Manuscripts and Prints for Physicians and Laymen

Writing and Publishing Medical Knowledge in Late Imperial China
9:00 am – 10:45 am
Room D

  • Organised by Thies Staack
  • Paul Ulrich Unschuld, Chair
  • Thies Staack, “Faithful Copying and Creative Change: The Yizong jinjian 醫宗金鑒 in Manuscripts”
  • Luis Fernando Bernardi Junqueira, “Books, Manuscripts, and the Publication of Folk Healing Knowledge in the Late Qing”
  • Crystal Tsing Tsing Luk, “Removing Religion from Chinese Medical Texts: The Production of the Shishi milu 石室秘錄 (1687–1688)”
  • Andrew Schonebaum, “Curiosity and Fiction in the Unschuld Manuscripts”

In the past, research on the history of medicine in late imperial China predominantly focused on medical texts in terms of their apparent content. The agency of compilers, editors and publishers, that is, the role that individuals and institutions played in shaping and transmitting medical knowledge, has generally received far less attention. The same is true for printed and handwritten books as material objects. Too often they are still seen as mere carriers of medical texts, although their materiality can provide valuable information about the ways in which medical knowledge was produced and used.
This panel brings together the history of medicine and the history of the book in late imperial China. Focusing on the area of friction between manuscripts and prints, we ask what roles the two played for the collection, organisation and transmission of medical knowledge and also aim to identify more general differences between manuscripts and prints with regard to the content or the way contents are formatted and presented. We explore what can be learnt from paratexts, such as prefaces, and material features, e.g. format and layout, about the writers and/or compilers of medical works or the printing houses that published them, and finally we examine how far manuscript and print culture influenced each other in the field of medicine. Addressing these and other aspects, the present panel will shed new light on the writing and publishing of medical knowledge and late imperial book culture more generally.

Thies Staack, “Faithful Copying and Creative Change: The Yizong jinjian 醫宗金鑒 in Manuscripts”

In recent years, manuscripts from late imperial and early republican China have received more attention as sources for historians of medicine who are attempting to reconstruct the approaches to healing of the common people. At the same time, manuscripts also invite an analysis as material objects in themselves, which can shed further light on the role they played for their producers and users.
This paper focuses on the question of to what extent the compilers of medical manuscripts stayed faithful to the original when copying contents (texts or illustrations) from widely-available printed books. As a case study, it investigates eight specimens from the Unschuld collection of medical manuscripts that incorporate content copied from the chapters on smallpox of the imperially-commissioned Yizong jinjian 醫宗金鑒 (Golden Mirror of the Medical Tradition) first published in 1742. A comparison with the printed original will reveal to what extent contents were supplemented, deleted, reorganised, reformatted or combined with other medical or even non-medical contents in the course of the production of a manuscript. This in turn will shed further light on the function of each individual manuscript and the editorial choices in the background of this as well as the most likely identity of their compilers and/or users. The aim is for this paper to deepen our understanding of the relation between manuscript and print in late imperial book culture and to further elucidate the question when and why preference was given to one over another.

Luis Fernando Bernardi Junqueira, “Books, Manuscripts, and the Publication of Folk Healing Knowledge in the Late Qing”

In 1759, the scholar-physician Zhao Xuemin 趙學敏 compiled his Chuanya 串雅 (Corrected Recipes of Itinerant Healers). Based on later editions of this work, modern scholars have assumed that this text is composed of recipes collected from itinerant healers and that it was its author’s intention to transmit and preserve folk healing knowledge through the printed word. The original manuscript that Zhao Xuemin compiled probably never reached print, however, whereas the extant copies of this text have found numerous new editions.
Focusing on manuscripts and printed editions of the Chuanya produced in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, this paper will trace the processes through which multiple agents created and recreated this text over the course of time. In contrast to past studies, which take the connection between the Chuanya and folk healing for granted, I argue that any conclusion should primarily consider the various editions of this work. By looking at the Chuanya from the perspectives of material culture and book history, this paper aims to clarify the following questions: Who produced the extant editions of the Chuanya, and why? How do printed editions differ from manuscripts in terms of medical knowledge? How have printed editions and paratexts constructed the image of the Chuanya as a single, coherent, and original work of folk medicine? More broadly, I argue that the case study of the Chuanya helps us understand the wider dimension around the authorship of recipe texts in late imperial China and beyond.

Crystal Tsing Tsing Luk, “Removing Religion from Chinese Medical Texts: The Production of the Shishi milu 石室秘錄 (1687–1688)”

The Shishi milu 石室秘錄 (Secret Records of the Stone Chamber), a well-known Chinese medical text, was originally compiled by the famous physician Chen Shiduo 陳士鐸 between the years 1687 and 1688. The text comprises dialogues between the Heavenly Master Qibo 天師岐伯, Leigong 雷公, Huatuo 華佗, Zhang Zhongjing 張仲景, and Sun Simiao 孫思邈, all of whom have long been celebrated as divine healers (Yaowang 藥王) in Chinese medical traditions.
Early editions of the Shishi milu state that five deities transmitted the original text in 1687 during a spirit-writing séance presided by Lüzu 呂祖, the deity-in-charge of many spirit-writing cults in Ming and Qing China. According to these accounts, it was Chen’s insistence that he kneeled before Lüzu and refused to stand up until the deity agreed to invite the most authoritative divine healers to transmit him the “true teachings and explanations of healing.”
The Shishi milu has had an enormous influence on Chinese medicine, both in practice and theory, since its first publication. While over fifty printed and manuscript editions had been produced between 1688 and 1960, the divine provenance and religious elements the text originally contained remain unknown to most readers. This paper aims to shed some light on the early creation of the text through the technique of spirit-writing, and examine how later editors either neglected its divine origins altogether or labelled them as “superstition” or “unimportant.”

Andrew Schonebaum, “Curiosity and Fiction in the Unschuld Manuscripts”

The Unschuld medical manuscripts are, among many other things, fragments for a history of curiosity in China on the eve of modernity. If we think about curiosity as meaning “a strong desire to know something” or to vet received information, and at the same time meaning “strange or unusual facts or objects,” the authors/copyists/editors of these manuscripts then represent a wide range of readers interrogating their texts and investigating their worlds. From the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, many people from disenfranchised elites to marginally literate merchants and craftsmen became curious, even obsessed with classifying aspects of the natural world. The Unschuld manuscripts represent a cumulation (in time) and diffusion (among reader-practitioners) of this curiosity and the taxonomic imagination that sought to deal with its results.
Recent scholarship emphasises the mutual illumination of the knowledge of nature and the nature of knowledge, but little consider fantasy and imagination as precursors of that knowing. Vernacular entertainments (xiaoshuo 小說), themselves complex, polygenic, and interdisciplinary texts, are a vast cache of depictions and explanations of the quotidian and popular knowledge. They illuminate how nature, time, objects, and the cosmos were understood in individual works and as trends in literary history. But many kinds of readers consumed xiaoshuo, and they did so using a great range of approaches. A fragment for a history of curiosity and the vetting of knowledge, this paper investigates the Unschuld manuscripts for information heretofore unavailable about how readers used vernacular entertainments to verify, vet, and provide useful knowledge.

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Room D
Writing and Publishing Medical Knowledge in Late Imperial China