“Material Culture, Bodily Practice and Medical Textuality: Current Issues in Chinese Medical History” Workshop (June 13th, 2016 Needham Research Institute, Cambridge)

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“Material Culture, Bodily Practice and Medical Textuality: Current Issues in Chinese Medical History” Workshop (June 13th, 2016 Needham Research Institute, Cambridge)


Co-organized by John MOFFETT (Needham Research Institute), Lena SPRINGER (University of Westminster/Needham Research Institute), Leah Ya ZUO (Bowdoin College) and CHEN Hao (Renmin University of China/Needham Research Institute)


Sponsored by Wellcome Trust and Needham Research Institute


Body, texts and things, not necessarily in this order, are basic themes which medical historians encounter every day. However, re-assessing these familiar themes with new concepts, sometimes from other disciplines, can shed light onto overlooked or forgotten aspects of them. For example, there are various things stored in the utility room of medical history – drugs and the materials used to produce them; the medical apparatus; even medical books and manuscripts per se; and the human body. Studies of “material culture” keep our eyes from being blindfolded by the material and symbolic surface, and maintain our focus on exploring the meanings things hold for people. This statement can also be applicable to the concept of “bodily practice”, which encourages us not to limit our thinking about the body merely to anatomy or a functional organism, but rather examine the body as a cultural construction and a site for interactive agency. However, for most historians, the medical text is the medium, and sometimes obstacle, to understanding things and the body in the past. How do we determine the meaning of a medical text? Benefitting from philosophy, anthropology, linguistics and literary criticism, we have started to explore how texts and their meanings are related to authors, audiences and contexts. This workshop would like to raise two questions: first, what kind of insights will be sparked off by the encounter of these approaches and the field of Chinese medical history? Second, can we provide a reflective perspective on concepts by negotiating them one to another?





9:00-10:20 SessionChinese Medical History: Boundaries and Directions

Reconsidering the Boundaries in Qing Imperial Medicine

           By Sare Aricanli (Durham University)

Toward a History of Humors in Chinese Medicine

           By Natalie Köhle (Australian National University)


10:20-10:30 Tea Break


10:30-11:50 SessionBody between Materiality and Movement

Healing through Movement: The daoyin Exercises in Zhubing yuanhou lun 諸病源候論 (Treatise on the Origins and Symptoms of all Diseases), a Seventh century Chinese Medical Text

              By Dolly Yang (University College London)

The League of Nations and immunological humanitarianism in southwest China, 1937-45

       By Mary Brazelton (University of Cambridge)


12:00-13:20 Lunch


13:30-14:50 Session Dual Meaning: Word and Text

The Dual Nature of "Things" (wu)

           By Leah Ya Zuo (Bowdoin College)

Japanese Medicine? Chinese Medicine in Context

              By Mujeeb Khan (University of Cambridge)


14:50-15:00 Tea break


15:00-16:20 Session Negotiation between Textuality and Materiality

Between Texutality and Materiality: Can We Have a Book History of Chinese Medical Manuscripts?

            By Chen Hao (Renmin University of China/Needham Research Institute)

Material Culture and Textuality, How does This Go Together in the Minds of Chinese Medicine Thinkers/Practitioners? Examples from Materia Medica Techniques in the Field and Archive

       By Lena Springer (University of Westminster/Needham Research Institute)


16:20-16:30 Tea break


16:30-17:30 Roundtable


19:00 Dinner

You can download this programme in pdf from the website of NRI or https://www.academia.edu/25744744/_Material_Culture_Bodily_Practice_and_Medical_Textuality_Current_Issues_in_Chinese_Medical_History_Workshop_June_13th_2016_Needham_Research_Institute_Cambridge_

Chen Hao

Assistant Professor

Department of History

Renmin University of China

Li Foundation Fellowship Holder

Needham Research Institute