Korean Anatomical Charts in the Context of the East Asian Medical Tradition

in Asian Medicine
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Abstract

This paper examines the characteristics of the illustrations in Heo Jun’s Dong’ui’bo’gam (Treasured Collections of an Eastern Physician), which are the sole distinctively Korean pictorial representations in the history of Korean medical texts. Those anatomical images differ from earlier East Asian anatomical charts in three important ways. First, they embody the view that Daoist practices for preserving health and vitality (yangsheng) are closer to the essence of life than is medicine. Second, unlike existing medical texts, which mainly focused on the organs inside the body and the channels on the surface of the body, they emphasise building up systematic outer ‘bodily form’. Third, they reflect Heo Jun’s regard for the anatomical content of the earlier Inner Canon and the Classic of Difficulties rather than the contributions of positivistic anatomy from and after the Song and Yuan Dynasties, and the diagrams of the five zang- organs are devised in accord with such a view. In my view, these three points in Treasured Collections of an Eastern Physician (hereafter Treasured Collection), the most influential medical book since its publication, provides clues to understanding the very conservative character of traditional Korean medicine in the seventeenth century and thereafter.

Asian Medicine

Journal of the International Association for the Study of Traditional Asian Medicine

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