Article ID: CBB000932554

Chinese Biographies of Experts in Medicine: What Uses Can We Make of Them? (2009)


After a long eclipse in the European academic world that favored other forms of narrative and other sources, biographies have resurfaced in historical research over the last three decades. Renewed interest in biographies for research in the humanities in general has, in turn, launched a reevaluation among historians, sociologists, and demographists of biography and the biographical method. Benefiting from this reflection that mainly focuses on the European biographical tradition, this paper analyzes biographical enterprise within the Chinese tradition by relying on a broad collection of official biographies of people who were locally renowned for their skills in medicine during the Qing dynasty (1644--1911). By using an approach that combines a quantitative and qualitative analysis of a series of 422 biographies briefly described in this paper, it first sheds light on the features and function of these narratives. Then, it demonstrates how, in spite of their limitations, biases, and heterogeneity, these biographies of medical experts can provide crucial material for reconstructing the medical landscape at a specific time and place without limiting it to the handful of men whose writings have survived.


Description Analysis of over 400 official biographies of Qing dynasty physicians.

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Authors & Contributors
Scheid, Volker
Taylor, Kim
Sugiyama, Shigeo
Marié, Éric
Zhang, Qiong
Hsu, Elisabeth
Asian Medicine: Tradition and Modernity
Social History of Medicine
East Asian Science, Technology, and Medicine
Historia Scientiarum: International Journal of the History of Science Society of Japan
Micrologus: Natura, Scienze e Società Medievali
Early Science and Medicine: A Journal for the Study of Science, Technology and Medicine in the Pre-modern Period
University of California Press
Cornell University
University of Pennsylvania
Medicine, Chinese traditional
East Asia, civilization and culture
Cross-cultural interaction; cultural influence
Human body
Disease and diseases
Unschuld, Paul
Xu, Shuwei
Xu, Bin
Wending, Mei
Time Periods
Qing dynasty (China, 1644-1912)
17th century
20th century, late
18th century
19th century
Ming dynasty (China, 1368-1644)

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