made up of wooden and iron components. Concerning the wooden part, emphasis is placed on the aesthetic heritage, the capturing of ” potential tendency” (shi势)and the animal symbolism applied to tools. Regarding the iron part, a cultural comparison between China and Japan highlights the varying understanding of sharpness. Subsequently, by examining tools as ritual objects in construction ceremonies, symbolically representing the descent of the deity Lu Ban, this study explores the relationship between craftsmanship and Taoist practice. Finally, the study delves into the widely used term “regulations” (guiju 规矩). It transcends the boundaries of human and non-human domains and simultaneously governs the forms of artificial technical objects and social communicative actions among individuals.

Congcong Ren is an architect and a historian of building technology in China and Japan, with a particular interest in timber construction technology, indigenous craft and plantation knowledge, and the evolution of sociotechnical systems from a cultural comparison and transmission perspective.

Conférence en anglais.
Organisatrice : Lia Wei (IFRAE/Inalco),