Historical epistemology and the making of modern Chinese medicine

Edited by Howard Chiang

Historical epistemology and the making of modern Chinese medicine


  • eBook

Book Information

  • Format: Hardcover
  • ISBN: 978-0-7190-9600-6
  • Pages: 296
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £90.00
  • Published Date: July 2015
  • BIC Category: Modern History, History of Medicine, History, History of medicine, China, Asian history, MEDICAL / Alternative & Complementary Medicine, HISTORY / Asia / China, Chinese Medicine & Acupuncture, Medicine / History of medicine


This collection expands the history of Chinese medicine by bridging the philosophical concerns of epistemology and the history and cultural politics of transregional medical formations. Topics range from the spread of gingko's popularity from East Asia to the West to the appeal of acupuncture for complementing in-vitro fertilisation regimens, from the modernisation of Chinese anatomy and forensic science to the evolving perceptions of the clinical efficacy of Chinese medicine. The individual essays cohere around the powerful theoretical-methodological approach, 'historical epistemology', which challenges the seemingly constant and timeless status of such rudimentary but pivotal dimensions of scientific process as knowledge, reason, argument, objectivity, evidence, fact, and truth. In studying the globalising role of medical objects, the contested premise of medical authority and legitimacy, and the syncretic transformations of metaphysical and ontological knowledge, contributors illuminate how the breadth of the historical study of Chinese medicine and its practices of knowledge-making in the modern period must be at once philosophical and transnational in scope.


'A pioneering work of scholarship at the intersections of historical epistemology, science studies, and Chinese medical history.'
Marta Hanson, Associate Professor in the History of East Asian Medicine at Johns Hopkins University

'The eight case studies collected here explore from various points of view the emergence of Chinese medicine in the modern period. In doing so, they vividly underscore the key theoretical insights of this volume: that the historiography of modern Chinese medicine must be transnational in scope and philosophical in nature.'
Volker Scheid, Professor of East Asian Medicines and Director of the EASTmedicine Research Centre at the University of Westminster, London

'In 2015, Tu Youyou became the first Chinese Nobel laureate in physiology or medicine. She won the
prize for her research on the antimalarial drug artemisinin; this work explicitly drew upon traditional
Chinese materia medica. The award signaled a public recognition of non-Western medical knowledge. In what forms had pharmaceutical knowledge emerged in China? How had it changed, or not, in response to the introduction of Western biomedicine to East Asia? And how are we to understand contemporary relationships between Chinese and Western therapies? This timely edited volume seeks to answer some of those questions. It will be of manifest interest to scholars of the history of Chinese medicine but also to practitioners of East Asian medical traditions and a broader audience in science studies.'
Mary Augusta Brazelton, Isis-Volume 107, Number 4, December 2016


1. "Historical epistemology and the making of modern Chinese medicine" Howard Chiang
Part I. Objects
2. Kuang-chi Hung, "Within the Lungs, the Stomach, and the Mind: Convergences and Divergences in the Medical and Natural Histories of Ginkgo biloba" [4 illustrations]
3. Yi-Li Wu, "Bodily Knowledge and Western Learning in Late Imperial China: The Case of Wang Shixiong (1808-68)" [1 illustration]
4. Bridie Andrews, "Blood in the History of Modern Chinese Medicine" [5 illustrations]
Part II. Authority
5. Daniel Asen, "The Only Options? 'Experience' and 'Theory' in Debates Over Forensic Knowledge and Expertise in Early Twentieth-Century China"
6. David Luesink, "State Power, Governmentality, and the (Mis)Remembrance of Chinese Medicine"
7. Eric Karchmer, "Slow Medicine: How Chinese Medicine Became Efficacious Only for Chronic Conditions"
Part III. Existence
8. Judith Farquhar, "Metaphysics at the Bedside"
9. Leon Antonio Rocha, "How to Make 'Acubabies'"


Howard Chiang is Assistant Professor of Modern Chinese History at the University of Warwick

Historical epistemology and the making of modern Chinese medicine

Edited by Howard Chiang

Hardcover £90.00 / $140.00

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