Médecine, Religion et Société dans la Chine médiévale

Volume 06, Issue 2

Médecine, Religion et Société dans la Chine médiévale, edited by Catherine Despeux. professor at the Institut national de langues et civilisations orientales in Paris and an internationally recognized scholar-specialist of Chinese medicine, is the fruit of an international collaboration that brought together the most eminent scholars in the field of Chinese medical history from France, Germany, England, the United States, and China. This three-volume book is based on an analysis of a corpus of some one hundred manuscripts from Dunhuang, Khotan, and Turfan in western China. The Dunhuang manuscripts, which constitute the largest part of the corpus examined and are also the most available thus far, had been walled up at the beginning of the eleventh century in a Buddhist monastery and were only discovered at the beginning of the twentieth century. The manuscripts from Turfan and Khotan were mostly discov- ered in tombs during several archaeological campaigns, from the beginning of the twentieth century to present times. Most of these manuscripts, written during the Tang dynasty (618-907), were first studied from the perspectives of religion and political, economic, and social history. It is only more recently that this rich corpus of manu- scripts has been analyzed in China and abroad from new perspectives, notably that of the history of science and techniques. Despeux's book on medical history thus belongs to this pioneering research. It is not the first book, however, to address the question of medical history seen through the lens of the manuscripts produced in one far-distant corner of the Chinese empire in medieval times. As Despeux recalls it, the noted historian Ma Jixing started to work on these manuscripts in the 1960s and published annotated editions of them in the late 1980s (see Ma 1988). In 2005, Vivienne Lo and Christopher Cullen edited the first book on this subject in English, to which several authors of the present book also contributed. The number of manuscripts discovered is, however, enough to provide work for other historians, many of whom, moreover, have looked at them from new perspectives. The present book, in fact, provides additional

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