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The Transmission of Medical Knowledge on 'Nurturing the Fetus' in Early China

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Early and medieval Chinese medical authors produced, preserved, and transmitted medical information on 'nurturing the fetus' as an important aspect of literature on 'nurturing life' and ensuring the continuation of the family lineage. This article demonstrates the origin and development of a textual tradition from the Mawangdui manuscripts in the early second century BCE to early medieval formularies such as the Beiji qianjin yaofang and material found in the Japanese compendium Ishimpō. In this process, early descriptions of the month-by-month development of the fetus and corresponding instructions for the mother were preserved almost literally, but gradually supplemented with elements that reflected developments in medical theory and practice. These include correlations between months, five phases, and internal organs according to the theory of systematic correspondences; detailed descriptions of acupuncture channels and points prohibited during each month of pregnancy; medicinal formulas for the prevention and treatment of disorders of pregnancy; and, lastly, ten line drawings that depict the monthly changes in the naked body of a pregnant woman and her fetus, as well as prohibited acupuncture channels and points. Texts on 'nurturing the fetus' thus show the influence of cosmology and yin-yang theory, formulary literature, acumoxa charts and prohibitions, and vessel and visceral theory, but most importantly, a growing attention to the gender-specific medical needs of female bodies in the context of 'formulas for women.'

10.1163/157342105777996584
/content/journals/10.1163/157342105777996584
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/content/journals/10.1163/157342105777996584
2005-07-01
2016-12-10

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