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Lecture 8

HISTORY 70F Lecture 8: Healing in Chinese Medicine

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Healing in Chinese Medicine • Practices and theories become more standardized • But in China, practices are still quite diverse Medical Pluralism • Most healers not from the literate elite o Herbalists/druggists • People understood healing properties of various herbs but didn't necessarily theorize why they worked; didn't classify them into yin-yang or five phases (wouldn't be considered literate; considered unskilled practitioner) o Itinerant healers o Religious/magical healers • Performed exorcism; prayed to spirts; appealed to them; claimed they had power of divination; did it through dances, chanting, or trances to communicate more directly with the spirits • Blurred lines between naturalistic/supernatural • People didn't use to make distinctions between supernatural and naturalistic • People who were believed to be exceptional @ healing were believed to have derived their power from the gods and spirits • Occasionally considered gods themselves o Fei Changfang • Sitting in a marketplace, watching a man who operates a shop sell drugs and concoctions • The man makes sure no one is watching him • Jumps into a gourd and disappears into it • Changfang goes over and knocks • Man reveals he is a god and he's only living on earth temporarily because he's being punished • Upon hearing he's a god, he begs him to teach the way of the medical arts • Becomes apprenticed for ~10 years • Changfang returns to earth and heals illnesses that plague mankind • Does through herbs and drugs • But has derived knowledge from gods • Blurred lines • But: literate healers begin to differentiate themselves • Consider themselves the superior group • This is due to: o Knowledge of theory • Don't just go healing people based on experience • They rely on medical philosophies (5 phases/yin-yang) • Disparage illiterate physicians by end of Han dynasty • Condemning them • Natural and supernatural continue to coexist; but begin to be distinguished based on knowledge of theory Diagnosis • Four examinations • Four different ways to identify an illness o Looking: general mannerisms; how they interacted; general appearance; tongue; skin • Used five phases and yin-yang o Listening & smelling: listen to sound of voice/respiration; body odor (sweet, sour, etc.) • The word for the two were the same in Chinese • Performed together o Asking: asking about pain, location, how long, sleeping patterns, appetite o Touching: taking pulse • Order of skill o Sage (looks)-->craftsman (asks & feels) • Believed that most skilled could just look and could automatically have insight into how to heal • Least skilled would actually need to ask or take pulse • Pulse-taking used to be looked down upon as a lower craft • Hippocratic: Similar to how people looked down on surgeons • Diagnoses/treatments aligned with particular days and times • Learned physicians would've tried to match
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