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Chapter 2 Song Medicine A View from Japan 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 medicine from Song writings. The second theme is how some specific elements of knowledge made it possible to identify shortcomings in Japanese medicine and thus to make improvements in Japanese medicine. In taking up these themes, readers will also be able to obtain a broader sense of how Song medicine was understood in early-fourteenth-century Japan. The Textual Landscape The Availability of Medical Works The dearth of Japanese medical works. Prior to the thirteenth century, few works on medicine or on healing were written in Japan, and fewer of them seem to have been in anything like general circulation. Indeed, Kajiwara Shōzen, who was well placed to learn about medical works, mentions few. As far as I can tell, he was completely unacquainted with any work on healing that was associated with the esoteric Tendai and Shingon Buddhist traditions in Japan or any others that advocated ritual healing. 26 song medicine I have been unable to find any Japanese titles in the Ton’ishō and only three in the Man’anpō. These are Tanba Yasuyori’s 丹波康頼 (912–995) Ishinpō 医心方 (Formulas from the Heart of Medicine) of 984; Fukane Sukebito’s 深根輔仁 Honzō wamyō 本草和名 (Japanese Handbook of Materia Medica, early 900s); and Renki’s 蓮基 Chōsei ryōyōhō 長生療 養方 (Formulas for Fostering Long Life) of 1184. The Chōsei ryōyōhō is mentioned once and the Ishinpō only twice.1 Either he thought very little of them, or he did not have access to complete copies of them. The Honzō wamyō, on the other hand, seems to have been more readily available as a fundamental reference tool, and he refers to it frequently when identifying materia medica. To sum this up, Shōzen seems to have had full access to only one Japanese medical work. What might account for this? As noted in the previous chapter, the Heian aristocracy set great store in its cultural capital. It is evident that its predilection was for confirming knowledge rather than testing it and for holding knowledge close rather than sharing it. What we know of the Tendai and Shingon sects suggests that they too were secretive. It is perhaps not surprising then that the two main hereditary families of court physicians, the Wake 和気 and the Tanba, had a similar outlook. They were reluctant to divulge titles of medical works in their possession to outsiders. Control of materials was integral to privilege within the families, access to originals and the right to make copies was highly restricted, and careful records were kept on who had read, borrowed, or copied a text.2 Naturally enough, these restrictions applied to the Ishinpō. We know the Ishinpō as one of only two works compiled in Japan prior to the fourteenth century providing comprehensive coverage of medicine . As the original text of the other one, Daidō ruijūhō 大同類聚方 (Classified Formulas of the Daidō Era), is no longer extant, Ishinpō is thus a medical landmark of great cultural importance. Written on scrolls, it draws on a large number of Sui and Tang period Chinese medical texts, of which the author Yasuyori most likely had direct knowledge. Since only about 5 percent of them are extant, virtually none have survived in China, and many are known only because they are mentioned in the Ishinpō, the Ishinpō is particularly valued by scholars today for what it tells us of the early Chinese medical tradition.3 However, this later importance of the Ishinpō to Chinese medical bibliography was not known contemporaneously . So what was the Ishinpō in the Heian period? song medicine 27 The Ishinpō is divided into thirty chapters. It covers such topics as the essence of medicine, acupuncture, eye problems, throat afflictions, pediatrics , obstetrics, sexual techniques, and much more. The Ishinpō became the Tanba’s core medical text and an embodiment of their cultural capital. It was the major source for subsequent works produced by members of the Tanba family, such as Tanba Masatada’s 丹波雅忠 Iryakushō 医略抄 (Summary Handbook on Medicine, 1081), or Tanba Yukinaga’s 丹波行長 Eisei hiyōshō 衛生秘要抄 (Secret Essentials for Safeguarding Life, 1288), a guide...


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