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4 Ancient Texts and New Medical Ideas in Eighteenth-Century Japan

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Chapter Summary

The Ancient Formulas (kohō 古方) doctors of the eighteenth century made important contributions to the development of medical empiricism in Japan and to the subsequent growth of interest in European medicine among Tokugawa doctors. The significance of their philological studies of early Chinese texts has been less widely appreciated, despite the fact that the Ancient Formulas doctors themselves regarded philology as fundamental to their efforts to restore the medical knowledge and practices of Chinese antiquity. This essay explores the relationship between the philological and the empirical investigations of the Ancient Formulas doctors Yamawaki Tōyō and Yoshimasu Tōdō, tracing these investigations’ origins in the social and intellectual contexts of eighteenth-century urban medical practice and arguing that these apparently contrasting modes of inquiry were complementary aspects of a coherent epistemology that valued explicit arguments and concrete evidence over intuitive reasoning from first principles.



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