This paper analyses body and gender in East Asian medicine through a case study of Hŏ Chun’s 許浚 Precious Mirror of Eastern Medicine (Tongŭi pogam 東醫寶鑑, first ed. 1613). While Hŏ Chun’s Chinese sources classified menstrual ailments as a disease of women, Hŏ created a new nosological model that defined menstrual ailments as maladies of the ‘womb’, an internal body part found in men and women alike. I read back and forth between the Precious Mirror and the Chinese sources that Hŏ Chun cites to analyse the textual and intellectual processes by which he constructed his androgynous, menstruating womb. My findings engage with scholarship on the history of East Asian medical exchanges as well as with scholarship on menstruation, sex, and gender in world medicine.
How have gender norms historically influenced the visual depiction of the human body in Chinese medicine? I address this question by analysing 484 images of the body published in the Imperially-Commissioned Golden Mirror of Medical Learning (Yuzuan yizong jinjian) of 1742. The Golden Mirror used male figures to depict the standard human body, a pattern that I call visual androcentrism, and I discuss three factors that helped to foster this pattern. First, the Golden Mirror borrowed images from non-medical sources and thereby reiterated a broader cultural tendency to use male figures as normative, with female figures used only in special circumstances. Second, there was a strong association in Chinese visual culture between the semi-exposed male body and ideals of spiritual enlightenment and longevity. This made male figures particularly appropriate for a text on healing that needed to reveal the features and disorders of different body parts. Finally, male medical figures provided a ready vehicle for conveying positive messages about the ability of male physicians. The Golden Mirror enhanced its male figures with auspicious imagery and Daoist symbols, thereby transforming them into visual metaphors for the male doctor’s scholarly mastery of cosmological principles, a mastery that allowed him to be an effective and superior healer.
This paper examines the issue of medical uncertainty in Chinese gynecology by analyzing how classical medicine defined and explained different forms of false pregnancy. Besides recognizing that false pregnancies could mimic true ones, Chinese gynecology also recognized that true fetuses could deviate from the normal course of gestation and thus mimic false pregnancies. Therefore, the paper argues that the perceived difficulty of distinguishing between true and false pregnancies was intimately linked to the belief that female reproductive energies were easily subverted by external pathogens and internal imbalances. Special attention is given to the syndrome known as Ghost Fetus, which was originally explained as the product of human-ghost intercourse but later understood primarily as the result of excessive female emotion. During the Qing, furthermore, discussions of Ghost Fetus and other forms of false pregnancy frequently merged into discussions of female depletion and menstrual irregularity. The paper concludes that these changes in the definition of Ghost Fetus are part of a larger change in gender norms during the Ming-Qing that increasingly focused on female emotionality and physical debility.
This paper analyzes the influence of forensic medicine on therapeutic medicine through a case study of Qian Xiuchang and Hu Tingguang, two Chinese doctors who specialized in treating traumatic injuries. During the early nineteenth century, both men compiled medical treatises that sought to improve on a scholarly model of “rectifying bones” articulated in 1742 by the Imperially-Compiled Golden Mirror of the Medical Lineage. Both texts also incorporated information from forensic medicine, including official inquest diagrams and checklists promulgated by the Qing government. I show that they drew on these forensic materials to help address two interlinked medical issues: understanding the effects of injury on different parts of the body, and clarifying the location and form of the body’s bones. Overall, I suggest that the exchange of ideas between the realm of therapeutic medicine and forensic medicine was an important epistemological strategy that doctors and officials alike employed to improve their knowledge of the material body.
This chapter surveys Chinese medical beliefs and practices regarding the management of reproduction and childbirth from antiquity through the mid-nineteenth century. It thus explores the ideas that were dominant in Chinese healing cultures prior to the rise of modern biomedicine. It also serves as an introduction to the history of gynecological frameworks employed by “traditional Chinese medicine,” a standardized version of historical practices that is now an important form of alternative and complementary medicine worldwide.