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11th International Conference on the History of Science in East Asia Friday, 19 August 2005, 10.30–11.00, Kerschensteiner Saal
(Kerschensteiner Room)
15.–20. August 2005, Deutsches Museum, Munich, Germany

The Historical Tendency of Acceptance of Chinese Medicine in Surrounding Countries – From a Study of Extant old Medical Documents –


Ibaraki University, Japan

    From the past until the present, nations around China have been the recipients of Chinese medical knowledge. That knowledge has been examined, incorporated as needed, and has contributed significantly to the formation of their medical. By analytical investigation of extant old medical books, the overall formation process and characteristics of their traditional medicine have become clear.
    During the earlier period of acceptance,  Japan and Korea  were influenced by comprehensive medical works 醫學全書 of the Tang(唐),  Song(宋) and Yuan(元) dynasties, and they compiled comprehensive medical works which quoted suitable parts from these Chinese books. Representative of such works are the Japanese "Ishin Pou(醫心方)" (984), and the Korean " Uibang Yuch'wi(醫方類聚)" (1477). In addition, Japanese and Koreans also collected their own medicines and drugs, and compiled indigenous texts. Two examples here are the Japanese "Daidou Ruijiu Hou(大同類聚方)" (808) and the Korean " Hyang-yak Chipsng Bang(鄕藥集成方)" (1433).
    Later, in what we might refer to as the early modern period, we find in neighboring countries the compilation of comprehensive clinical medical works most suitable for medicines and drugs available in those countries. Examples of these include the Japanese "Keiteki Shyu(啓迪集)" (1574), the Korean " Tong-i Bogam(東醫寳鑒)" (1611) and the Vietnamese "Y-tong Tamlinh(醫宗心領)" (1770).These works primarily quoted from Ming(明) dynasty clinical medical works.
    Besides, each country continued reprinting various Ming dynasty comprehensive medical works, and clinical texts for smallpox up to the latter half of the 19th century. In China, by contrast, we see no such fashion of reprinting these earlier works. A mixture of Chinese characters and native language in translation was also a phenomenon common to works produced in these neighboring countries.
    On the other hand, we also find a phenomenon specific to Japan. Chinese medical classics and research books on them written by Chinese were reprinted 141 times in Japan. However, such books were reprinted only 16 (or 20) times in Korea, and I have been unable to find any reprints in Vietnam and Mongolia.
    In addition, in the Edo(江戸) period alone, 797(or 847) kinds of research books on Chinese medical classics were written by Japanese. Again, by contrast, only one kind of such a book was written by Koreans, 6 kinds of such book were written by Vietnamese, no such book was written by Mongolians.
    Why did only Japanese research Chinese medical classics so much? This phenomenon would seem to spring from the fact that only Japan is an island country. Because the traffic between Japan and China was extremely difficult, the Japanese could not learn from the Chinese directly. That is why the Japanese saw a book as a teacher and studied these difficult classics without being able to consult Chinese specialists.
    Also, only Japan had no experience of long-term war with China and domination by them before the middle of the 19th century. Therefore it was needless for Japan to eliminate strong influence of China and to emphasize own culture. Consequently the Japanese felt a closeness to Chinese culture, and studied their classics. On the other hand, we find that in Korea and Vietnam the Chinese works used were mainly clinical works. The reason for this seems to be, in the face of strong cultural pressure,  a reluctance to study classical works, and their theories, which were not seen as directly related to clinical needs.
    There is a strong possibility that we would find a similar phenomenon in the acceptance of Chinese classics in other fields as well.

6 June 2005