University of Cambridge > Talks.cam > Twentieth Century Think Tank > Shifting formats, changing priorities in the modern Chinese materia medica genre: from Zhao Yuhuang's single items to drugs in acupuncture channels

Shifting formats, changing priorities in the modern Chinese materia medica genre: from Zhao Yuhuang's single items to drugs in acupuncture channels

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Materia medica are a written genre which has a long cultural history in Chinese. It has continuously integrated vernacular names for medicinal materials and drugs from orally transmitted practice. Furthermore, in the twentieth century, a fundamental shift occurred in modern science when ‘old’ and ‘new’ studies were combined in China to list single items of materia medica as an esteemed contribution to world science. Journal articles and early reference works serve as material in Lena Springer’s talk to demonstrate how broad the range of options for selected content in the scientific entries was during the Republican period until the 1930s. A second change took place when the craze for particularly Chinese medicine drugs in the 1950s added another layer to the political claims and meanings attached to the materia medica entries: now scientists and historians regarded the well-tried Chinese drugs as a promising model for world revolution. As a model for ethnic development anywhere, the previously disregarded Chinese theory, of acupuncture channels for instance, returned into the scientific literature.

This talk is part of the Twentieth Century Think Tank series.

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