How Commoners Became Consumers of Naturalistic Medicine in Korea, 1600-1800
- East Asian Science, Technology and Society: an International Journal
- Duke University Press
- Volume 4, Number 2, 2010
- pp. 275-301
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Perhaps the most significant shift in the history of Korean medicine was the popularization of medicine that started during the latter half of the seventeenth century and continued in the nineteenth century. As a result of this process, a Korea equipped with a naturalistic and rational medical system was, for the first time in Korean history, no longer monopolized by a minority of the ruling class. The use of medicine in this period expanded nationwide, even to the level of small towns in terms of geography and even to the general populace in terms of socioeconomic class. In what follows, I examine changes in medical practices and explore the process of and factors behind the popularization of medicine. Given the sources, it is not possible to compile time series data to show at a glance the great changes that took place in medical practices during the latter half of the Chosŏn Dynasty by era, region, gender, and class. The closest we can get to such data comes from a comparison of diaries. However, it is impossible to understand the mechanisms of development and change for each period solely based on such a comparison of diaries. To overcome this drawback, I make use of a different form of example. The case concerns the long-lasting Kangnŭng medical mutual aid society 江陵藥契, which was initiated in 1603 and lasted until 1842.