Transnational History Project

Towards a Transnational History of East Asian Medicine

This project constitutes the first comprehensive attempt to study medical practices in East Asia as a single unit. To that end, we have focused on a small number of case studies intended to generate a methodological framework for a larger study of medicine in East Asia.

Constraint as a Window on Approaches to Emotion-Related Disorders in East Asian Medicine

The biomedical concept of “depression” and its many associated disease categories differs substantially from how East Asian medicines have traditionally approached emotion-related disorders. Yet, today they all claim to be able to understand and treat depression. Furthermore, despite the many explicit and implicit differences of traditional medical practices in China, Japan and Korea, they all approach depression by way of the same concept, that of constraint 鬱 (Chin. yù; Jap. utsu; Kor. ul). Starting from this observation we examine the processes of articulation by which depression came to be joined in various ways to constraint. Some of these articulations occurred gradually over centuries while others transpired in decades or less. Some resulted from the encounter with modern biomedicine but most took place long before that time. Hence, unlike the impact-response model that guides so much modernization theory, where a passive East is spurred to change only through the climatic encounter with a dynamic West, we do not find these more recent transformations to be determinative. Instead we hold that the key to understanding how physicians today are responding the clinical problem of depression can only be located in the broader trajectories of East Asian medicine. We emphasize the word “trajectories” because we find multiple developmental trends that shape the history of medicine across the region.

Interpreting Zhang Zhongjing: The Treatise on Cold Damage as a Window on Changing Epistemic Formations in East Asian Medicine

The Treatise on Cold Damage 傷寒論, published by Zhang Zhongjing 張仲景 around 180 CE towards the end of the Han dynasty, is considered today to be the foundational text of pharmacotherapy across East Asia. Yet, for almost eight centuries after its publication it appears to have circulated, if at all, only in fragments and only among a very small network of practitioners. It was only after 1065, when the Song imperial government published a state-sponsored edition that was disseminated throughout the empire that the text assumed the status of a medical classic. Ever since, physicians and scholars have debated how to effectively employ the formulas and methods contained within it. Although the Treatise appears to contain clear instructions for therapy these are difficult to understand without further background knowledge. They are also difficult to relate to some of the other foundational text of the East Asian medical tradition, specifically the Inner Canon of Huang-Di 黃帝內經. Physicians have therefore been able to employ the text in multiple ways, both to affirm and critique tradition, as a resource establishes medical orthodoxies but equally as an inspiration for profound innovation and challenges to received knowledge. Our project employs these tensions and contradictions as a method for uncovering changing “epistemic virtues” - ways of embodying effective clinical practice - across East Asia from the Song to the present.

Publications

SPECIAL ISSUE OF CULTURE, MEDICINE AND PSYCHIATRY: EMOTION-RELATED DISORDERS IN EAST ASIAN MEDICINES, MARCH 2013 (IN PRESS).

Scheid, Volker (2013). Constraint 鬱 as a window on approaches to emotion-related disorders in East Asian medicine. Culture, Medicine, and Psychiatry 37 (1) pp. 2-7.

Daidoji, Keiko (2013). Treating emotion-related disorders in Japanese traditional medicine: Language, patients and doctors. Culture, Medicine, and Psychiatry 37 (1) pp. 59-80.

Karchmer, Eric (2013). The excitations and suppressions of the times: locating the emotions in the Liver in modern Chinese medicine. Culture, Medicine, and Psychiatry 37 (1) pp. 8-29.

Scheid, Volker (2013). Depression, constraint and the Liver: (dis)sssembling the treatment of emotion-related disorders in Chinese medicine. Culture, Medicine, and Psychiatry 37 (1) pp. 30-58.

Suh, Soyoung (2013). Stories to be told: Korean doctors between hwa-byung (fire-illness) and depression, 1970–2011. Culture, Medicine, and Psychiatry 37 (1) pp. 81-104.

Farquhar, Judith (2013). Same and different in trans-local East Asian medicines. Culture, Medicine, and Psychiatry 37 (1) pp. 105-110.

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SPECIAL ISSUE OF ASIAN MEDICINE: TRADITION & MODERNITY: THE TREATISE ON COLD DAMAGE AS A WINDOW ON THE TRANSNATIONAL HISTORY OF MEDICINE IN ASIA, SEPTEMBER 2013 (IN PREPARATION).

Daidoji, Keiko (2013). The Adaptation of the Treatise on Cold Damagein Eighteenth-century Japan. Asian Medicine 8 (2) pp. 361 – 393.

Karchmer, Eric (2013). Ancient Formulas to Strengthen the Nation: Healing the Modern Chinese body with the Treatise on Cold Damage. Asian Medicine 8 (2) pp. 394 – 422.

Scheid, Volker (2013). Transmitting Chinese Medicine: Changing Perceptions of Body, Pathology, and Treatment in Late Imperial China. Asian Medicine 8 (2) pp. 299 – 360.

Suh, Soyoung (2013). Shanghanlunin Korea, 1610–1945 Asian Medicine 8 (2) pp. 423 – 457.

Funding

Wellcome Trust for the History of Medicine Project Grant (Award 056302/Z/98): The History of the Liver: Towards a Transnational History of East Asian Medicine. Amount: £ 205,000. Period: 06/2009 - 05/2012.

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