Article ID: CBB001450048

Reading Hands: Pulse Qualities and the Specificity of the Clinical (2014)


Opening with a contrast between the pulse-reading practices of traditional Chinese medicine doctors in clinics and the objective data on pulses provided by the electronic pulsometer, this discussion analyzes the qualitative judgments involved in medical diagnosis and therapy. Working clinicians who discern and classify pathological processes employ a semiotics of qualities to establish the value, or practical and ethical significance, of bodily signs. The embodied perceptiveness of pulse reading in Chinese medicine is thus understood as an engagement with qualities. As such, it narrows the field of qualities available to the touch in conventional and historically authorized ways, while still relying on a qualitative excess. In spite of a widespread interest in providing objectively proven, evidence-based medicine both in China and in North America, this article suggests that it is in the nature of clinical work everywhere ultimately to prefer a qualitative semiotics that exceeds standardized classification and quantification.

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Authors & Contributors
Lei, Sean Hsiang-lin
Karchmer, Eric I.
Liang, Rong
Barnes, Linda L.
Hao, Xian-zhong
Taylor, Kim
Asian Medicine: Tradition and Modernity
Ziran Kexueshi Yanjiu (Studies in the History of Natural Sciences)
Journal of Dialectics of Nature
Social History of Medicine
Early Science and Medicine: A Journal for the Study of Science, Technology and Medicine in the Pre-modern Period
Harvard University Press
State University of New York Press
Duke University Press
University of Chicago Press
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
National University of Singapore Press
Medicine, Chinese traditional
East Asia, civilization and culture
Cross-cultural interaction; cultural influence
Medicine and society
Yu, Yun-xiu
Time Periods
20th century
19th century
20th century, late
17th century
18th century

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