Multimedia Object: Podcast episode ID: CBB938826465

He Bian, “Know Your Remedies: Pharmacy and Culture in Early Modern China” (Princeton UP, 2020) (2020)


He Bian’s new book Know Your Remedies: Pharmacy and Culture in Early Modern China (Princeton University Press, 2020) is a beautiful cultural history of pharmacy in early modern China. This trans-dynastic book looks at how Chinese approaches to knowledge changed during the Ming and Qing as state-commissioned pharmacopeias dwindled, amateur investigations into the knowledge of things soared, and, ultimately, as natural history was de-medicalized, all while commercialization, monetization, long-distance trade, and empire flourished. This exceptionally rich and intimately text-based study introduces readers to a number of fascinating bencao (materia media), makes a compelling case for studying Chinese history through the lens of pharmacy, and demonstrates that Chinese pharmacy itself has a rich and vibrant history—all with stunning ease. This is both an essential and a joyful read for China historians, while still accessible for non-specialists interested in reading about the early modern world, medicine, the history of knowledge, and stories of strange drugs and the even stranger men who dispensed them.

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Authors & Contributors
Chipman, Leigh N.
Cowen, David L.
Hersch Martínez, Paul
Sherman, Sandra
Pastrana, Patricia Aceves
Cosme, Alba Morales
Dynamis: Acta Hispanica ad Medicinae Scientiarumque Historiam Illustrandam
Endeavour: Review of the Progress of Science
Early Science and Medicine: A Journal for the Study of Science, Technology and Medicine in the Pre-modern Period
Revue d'Histoire de la Pharmacie
Llull: Revista de la Sociedad Española de Historia de las Ciencias y de las Técnicas
University of Chicago Press
SISMEL edizioni del Galluzzo
Presses Universitaires de Vincennes
University of Pittsburgh Press
Formularies; pharmacopoeias
Medicine and culture
Medicine and society
Materia medica
Pomet, Pierre
Sabur ibn Sahl
Dioscorides, Pedanios
Ye Tianshi 葉天士
Time Periods
Early modern
19th century
17th century
18th century
20th century, early
Great Britain

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