Essay on The Medicine Of Chin A History Of Ideas
1. Medicine in China: A History of Ideas
Unschuld, as a sinologist and historian of medicine, traces the evolution of medical ideas within socioeconomic and socioideological contexts for the last 3,500 years in China. With a four-step methodology (chronological, linguistic, structural and sociopolitical), he analyses the oldest available materials ranging from the classic doctrine Huang-di Nei-jing (Yellow Emperor’s Inner Canon) to the eventually unearthed texts from Ma-wang-dui Graves (168 B.C.) in Hunan Province in 1973. Based on ample evidence, he aims to find out in a country like China, “what factors account for diverging, contradicting or antagonistic systems of ideas within complex societies, within single cultural regions and among mankind in general” (p. 9).
Historically and systematically, Unschuld delineates seven types of medicine that emerged at different times in China with coexistence and interactions: oracular therapy, demonic medicine, the medicine of systematic correspondence based on the theory of Yin-yang and Five Elements/Phases under the influence of Confucianism as well as Neo-Confucianism, pragmatic drug therapy developed together with Taoism, religious healing similar to western theological medicine (but failed after a short attempt), Buddhist medicine which brought cataract surgery from India, and finally, modern western medicine firstly introduced by missionaries in the nineteenth century. He also translates relevant excerpts from 14…