Re-invigorating Chinese medicine as living tradition

Theme Allied Health Professions

Professor Volker Scheid’s research has contributed to a reinvigoration of interest in a forgotten area of Chinese medicine, bringing a rich tradition to life and impacting on local history and Chinese medical practice across the world.

Old photo of a Chinese doctor.

Prior to Professor Volker Scheid’s arrival in Shanghai, the Menghe medical current – a style of Chinese medicine developed in the early 17th century – had declined, apart from a small amount of local activity. His interest, collaboration with local historians and physicians, and subsequently his research, have helped stimulate resurgence in the practice.

Scheid’s research provided a crucial spark for revitalising the Menghe medical current, both in China and abroad, building on field work carried out in China in the mid-late 1990s, firstly while studying for a PhD, and then during postdoctoral research, followed by ongoing research as a postdoctoral research fellow, reader and professor here at University of Westminster from 2004 to the present.

Impacts of Professor Scheid’s research are visible in various forms: the establishment of the Changzhou Menghe Current Development Association, which publishes a regular newsletter documenting the history of the practice, organises meetings and conferences and has become instrumental in bringing history alive in the Chengzhou region. Homes belonging to two major families belonging to the Menghe current have been rebuilt and renovated, helping to reclaim aspects of family history that had been forgotten.

Further impacts of Professor Scheid’s work are evident in several recent scholarly studies on the Menghe current. Inspired directly by Scheid’s own research, and internationally, Chinese medicine practitioners now recognise Menghe medicine as an important tradition and as such, it helps shape the identity of individual physicians and the wider medical tradition.

Volker Scheid’s book Currents of Tradition in Chinese Medicine 1626-2006 appears in the Menghe current museum at the Chinese medical hospital in Changzhou city and also at the Menghe memorial park and buildings, demonstrating the scholarly exchange and living tradition he has helped preserve.

A superb study that speaks both to medical historians and anthropologists, and to the increasingly globalized communities of contemporary practitioners of Chinese medicine. Charlotte Furth, Professor of Chinese History, University of Southern California

Who's involved

Read more about who's involved with this research:

Supported by: Wellcome Trust, AHRC Research Network Grant, Chiang Ching-Kuo Foundation Conference Grant

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