As the title of its introduction implies, the ambition of Francesca Bray's new book is to demonstrate the “power of technology” in explaining and understanding a society's culture and history. This book has brilliantly achieved its goal and convinced its readers of the importance of technology as an indispensable key for understanding Chinese society in the late imperial period.

Many readers are familiar with Bray's influential book on technology and gender published sixteen years ago, which has shaped the way historians and anthropologists think about technology and society in Chinese history (Bray 1997). It eloquently shows technology not simply as material practices for managing nature but as forms and expressions of subjectivity and social relations in everyday life: simply put, as part of culture itself. The new book is not only a condensed version of this earlier work; it reaches...

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