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Hybridizing Scholastic Psychology with Chinese Medicine: A Seventeenth-Century Chinese Catholic's Conceptions of Xin (Mind and Heart)

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This paper explores the dynamics of cultural interactions between early modern China and Europe initiated by the Jesuits and other Catholic missionaries through a case study of Wang Honghan, a seventeenth-century Chinese Catholic who systematically sought to integrate European learning introduced by the missionaries with pre-modern Chinese medicine. Focusing on the ways in which Wang combined his Western and Chinese sources to develop and articulate his views on xin (mind and heart), this paper argues that Wang arrived at a peculiar hybrid between scholastic psychology and Chinese medicine, not so much through a course of haphazard misunderstanding as through his conscious and patterned use and abuse of his Western sources, which was motivated most possibly by a wish to define a theoretical position that most suited his social roles as a Catholic convert and a Chinese medical doctor. Thus, rather than seeing Wang as an epitome of "transmission failure," this paper offers it as a showcase for the tremendous dynamism and creativity occurring at this East-West "contact zone" as representatives of both cultures sought to appropriate and transform the symbolic and textual resources of the other side.

Affiliations: 1: Southern Illinois University Carbondale


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