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Desiderata for the Principles of Compilation of a Canon of Buddhism and Medicine

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A Consumer’s Guide to the Zhongguo Fojiao yiyao quanshu (Complete Works of Chinese Buddhist Medicine and Pharmacopeia, 2011)

image of Asian Medicine

“Buddhist medicine” is a neologism that first took root in the mid-twentieth century and has been gaining traction over the last few decades. While specialists treat this phrase as a heuristic device best used with caution, the 100-volume compendium collection Complete Works of Chinese Buddhist Medicine and Pharmacopeia (Zhongguo Fojiao yiyao quanshu 中國佛教醫藥全書, 2011) is a concretization of vague terminology into an actual body of works. The present article reviews the claims of the editors of the Complete Works of Chinese Buddhist Medicine and Pharmacopeia against the works actually included in the compendium to find that the selection criteria was inadequate and choice of exemplars haphazard. Attempting an intellectual history of the present, the article analyses the editors’ motivations in light of the politics of canon compilation in the late imperial period, finding that the claim of mastering a comprehensive body of knowledge remains institutionally attractive in the contemporary People’s Republic of China, even if it is divorced from critical scholarly abilities comparable to those of the editors of Qing dynasty scholars. Cognizant that Digital Humanities projects continue to rely on printed compendiums for the texts they digitize, the article closes with suggested guidelines for the compilation of future collections on Buddhism and medicine in order to make them more useful to present day scholars.

Affiliations: 1: North Carolina State University


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