The treatment of thunder and lightning in traditional Chinese writings demonstrates that many modern intellectuals have exaggerated the Neo-Confucian tendencies toward rational explanations and careful classification. The Chinese literati from traditional through modern times accepted as a self-evident fact the notion that thunder rather than lightning was the destructive force in thunderstorms. Moreover, captivated by popular beliefs that linked thunder with divine powers (Hammond 1992), few Chinese scholars were prepared to take the truly modern step of suggesting that thunder and lightning might be examples of natural forces acting randomly. This misunderstanding was compounded by the literati's indifference toward empirical investigation, which meant that they were unable to question the mistaken assumptions underlying this belief.

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