To Bring Order Out of Chaos: Literati Medicine of the Jin Dynasty (1115-1234)

Welden, John
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[Honolulu] : [University of Hawaii at Manoa], [May 2015]
This is a study of literati medicine of the Jin dynasty (1115-1234) and how physicians born or active during this period extended and refined the Confucian cosmological paradigm through the process of normal scientific development while embedding a sociopolitical discourse into their medical texts. Literati medicine is defined as a textual tradition composed by those educated for success on the civil service examinations, but who turned to the study of medicine as opportunities for government service waned. The Jin is recognized as the dominant East Asian regional power in the twelfth century, surrounded by tributary states, and the narrative of its history is reinterpreted in part as a response to environmental challenges perceived by the literati as a threat to the Jin’s legitimacy. An alternative model of the trajectory of early Chinese medical development is proposed in order to contextualize the works of the middle period, which argues the classical medical canon promulgated by Northern Song dynasty (960-1127) officials represents their idealized conception of elite Tang dynasty (618-907) medicine rather than genuine Han dynasty (206 BC-221) medicine. The contributions of Jin literati physicians towards the application of orthodox theories to disease mechanisms and treatment strategies, the refinement of tongue and pulse diagnosis, the categorization of the materia medica together with a revised understanding of the key functions of medicinals, dosage and ingredient modifications of classical formulas, and the promotion of contemporary prescriptions, are detailed. In conclusion, a new periodization for intellectual history identified as the Period of the Four Great Masters (c.1000-1400) is proposed that describes the shift from the public to the private sphere as literati continued to fulfill their moral obligation to perpetuate Confucian civilization.
Ph.D. University of Hawaii at Manoa 2015.
Includes bibliographical references.
Chinese medicine, Jin dynasty, four masters, environmental history
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