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Chinese Medicine, Western Medicine and Confucianism: Japanese State Medicine and the Knowledge Cosmopolis of Early Modern East Asia

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This article argues that Chinese state intellectual approaches to medicine significantly influenced the institutional reception of Western medicine in early modern Japan. Confucian-inspired general reforms of government in late eighteenth-century Japan encouraged an increase in state medical intervention, including the introduction of Western medical practices, achieved primarily through the use of transnational Confucian intellectual knowledge apparatuses. Through a sociology of knowledge approach, this article analyzes the links between earlier private-sphere Chinese medical practice, late Chinese imperial state ideas on medicine, and early modern state-led medical Westernization in Japan. The article highlights the role of trans-Asian Confucian ideas, networks and practices in mediating new approaches to technical innovation, including those from the West. The position for Confucianism argued in the article thereby resonates with Bayly’s idea of the early modern information order of India, and Pollock and Ricci’s ideas on cosmopolitan discursive spaces in other parts of Asia.

Affiliations: 1: Leiden University


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