In the late Qing Dynasty, railway technology was introduced into China and achieved a difficult start, which constituted an important part of the transition of science and technology in modern China. Compared with the railway industry which experienced many difficulties and achieved limited achievements, the development of railway cognition not only ran through the whole history of late Qing, but also successively responded to the key questions such as “What is railway?”, “Shall we build the railway?”, “How to build the railway?”, “How to manage the railway?”, making the railway history more significant as the history of railway cognition. Specifically, writing the history of railway cognition in late Qing follows the logic of technology communication and development composed of these issues, which could be divided into two parts: origin and change. Some core concepts, important events and representative figures are selected for investigation, and the overall historical process presented in the end is summarized and reflected.
The first chapter explores the origin of railway from three aspects: railway entity, railway initiative and railway cognition. Among them, the origin of railway cognition is the earliest in time, but there are many fallacies about time and the author in the past. In fact, the first person to introduce railway knowledge was Karl Friedrich August Gützlaff (Guo Shilie), a Prussian missionary, who published the article “Huozheng Shuiqi Suo Gandong Zhi Jiguan” in the monthly biography of Dongxiyangkao Meiyue Tongjizhuan in 1834. Later, his contributions to the origin of railway cognition also included articles such as “Huozheng Che” (1835), and “Maoyi” (1838), which can be represented by the most general word “Huozheng Che”.
The second chapter discusses how to realize the initial construction of Chinese railway cognition. Coincidentally, Guo Shilie's article was edited five times by Chinese works from 1842 to 1852, which is an excellent case study of how the “Huozheng Che” was accepted and changed by the Chinese. The five editions were 50-volumes of Wei Yuan’s Hai Guo Tu Zhi, Liang Tingnan’s Hai Guo Si Shuo, Zheng Fuguang’s Jing Jing Ling Chi, 60-volumes of Wei Yuan’s Hai Guo Tu Zhi and 100-volumes of Wei Yuan’s Hai Guo Tu Zhi. In addition, Lin Zexu’s Sizhou Zhi, Ding Gongchen’s Yanpao Tushuo Jiyao and Xu Jiyu’s Yinghuan Zhilve also reflected the Chinese’s initial introduction to railway knowledge. Together, they showed that in the mid-19th century railway cognition experienced dissemination and initial construction in China.
The third chapter reviews the creation and adjustment of railway translated words, in order to examine the localization of railway cognition. From 1835 to 1878, a series of railway translated words corresponding to “train” and “railway” were successively created, which can be divided into two parts: missionary creation and Chinese creation. Among the four translated words commonly used later, “Huoche” was created by missionaries, while “Tielu”, “Huolun Che” and “Tiedao” were created by the Chinese. In terms of chronological order, missionaries were predominant in the early stage and Chinese in the later stage. It can be considered that the “Huozheng Che” and the “Huolun Che” respectively symbolize the beginning and realization of the localization of railway cognition.
The fourth chapter discusses the evolution of railway cognition during the Western Affairs Movement. Although the railway was initially discussed at the official and national level, on the one hand it may harm national interests and on the other hand it was not the focus of “Shi Yi Chang Ji”, so it was strictly required to be “Yiti Fangfan” in China’s diplomatic relations, and even regarded as the opposite of “self-strengthening”. Since then, with the increase of railway cognition and the practice of many trials, the “Yiti Fangfan” of the railway has been loosened. With the rise of the coastal defense debate, the combination of creating railways and strengthening coastal defenses has made the view that railways are “Zi Qiang Yao Tu” more and more widely recognized, and prompted the supreme decision-maker of the Qing court to support the “resolutely established” railway in 1889.
The fifth chapter analyzes the railway cognitive interaction between China and Japan before and after the First Sino-Japanese War. The translated word “Tielu” corresponds to the period of early China's influence on Japan, while the translated word “Tiedao” corresponds to the period of later Japan's influence on China. After the First Sino-Japanese War, “Tiedao” prevailed because of the trend of learning from Japan at the end of Qing, which formed a situation of parallel with “Tielu”. From “Huozheng Che” to “Tiedao”, it reflects the changes of the main sources of China’s railway cognition, that is, from learning the West directly to the West indirectly through learning Japan directly.
The sixth chapter takes Zeng Kunhua, a representative of the railway cognition turning after the First Sino-Japanese War as an example, to investigate the rise of railway management in the railway cognition field at the end of Qing. He has the experience of studying in Japan and the practice of railway investigation. After returning to China, he has made considerable achievements in the fields of railway talents and education, railway planning and construction, railway law and system, etc. This case not only reflects the presence of the railway technical bureaucrats with the background of studying in Japan, but also symbolizes that Japan was newly added as one of the main sources of railway cognition. It also shows that railway cognition needs to be updated in line with the transformation from “starting from scratch” to “continuous optimization”.
All in all, this dissertation presents the origin and evolution of railway cognition in late Qing in stages and with emphasis, and breaks through the existing views on railway origin and railway translated words. This period of history not only has the basic characteristics of transcendence, interactivity, comprehensiveness and publicity, but also plays a major role in promoting the development of railway industry in late Qing, laying the foundation of railway cognition in the early Republican China, and leading the transformation of modern social atmosphere. At the same time, it also left some reflective lessons in the transformation of the dynamic mechanism of technological cognition, the change of scientific and technological view in the modern social transformation, and the lag and deviation of the transition of science and technology.
Key words: railway cognition; Huozheng Che; Zi Qiang Yao Tu; Tiedao; scientific and technological view