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The Song Discontinuity: Rapid Innovation in Northern Song Dynasty Medicine

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image of Asian Medicine

The theoretical basis and the therapeutic practices of medicine in China changed dramatically during the Northern Song dynasty (960–1127 CE). Government activism, personal involvement of emperors, and changes in patterns of epidemics created a new realm of medicine. Basic notions of disease and conceptions of the body changed due to the reprinting of ancient medical canons previously inaccessible to the majority of physicians. This article describes the change focusing on several issues such as the revision of books, the standardisation of acu-moxa therapy, the interest of emperors in medicine, expansion of drug therapy, the systematisation of medical education, and the establishment of medical institutions such as the Imperial Pharmacy. It concludes that following the changes introduced by the government, physicians adapted their medical theory and practice by integrating ancient doctrines with contemporary practices to create a new and comprehensive medical system that lasted with no major changes to the present.


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