Joo-hyeon Oh

Joo-hyeon Oh

Ph.D. Candidate at Harvard University
Joo-hyeon Oh

Region: China
Time: 16th century; 17th century; 18th century; 19th century
Theme: Chinese Literature; Cultural History; History of Science; Intellectual History

Joo-hyeon Oh is a Ph.D. candidate from Harvard’s East Asian Languages and Civilizations program and studies cultural and intellectual history of China in the 16th to 19th century. She is particularly interested in understanding a cultural and intellectual shift in Chinese history in the late 16th to 17th century by focusing on the intellectual discourse surrounding “things (ch. wu),” which gained a particular cultural and intellectual significance during this time period. Joo-hyeon is especially focusing on understanding what the focus on “things” meant in the epistemological search for an intellectual understanding of the world outside of moral self (we usually call it a natural world) and how it mapped on to the arguments about the best methodology to grasp the truth of the universe.

By the 17th century, a dominant idea that the world is a unified and coherent place was being challenged. Some were dissatisfied at the metaphysical discussions that lack concrete qualities and power to explain observed individual divergences that occur in nature. The world was increasingly seen and discussed in a more concrete, substantial, material terms. Examining how this shift is reflected in the works meant to provide a comprehensive discussion of the truth undergirding the operation of the world, She hopes also to provide an explanation on why, in the modern eyes, the boundary between the fantastic imagination and intellectual explanations of mysterious phenomenon seems to blur so much in the Chinese elites’ discourse on the topic, even when the evidential studies was on the rise since the 17th century. In the end, through this project she hopes to be able to articulate an episteme, the perception of reality, and the world view distinct to early modern China, on their own terms.

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