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The Collection of Early Texts and the Establishment of Databases for Chinese Nationality Medicines


National and local projects to systematize ethnic or “nationality” medical systems are well underway in many parts of China. With colleagues in the China Academy of Chinese Medical Sciences, and in collaboration with scholars associated with various nationalities, we have undertaken the task of editing a catalog of early texts in Chinese minority nationality medicine. We argue that it is both more efficient and more intellectually coherent for the central government, rather than local nationality agencies, to lead the process and coordinate the work of a number of collaborating researchers from various nationality traditions and several regions. Through such collaboration we seek to gather and preserve the most essential textual information. The ultimate aim is to systematize all resources in a unified database in which diversities can still be perceived. In this discussion we report some of the history of archiving and database construction with special reference to Tibetan and Uighur medical history. And we conclude by discussing some of the practical, conceptual, and technical challenges that face any such project to systematize traditional bodies of knowledge.