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Beyond Tradition: One thousand years of East Asian Medicines

31 May 2012

A grant of just under £1M has been received from the Wellcome Trust by Dr Volker Scheid in the School of Life Sciences for this exciting and innovative 5-year project.

The continued existence of ‘traditional’ medical practices in the 21st century is perplexing to many of us. Their 'traditional' label implies they are old fashioned and unchanging, the very opposite of progressive science and modernity. However, this superficial view ignores the development of these practices throughout history, including their interaction with the biomedical sciences. With the re-emergence of Asia as an economic and cultural powerhouse, this is an opportune moment to examine afresh the nature of East Asian medicines and their historical development.

Building on existing expertise within the School, Dr Scheid will lead a 5-year programme of research that will seek to understand East Asian medicines throughout the last one thousand years.

Seven researchers and two postgraduate students will develop new interdisciplinary approaches to understand how medical practices throughout East Asia (including China, Korea, Japan and Tibet) developed in response to local influences. The researchers will analyse how physicians in various countries have sought to solve clinical problems by engaging with the human body, researching pharmaceuticals, assembling them into recipes, and debating how to achieve consistent clinical effects. A picture will be developed of East Asian medicines as a network made up of diverse styles of practice that consistently merge in and out of each other and that connect to other practices and technologies (including biomedicine) to form complex medicoscapes.

The research findings will be made available to clinical researchers and practitioners in the ongoing transformation of East Asian medicines and their integration into contemporary health care practices. As such, the grant consolidates the position of EASTmedicine as the leading interdisciplinary research centre of its kind.


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