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From Early Modern to Modern Sino-Japanese Medical Discourses
Volume Editor:
Based on several research seminars, the authors in this volume provide fresh perspectives of the intellectual and cultural history of East Asian medicine, 1550-1800. They use new sources, make new connections, and re-examine old assumptions, thereby interrogating whether and why European medical modernity is an appropriate standard for delineating the modern fate of East Asia’s medical classics. The unique importance of early modern Europe in the history of modern medicine should not be used to gloss over the equally unique and thus different developments in East Asia. Each paper offers an important contribution to understanding the dynamics of East Asian medicine, namely, the relationship between medical texts, medical practice, and practitioner identity. Furthermore, the essays in this volume are especially valuable for directing our attention to the movement of medical texts between different polities and cultures of early modern East Asia, especially China and Japan. Of particular interest are the interactions, similarities, and differences between medical thinkers across East Asia.
Contributors include: Susan Burns, Benjamin A. Elman, Asaf Goldschmidt, Angela KC Leung, Federico Marcon, MAYANAGI Makoto, Fabien Simonis, Daniel Trambaiolo, and Mathias Vigouroux.
Volume Editor:
The authors consider new views of the classical versus vernacular dichotomy that are especially central to the new historiography of China and East Asian languages. Based on recent debates initiated by Sheldon Pollock’s findings for South Asia, we examine alternative frameworks for understanding East Asian languages between 1000 and 1919. Using new sources, making new connections, and re-examining old assumptions, we have asked whether and why East and SE Asian languages (e.g., Chinese, Manchu, Mongolian, Jurchen, Korean, Japanese, and Vietnamese) should be analysed in light of a Eurocentric dichotomy of Latin versus vernaculars. This discussion has encouraged us to explore whether European modernity is an appropriate standard at all for East Asia. Individually and collectively, we have sought to establish linkages between societies without making a priori assumptions about the countries’ internal structures or the genealogy of their connections.
Contributors include: Benjamin Elman; Peter Kornicki; John Phan; Wei Shang; Haruo Shirane; Mårten Söderblom Saarela; Daniel Trambaiolo; Atsuko Ueda; Sixiang Wang.



Abstract

This article is about the contested nature of "science" in "modern" China. The struggle over the meaning and significance of the specific types of natural studies brought by Protestants (1842-1895) occurred in a historical context in which natural studies in late imperial China were until 1900 part of a nativist imperial and literati project to master and control Western views on what constituted legitimate natural knowledge. After the industrial revolution in Europe, a weakened Qing government and its increasingly concerned Han Chinese and Manchu elites turned to "Western" models of science, medicine, and technology, which were disguised under the traditional terminology for natural studies. In the aftermath of the 1894-95 Sino-Japanese War, Chinese reformers, radicals, and revolutionaries turned to Japanese and Western science as an intellectual weapon to destroy the perceived backwardness of China. Until 1900, the Chinese had interpreted the transition from "Chinese science" to modern, universal scientific knowledge - and its new modes of industrial power - on their own terms. After 1900, the teleology of a universal and progressive "science" first invented in Europe replaced the Chinese notion that Western natural studies had their origins in ancient China, but this development was also challenged in the aftermath of World War One during the 1923 debate over "Science and the Philosophy of Life."

In: Historiography East and West

Scholars often contend that civil examinations were what made imperial China a political meritocracy. They point to the examination system to show that the selection process served more as a common training program for literati than as a gate-keeper to keep non-elites out. Despite the symbiotic relations between the court and its literati, the emperor played the final card in the selection process. The asymmetrical relations between the throne and its elites nevertheless empowered elites to seek upward mobility as scholar-officials through the system. But true social mobility, peasants becoming officials, was never the goal of state policy in late imperial China; a modest level of social circulation was an unexpected consequence of the meritocratic civil service. Moreover, the merit-based bureaucracy never broke free of its dependence on an authoritarian imperial system. A modern political system might be more compatible with meritocracy, however. One of the unintended consequences of the civil examinations was creation of classically literate men (and women), who used their linguistic talents for a variety of non-official purposes, from literati physicians to local pettifoggers, from fiction-writers to examination essay teachers, from Buddhist and Daoist monks to mothers and daughters. If there was much social mobility, i.e., the opportunity for members of the lower classes to rise in the social hierarchy, it was likely here. Rather than “social mobility,” this phenomenon might be better described as a healthy “circulation” of lower and upper elites when compared to aristocratic Europe and Japan.

In: Frontiers of History in China
In: Rethinking East Asian Languages, Vernaculars, and Literacies, 1000–1919
In: Antiquarianism, Language, and Medical Philology
In: Rethinking East Asian Languages, Vernaculars, and Literacies, 1000–1919

Abstract

Was imperial China a meritocracy? If so, were civil examinations an important part of what made it a meritocracy? Did the standard training program in the classical language serve as a gatekeeper to keep non-elites out? Due to the symbiotic relations between the court and its officials, the asymmetrical relations between the powerful throne at the center and its disparate elites nonetheless empowered elites to seek upward mobility through the classical language. But true social mobility (i.e., peasants becoming officials) was never the goal of the imperial state. The modest level of social circulation enabled by a classical education was a precocious harbinger of the unifying power of a common written language in the early modern world and an unexpected consequence of the meritocratic civil service.By limiting their focus to the civil examination graduates, earlier accounts of the civil service failed to tell us what classical literacy meant for the vast majority of candidates (over 90 percent of whom failed!) or the society at large. To see the larger place of the classical language in Chinese society, we must look beyond the official meritocracy of the graduates and their immediate families. One of the unintended consequences of the civil examinations was the creation of millions of classically literate men and women, perhaps 10 percent of the population (200–250 million in 1600), who used their linguistic talents for a variety of nonofficial purposes, becoming hereditary doctors or classically trained literati physicians, local pettifoggers, fiction writers, and examination essay teachers. If there was much social mobility (i.e., the opportunity for members of the lower classes to rise in the social hierarchy), it was likely here. The archives indicate that peasants, traders, and artisans, who made up over 90 percent of the population, were not among those 100 annual or 50,000 total palace graduates between 1371 and 1904. Nor were the lower estates a significant part of the two to three million who failed biennial licensing examinations. What many who follow P’ing-ti Ho mean by the anachronistic term "social mobility" might be better described as a “healthy circulation” of lower and upper elites via classical literacies.

In: Rethinking East Asian Languages, Vernaculars, and Literacies, 1000–1919