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Confluences of Medicine in Medieval Japan

Buddhist Healing, Chinese Knowledge, Islamic Formulas, and Wounds of War

Andrew Edmund Goble

Publication Year: 2011

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.

Published by: University of Hawai'i Press


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pp. ix-xi

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pp. xiii-xx

This book, the first monograph in English to examine aspects of medieval Japanese medical history, is largely based on a study of the medical writings of the Buddhist priest and physician Kajiwara Shōzen 梶原性全 (1265–1337).1 His two extant works—the Ton’ishō 頓医抄 (Book of the Simple Physician) of 13042 and the Man’anpō 万安方 (Myriad Relief ...

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Chapter 1 The Kamakura Context

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pp. 1-24

Coinciding with the onset of a second wave of Chinese cultural influence on Japan, the Kamakura era was characterized by unprecedented change and mobility, new opportunities for interaction, and challenges to existing forms of institutional, religious, and cultural authority.1 While this did not mean that older forms and conventions were suddenly swept aside or even ...

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Chapter 2 Song Medicine: A View f rom Japan

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pp. 25-45

This chapter aims to convey a sense of the impact of Song medical texts in medieval Japan by looking at two general themes. The first is how access to Song medical texts restructured the landscape of knowledge about medicine in Japan. For this I examine the background of Japanese medical writing, the scale of Song medical writing, and some of what was learned about ...

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Chapter 3 A Silk Road of Pharmaceuticals and Formulas

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pp. 46-66

This chapter highlights the pharmaceutical aspects of the new knowledge available in the East Asian macroculture and shows how Shōzen was a beneficiary of access to and information about materia medica transported along what I call the Pharmaceutical Silk Road. Five topics are discussed: first, the increasing availability of overseas materia medica; second, the ...

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Chapter 4 Leprosy, Buddhist Karmic Illness, and Song Medicine

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pp. 67-88

We do not know how prevalent the disease of rai 癩 (in modern times, the term for Hansen’s disease or leprosy) was prior to the Kamakura era, and we do not know how common it was even during that era. However, rai leprosy and the condition of those who contracted it were significant medical, social, and religious issues during Kajiwara Shōzen’s lifetime. The ...

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Chapter 5 Warfare, Wound Medicine, and Song Medical Knowledge

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pp. 89-112

The preceding chapters have looked at the engagement of Song medical knowledge in a time of peace. The environment was conducive to acquiring books, to gauging the efficacy of medicines, and to spending extended periods of time reflecting upon medicine, and it facilitated ready access to a wide range of materia medica. In 1333, however, four years before ...

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Epilogue Engaging Song Medical Knowledge

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pp. 113-119

The preceding chapters have taken up several topics relating to the acquisition of medical writings, the engagement of a new pharmaceutical regime, and some reasons for and ways in which new information was understood and integrated. Here I would like to make a number of broader observations relating to the appropriation, testing, and refining of medical knowledge...


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pp. 121


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pp. 123-157


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pp. 159-166


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pp. 167-189


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pp. 191-202

E-ISBN-13: 9780824860172
Print-ISBN-13: 9780824835002

Publication Year: 2011