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The Adaptation of the Treatise on Cold Damagein Eighteenth-century Japan

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Text, Society, and Readers

image of Asian Medicine

This paper examines how the Shanghanlun, translated as the Treatise on Cold Damage(i.e., the Treatise), one of the most revered Chinese medical texts of the Han dynasty, was used in Japanese traditional medicine (Kanpō 漢方), and particularly how it was reconfigured to fit with the societal shifts of the Edo period in Japan. The versatility of the Treatisein the formation of Kanpō is exemplified by the medicine of Yoshimasu Tōdō, an innovative eighteenth-century Japanese doctor. In this analysis of Tōdō’s unique interpretation of the Treatise, some of his transitional ideas about medicine, the human body, and illness, as well as the transcultural influence from China, will be elucidated. To this end, first Tōdō’s application of the Treatisewill be re-defined within the historical context of changing medical needs in the consumer society of the Edo period. Secondly, by focusing on the idea of poison that forms the core of Tōdō’s theory and practice, I show how his pathology resonated with the period’s popular notions of the human body and illness, although it was said at the time to be drawn from Chinese classics. Associating Tōdō’s use of the Treatisewith such phenomena as the commercialisation and popularisation of medical treatment and the popular imagination of illness, I show the applicability of the Treatiseto the evolution of Kanpō in the context of the surrounding social structure and cross-cultural intellectual ebb and flow across East Asia.

Affiliations: 1: School of Human Relations, Keio University 4–1-1 Hiyoshi, Kohoku-ku, Yokohama, Kanagawa, 223-0061 Japan fax +81-44871-6510


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