Invisible Bodies

Lu Gwei-djen and the Specter of Translation

In: Asian Medicine
Lan A. Li Columbia University

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This essay explores the ways in which Lu Gwei-djen (1904–91) served as a gatekeeper for interpreting medicine in China in the second half of the twentieth century. After retiring from science in 1956, Lu set out to write one of the first comprehensive English-language histories of medicine in China. Through a close study of Lu’s work notes and marginalia from later in her life, this essay examines how she carefully articulated the material characteristics of a “Chinese” medicine that gave rise to jingluo, or therapeutic paths often known as “meridians.” I argue that at the heart of this uneasy comparison was the difficult process of translating across multiple expressions of physiology. By placing Lu Gwei-djen at the center of a feminist intellectual history of medicine, this essay further shows how Lu’s translations were influenced by the social hierarchies in which she was embedded, including cultural, gender, and temporal dualities.

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