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Documenting Medications: Patients’ Demand, Physicians’ Virtuosity, and Genre-Mixing of Prescription-Cases (Fang’an) in Seventeenth-Century China

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Xianxingzhai guang biji (‘Expanded Notes from the Studio of Early Enlightenment’) is a Chinese medical case collection based primarily on the interaction between the physician Miao Xiyong and his patients. Professional interest alone, however, cannot explain the unique combination of cases with detailed prescriptions. Rather, elite patients played a crucial role in collecting and publishing these cases, driven in part by the need to prepare their own medications at home. Physicians then reciprocated by sharing their prescriptions for patronage, thereby fashioning a more flexible style of medical virtuosity. Finally, both patients and physicians grappled with the unbounded possibilities and dangers presented by novel illnesses and cures. This episode anticipates the consolidation of recipe-cases (fang’an) as a stable didactic genre by the eighteenth century.

Affiliations: 1: Princeton University


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