In this Book
Confluences of Medicine is the first book-length exploration in English of issues of medicine and society in premodern Japan. This multifaceted study weaves a rich tapestry of Buddhist healing practices, Chinese medical knowledge, Asian pharmaceuticals, and Islamic formulas as it elucidates their appropriation and integration into medieval Japanese medicine. It expands the parameters of the study of medicine in East Asia, which to date has focused on the subject in individual countries, and introduces the dynamics of interaction and exchange that coursed through the East Asian macro-culture.
The book explores these themes primarily through the two extant works of the Buddhist priest and clinical physician Kajiwara Shozen (1265–1337), who was active at the medical facility housed at Gokurakuji temple in Kamakura, the capital of Japan’s first warrior government. With access to large numbers of printed Song medical texts and a wide range of materia medica from as far away as the Middle East, Shozen was a beneficiary of the efflorescence of trade and exchange across the East China Sea that typifies this era. His break with the restrictions of Japanese medicine is revealed in Ton’isho (Book of the simple physician) and Man’apo (Myriad relief formulas). Both of these texts are landmarks: the former being the first work written in Japanese for a popular audience; the latter, the most extensive Japanese medical work prior to the seventeenth century.
Confluences of Medicine brings to the fore the range of factors—networks of Buddhist priests, institutional support, availability of materials, relevance of overseas knowledge to local conditions of domestic strife, and serendipity—that influenced the Japanese acquisition of Chinese medical information. It offers the first substantive portrait of the impact of the Song printing revolution in medieval Japan and provides a rare glimpse of Chinese medicine as it was understood outside of China. It is further distinguished by its attention to materia medica and medicinal formulas and to the challenges of technical translation and technological transfer in the reception and incorporation of a new pharmaceutical regime.