Situating the History of Medicine Within Chinese History

Marta Hanson, Johns Hopkins University

Andrew Schonebaum. Novel Medicine: Healing, Literature, and Popular Knowledge in Early Modern China. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2016. 296 pp. $50 (cloth); $30 (paper).

Hilary A. Smith. Forgotten Disease: Illnesses Transformed in Chinese Medicine. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2017. 248 pp. $85 (cloth); $25 (paper/e-book).

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The past ten years have seen the publication of more than seventy English-language monographs, edited books, translations, dictionaries, and even a three-volume catalogue, related to the history of medicine in China. Such substantive, varied, and often ground-breaking scholarship is finally starting to do justice to the complexity of the subject and the richness of the sources vis-à-vis the better known, and thus more widely taught, history of European and Anglo-American medicine from antiquity to the modern world. Collectively bringing the field of the history of medicine in China to a new level of synthesis, these works not only demonstrate how integral the history of medicine and public health is to Chinese history but also should help facilitate the integration of East Asian medical history into more broadly conceived global histories of medicine and public health. This major boon in publications on the medical history of China over the past decade also reveals the wide-ranging methods and diverse approaches scholars have chosen to frame, and thereby exert heuristic control over, what arguably has become newly visible as the contours of a vast, complex, and essential subject of not just Chinese but human history....