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Full Access The Nation in Utero: Translating the Science of Fetal Education in Republican China

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The Nation in Utero: Translating the Science of Fetal Education in Republican China

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As Chinese nationalists grappled with the political and military weakness of the young Republic of China, some sought to strengthen the Chinese race by advocating a return to the ancient practice of fetal education. Fetal education held that every sight, sound, and flavor that a pregnant mother took in through her senses, as well as her emotions and demeanor, directly affected her fetus. This paper examines how the text Taijiao, Song Jiazhao's 1914 Chinese translation of Shimoda Jirō's Japanese work Taikyō, presents a modern reformulation of fetal education that draws upon both modern Western science and East Asian medicine. As the text uses modern biology and psychology to explain and demonstrate the efficacy of fetal education, it also narrows the scope of fetal education to focus almost exclusively on the mother's psychological state. Similarly, as the text turns to instruct women on the practice of fetal education, it draws upon Edo and Qing gynecological principles to emphasise the importance of the pregnant mother's emotional self-control. Ultimately this text represents a neo-traditionalist response to modernity as it presents a Neo-Confucian vision of fetal education focused on a pregnant mother's moral self-cultivation and emotional self control.


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