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Yang Nianqun, Zaizao Bingren: Zhong Xi Yi Chongtu Xia De Kongjian Zhengzhi, 1832–1985 [Remaking “Patients”: Politics of Space in the Conflicts between Traditional Chinese Medicine and Western Medicine, 1832–1985] Peking: China Renmin University Press, 2006 Shang-Jen Li Received: 18 March 2009 /Accepted: 18 March 2009 /Published online: 8 May 2009 # National Science Council, Taiwan 2009 This is an ambitious book both in terms of its scope and its approach. It covers the period between the early nineteenth century and the late twentieth century, and it deals with several important subjects relating to the history of medicine in modern China such as missionary medicine, early psychiatric asylums, urban and rural health care, and the conflict between Western medicine and traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). The book covers a long period and its chapters generally follow a chronological order; nevertheless, it eschews the dry, tedious listing of names and events that are all too common in general histories written by Chinese historians. In the introduction of his book, Yang criticizes these Chinese historians, who are also practitioners of TCM, for focusing their research on evaluating the “scientific content” of TCM (p. 4). He also explicitly rejects diffusionist accounts of Western medicine in China. His approach has thus departed from the kind of internal history of medical concepts and theories that is still dominant in Chinese historians’ writing today. On the other hand, the book also differs significantly from Whiggish accounts of the introduction of modern Western medicine to China and the modernization of TCM. Yang’s analysis of medicine in China during this turbulent period is characterized by detailed discussions of state policies and keen attention to popular culture. Furthermore, he has not shied away from using contemporary social theories and philosophy, such as the concepts championed by Michel Foucault, Anthony Giddens, Susan Sontag, and others, as analytical tools. The result is both refreshing and intriguing. The first two chapters of the book are a study of missionary medicine in nineteenth and early twentieth century China. Some of the points made by Yang, for example, the observation that missionary medicine in general failed to convert any significant number of Chinese patients to Christianity and that instead of preaching East Asian Science, Technology and Society: an International Journal (2009) 3:133–136 DOI 10.1007/s12280-009-9082-9 S.-J. Li (*) Institute of History and Philology, Academia Sinica, Taipei 11529, Taiwan e-mail: medical missionaries increasingly devoted themselves to medical work, have been discussed in earlier works by other scholars. But chapter 1 includes an interesting discussion of how Chinese patients understood the efficacy of foreigners’ charitable medicine in terms of Chinese folk religion, and chapter 2 contains an in-depth analysis of the connection between missionary medicine, antimissionary rumors, and the traditional Chinese belief in black magic related to the use of human body parts (採生折割). Yang rightly points out that Chinese families were not used to entrusting sick family members to the care of strangers, and consequently, missionary hospitals had to adapt their medical practice to the customs of family care and try to transform them. Lastly, there is also a brilliant analysis of how the spatial arrangement of missionary establishments, such as churches, hospitals, and orphanages, aroused fear in the Chinese people. Chapters 3 and 5 should be read together. The former describes the efforts of some provincial and municipal governments to establish a professional, independent public health system in the 1920s and 1930s. Most of these attempts were short-lived and sanitary matters remained under the charge of the police department. It was an arrangement that bore striking similarity to that used in Japan, but the author has not explored this connection. The chapter also contains some interesting accounts of preventive measures implemented during cholera outbreaks, i.e., sending out teams of health care workers and soldiers to conduct forced vaccination on customers in tea houses and passengers disembarking from steamboats. Most of the chapter, however, is about the Peking Union Medical College professor John B. Grant’s vision for the establishment of community health care in China as well as his cooperation with the Peking City government. Related to this, the first half...


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pp. 133-136
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Archived 2021
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