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The 13th Joseph Needham Memorial Lectures | 第十三届李约瑟博士纪念讲座系列


The Joseph Needham Foundation for Science & Civilisation (Hong Kong)



Needham Research Institute (Cambridge)

李 約 瑟 研 究 所

Jointly with


The 13th Joseph Needham Memorial Lecture Series

Hong Kong Palace Museum

25 March 2023

The 13th Joseph Needham Memorial Lecture Series

25 March 2023 (Saturday)

Hong Kong Palace Museum

West Kowloon Cultural District, 8 Museum Drive

Kowloon, Hong Kong

Memorial Lecture Series Programme


Opening Remarks: Tributes to Dr. Joseph Needham

Dr. Peter L. LEE, Chairman, JNFSC

Professor Martin K. JONES, Chairman, NRI

Dr. Louis NG, Director, Hong Kong Palace Museum


Memorial Speakers

Professor LEE Chack Fan

Director of the JTIPE HKU

Title: The Process of Learning and Surpassing in the Advancement of Science and Civilisations

Professor Imre GALAMBOS

East Asian Studies, University of Cambridge

"Technologies of the Book in Dunhuang During the 9th and 10th Centuries"

Professor John STEELE

Brown University

"Babylonian and Chinese Astronomy: Comparison, Circulation, and Dialogue"


Tea & Coffee Break


Public Forum with Invited Speakers

Professor LEE Chack Fan, Director of the JTIPE HKU

Professor MEI Jianjun, Director, Needham Research Institute

Dr. Bill MAK, Research Associate, Needham Research Institute

Dr. Arun BALA, Conference Chair


Concluding Remarks and Closing Ceremony

The Process of Learning and Surpassing in the

Advancement of Science and Civilisation


Professor LEE Chack Fan

Director of the Jao Tsung-I Petite Ecole, The University of Hong Kong


Many Greek scholars studied and lived in ancient Egypt, prior to the rise of the Hellenic civilisation to prominence. Medieval Muslims studied Greek classics and science at the Bayt al Hikma (House of Wisdom) in Baghdad, adding the much-needed pioneering experimental work to the Greek theoretical studies. A significant factor in the European Renaissance is the learning of Greek classics and Islamic scientific achievements. The Greeks learned from the ancient Egyptians and surpassed them; as did the medieval Muslims with the Greeks. Europeans learned from the Islamic scientists and surpassed them over the past several centuries. The lecture will review this process of learning from predecessors and surpassing them subsequently, and its significance in the advancement of science and human civilisation.


Professor CF Lee is presently the Director of the Jao Tsung-I Petite Ecole, at the University of Hong Kong. He was a former Pro-Vice-Chancellor and Chair Professor of Geotechnical Engineering, of that university He is an academician of the Chinese Academy of Engineering, a Fellow of the Canadian Academy of Engineering, a Fellow and past president of the Hong Kong Academy of Engineering Science. He has published over 300 scholarly papers, along with 20 books on humanities and engineering science. He was a former Fulbright Distinguished Scholar, and a recipient of five honorary doctorates in science from local and overseas universities.

Technologies of the Book in Dunhuang

during the 9th and 10th Centuries


Professor Imre GALAMBOS

Professor of Chinese, East Asian Studies, University of Cambridge


The overall majority of the tens of thousands of manuscripts discovered in the Dunhuang library cave date from the 9th and 10th centuries, that is, from a two-hundred-year period prior to the sealing of the cave in the early 11th century. During this period, Dunhuang was under Tibetan control and, from 848 onward, functioned as a de facto independent kingdom known as the Guiyijun (Return to Allegiance Circuit). Looking at the manuscript evidence, one of the conspicuous aspects of this period is the appearance of entirely new book forms, which were not in circulation earlier when the region was under Tang control. The three new book forms are the pothi, the concertina and the codex, all of which comprise flat volumes with individual pages, in sharp contrast to the traditional scroll form and its continuous writing surface. The appearance of the three new book forms at a time when Dunhuang was cut off from Central China but maintained close ties with Tibet and Central Asia is certainly no coincidence, and we have to interpret the influx of new book forms as a result of interactions with non-Chinese cultures. In this talk, I present the surviving material evidence for such interactions and demonstrate the lasting impact of these book forms not only in the Gansu Corridor but far beyond. Among the core arguments of the talk is that Tibet and Central Asia have been a major source of creative inspiration for the development of book technology in China and the rest of East Asia.


Professor Imre Galambos is a specialist of medieval Chinese manuscripts, focusing on material excavated at sites along the Silk Road. He received his Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley in 2002, where he wrote a dissertation on the structure of Chinese characters during the Warring States period. Upon graduation, he worked for ten years for the International Dunhuang Project (IDP) at the British Library, where his research interests turned to the medieval period. In 2012, he took on a teaching post at the University of Cambridge, where he is now Professor of Chinese. His books include Orthography of Early Chinese Writing (2006), Manuscripts and Travellers: The Sino-Tibetan Documents of a Tenth-century Buddhist Pilgrim (2012), Translating Chinese Tradition and Teaching Tangut Culture (2015), and Dunhuang Manuscript Culture: End of the First Millennium (2020). His newest project is the spread of texts across languages and cultures, as seen in manuscripts from sites along the Silk Road.

Babylonian and Chinese Astronomy:

Comparison, Circulation, and Dialogue


Professor John STEELE

Professor of the History of the Exact Sciences in Antiquity, Brown University


Babylonia and China developed two of the earliest and longest traditions of astronomy and astrology. Babylonian astronomy, which flourished from ca. 750 BCE to c. 100 CE, included a diverse range of practices including the development of a systematic programme of astronomical observation and record keeping, the identification of lunar and planetary periods and their use in making astronomical predictions, the construction of systems of mathematical or theoretical astronomy, and various types of astrology. Similarly, in early China, extensive traditions of observational and mathematical astronomy as well as astrology developed. Aspects of Babylonia and Chinese astronomy circulated to neighbouring cultures and, it has sometimes been claimed, direct exchange of astronomical knowledge even took place between Babylonia and China. In this lecture, I will compare and contrast several aspects of Babylonian and Chinese astronomy in order to better understand their similarities and differences, and the possible links between these two astronomical traditions.


Professor John Steele is Professor of the History of the Exact Sciences in Antiquity at Brown University. His research focusses on the history of Babylonian astronomy and astrology, the circulation of scientific knowledge, and the reception of ancient science in the early modern period.



九龍西九文化區博物館道8號 香港故宮文化博物館


上午09:00 – 09:30 開場儀式 向李約瑟博士致敬


李約瑟研究所主席 Martin K. JONES教授


上午 09:30 – 11:00 紀念講座演講者



Imre GALAMBOS教授,劍橋大學東亞系


John STEELE教授,布朗大學


上午 11:00 – 11:15 茶點

上午 11:15 – 12:45 公眾論壇




Arun BALA博士,論壇主持

中午 12:45 – 13:00 總結評論和圓滿結束儀式

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