Marta Hanson, “The Body–as–Technology in Classical Chinese Medicine”

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Date

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Time

5:30 pm

Location

Taylor Hall 203-Auditorium

Some sixteenth to seventeenth-century Chinese medical scholars used the phrase “Understanding is within one's grasp’ (liaoran zaiwo 燎然在握) to emphasize how “hand mnemonics” (zhangjue 掌訣) could aid healers to master the cosmic patterns relevant for medical care. These authors included instructions for healers to use their hands to make prognostications based on seasonal patterns, predict periods when epidemics were more likely to occur, and differentiate their patients’ aberrant from normal pulses. To have something “within one’s grasp” (zaiwo 在握) in Chinese as in English metaphorically meant to understand (liaoran暸然). To borrow from cognitive science, the way they used their hands to think with can understood as a form of extended cognition. Early modern Chinese healers maximized the instrumentalization of their bodies as a diagnostic and measuring instrument as well as a time-keeping, mnemonic, and calculating devices. Understanding how healers used their body-as-technology in classical Chinese medicine, also illuminates the range of knowledge about Heaven and Earth some early modern healers used their bodies and hands to master.Some sixteenth to seventeenth-century Chinese medical scholars used the phrase “Understanding is within one's grasp’ (liaoran zaiwo 燎然在握) to emphasize how “hand mnemonics” (zhangjue 掌訣) could aid healers to master the cosmic patterns relevant for medical care. These authors included instructions for healers to use their hands to make prognostications based on seasonal patterns, predict periods when epidemics were more likely to occur, and differentiate their patients’ aberrant from normal pulses. To have something “within one’s grasp” (zaiwo 在握) in Chinese as in English metaphorically meant to understand (liaoran暸然). To borrow from cognitive science, the way they used their hands to think with can understood as a form of extended cognition. Early modern Chinese healers maximized the instrumentalization of their bodies as a diagnostic and measuring instrument as well as a time-keeping, mnemonic, and calculating devices. Understanding how healers used their body-as-technology in classical Chinese medicine, also illuminates the range of knowledge about Heaven and Earth some early modern healers used their bodies and hands to master.

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Contact
Michelle Whalen

Department
History Department