College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences
CAH Students Hosted Online Exhibition about Joseph Needham

The graduating students of the Department of Chinese and History (Cultural Heritage Stream) of CityU presented the online exhibition “Re-discovering Joseph Needham’s Science and Civilisation in China” from 5 to 25 April 2020.

Born in the United Kingdom, Joseph NEEDHAM was one of the most well-known biochemists and historians in modern history. He had been working at the University of Cambridge when he met a group of Chinese researchers in 1930s. This encounter aroused his interest in science, technology and civilisation in China, into which he delved for the rest of his life. He even initiated and edited an on-going series of publication Science and Civilisation in China, with seven volumes published to date, detailing great scientific achievements of ancient China.

Technologies featured in this online exhibition included papermaking and printing, ceramic making, natural dyeing, Chinese medicine, and the technology behind the hand-spindle and catapult. The exhibition allowed visitors to explore the technologies from different perspectives like history, processes, and modern applications. The contents of the exhibition, like the story of Joseph Needham, history of ceramic making which dated back to 20,000 years ago, main philosophy behind Chinese medicine, were drawn upon chapters in Joseph Needham’s weighty publication. “We re-examine Joseph Needham's research results in an interesting way,” Vincie CHIU and Yvonne LIU, members of the organising team, shared. 

Apart from navigating through the information, different activities were arranged on specific dates, ranging from video shows, interactive quizzes, to hands-on workshops and telegram chat. There were, for example, a video show featuring an interview with a Chinese medicine practitioner, the “Ask Joseph” telegram chat session which taught the viewers to prepare soup based on different weather conditions, a video course on using natural liquid extract with different pH values to do fabric dyeing, among other interactive activities.  

The students have been preparing for several months for a physical exhibition before a big challenge lay ahead of them——the teaching activities on the campus were suspended due to the COVID-19 outbreak. “After several discussions, we decided to have our exhibition transformed into an online version,” Vincie and Yvonne told. As it can be imagined, this change involved an enormous amount of work such as constructing the exhibition and preparing videos for showing in the activity sessions. Their hard work paid off, and they finally presented some fascinating exhibits online to the public.