In a number of well-framed speeches recorded in the Zuozhuan, women, especially beautiful women, are viewed as the femmes fatales, or women who cause calamities. Among these speeches is a rare record of a famous doctor’s diagnosis of a Spring-and-Autumn-period hegemon’s illness. How could illness be connected with the notion of the femme fatale? In examining the correlations between this Zuozhuan account and related information in some newly excavated manuscripts, I argue that as far as the medical approach is concerned, both the Zuozhuan and the excavated texts share a common cultural basis at least partly retained in the extant texts after a long course of oral and written transmission. Based on the similarities between those transmitted and newly excavated texts, the illness from which the local ruler suffered can be identified as a kind of sexual disease caused in the lord’s bedchamber. This evidence, and the high ratio of sex-related illnesses reflected in the Western Han doctor Chunyu Yi’s biographical account, further suggests that the Spring-and-Autumn-period hegemon’s illness was not a single isolated case, but rather represented a broader common problem of the patriarch’s sexual excess in early Chinese polygamous families. Some of the Zuozhuan accounts of ritual and medical principles are also closely related. This leads me to further suggest that the Zuozhuan historiographers, who knew well both medical knowledge and problems taking place in their contemporaries’ bedchambers, chose to condemn the femmes fatales under an abstract principle, that of ritual propriety, as the solution to sex-related diseases in early Chinese polygamous families.
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Hebie yixueyuan2009pp. 36–9 77–81; Cheng Shide 1982 pp. 362 531–39 708; Li Jingwei et al. 1996 p. 1159.
Chen Shide1982p. 295.
Yu Yunxiu and Yun Tieqiao2007pp. 81–82.
Ma Jixing1992pp. 451–52; for the English translation see Harper 1998 pp. 253–54.
Ibid. p. 458; Harper 1998 p. 255.
Ma Jixing1992p. 445; for a gloss on lin as long for their identical symptoms see Zhang Xiancheng 2002 p. 120.
Wang Jianxin2004p. 15.
Zhang Xixiang and Wang Renzong1996p. 504.
Nanjing Zhongyi xueyuan1982p. 714. I translate this passage in the following: ‘Generally speaking the gu poison includes several kinds which all belong to the changing deceitful qi force. There are those who deliberately make it. Often they take worms snakes and the like contain them with a vessel and allow them to eat each other. The one and the only one that finally survives is called gu and has the ability to change itself to deceive people. Following and chasing wine and food it causes illness and calamity to those who drink the wine or eat the food. Others receive the illness and calamity then the host of gu benefit from it. Therefore those who cannot be bridled [by law] keep and use gu. There is also the ‘flying gu’ which comes and goes from nowhere and gradually forms itself like ghost-qi force those who are caught by it would suddenly become seriously ill. Generally speaking those who are caught by the gu illness would mostly die in due course’. 凡蠱毒有數種，皆是變惑之氣。人有故造作之，多取蟲蛇之類，以器皿盛貯，任其自相啖食，唯有一物獨在者，即謂之為蠱。便能變惑，隨逐酒食，為人患禍。患禍受於佗，則蠱主吉利，所以不羈之徒而蓄事之。又有飛蠱，去來無由，漸狀如鬼氣者，得之卒重。凡中蠱病，多趨受於死。
Unschuld1985pp. 46–50; Feng and Shryock 1935 pp. 1–30; Lin Fushi 1988 p. 75.
Lü Yahu2008p. 17; Luo Yuan 1939 pp. 17–18 pp. 22–23.
Wang Xianshen1998p. 115.
Wu Xiaoqiang2000pp. 314–15 322–23 334–36; Zhao Yupei 2005 p. 115.
Wu Xiaoqiang2000p. 62. Wang Zijin disagrees with Wu on the interpretation of the word compound ‘kouchou’ 口臭 as fragrant breath; he suggests that this word compound should instead mean ‘foul breath’. This sentence does not provide a definite answer but the context seems to suggest a positive interpretation of this word compound. For Wang’s idea see Wang Zijin 2003 pp. 169–71.
Wu Xiaoqiang2000p. 42 162–63. It also appears in the Shuihudi daybook version B saying ‘a child born on a Dingsi day will grow up to be a nice and charming person’. Ibid. p. 249.
Ibid. p. 123.
Also see Wang Zijin2003pp. 122–23.
Qiu Xigui1992p. 528.
Tanba Yasuyori2000pp. 601–3.
Tanba Yasuyori2000p. 602; also consult Li Ling 1993 pp. 140–43; Ma Jixing 1992 p. 1011.
Tanba Yasuyori2000pp. 602–3.
Wu Xiaoqiang2000pp. 319–21.
Tanba Yasuyori2000pp. 602–3.
Mawangdui Hanmu boshu zhengli xiaozu1985pp. 104–5; Ma Jixing 1992 pp. 684–85; for the English translation see Harper 1998 pp. 337–38.
Poo Mu-chou1993pp. 639–40; He Runkun 1991.
Li Jianmin2000bpp. 45–105; Jin Shiqi 1995 pp. 5–16; for a different argument see Brown 2012.
Yang Yanqi et al.1986p. 663.
Mawangdui Hanmu boshu zhengli xiaozu1985p. 48; Ma Jixing 1992 p. 467.
Yang Bojun 1990‘Zhao’1.12 p. 1222. I broke down this passage and marked them with (a) (b) and (c) according to its reasoning to facilitate a comparison with another Zuozhuan passage (which is also divided into three parts but marked with (a’) (b’) and (c’) respectively) following the similar line of argumentation as shown later.