The Place for Space in Medicine: Illness and the Expanding Realm of the Imperial Medical World in Early Modern China

Saturday, January 7, 2017: 2:30 PM
Centennial Ballroom G (Hyatt Regency Denver)
Sare Aricanli, Durham University

Just as we define illness in a number of ways today (through bacteria, viruses, immune health, and the genetic code, etc.), the state of being unwell in early modern China was also conceptualized in more than one manner. A person’s health could have been compromised due to a wound or a broken bone, problems in the circulation of qi, pernicious influences, as well as a set of symptoms characterized by their description through the cosmological principles of yinyang. Of particular interest for this paper is a disorder related to the geographic imagination in late imperial China: more specifically the inability to acclimate to climatic conditions, or shuitu bufu. This paper will present examples of the illness during the eighteenth century when the physical boundaries of the realm continued to expand, thereby broadening the possibilities of where officials could be deputed. Moreover, at this time there was also a coexistence of drugs prized for their local qualities, as well as those produced at the imperial workshops. Moving between the particular and the general, this paper examines the question of space and how it contributed to understandings of illness and healing in the imperial medical world.

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