The Demarcation and Context of Illness Interpretation in Chinese Medicine and Western Medicine in the Early Period of Republic of China: Taking Typhoid Fever as an Example

Author Info
Pi Guo-Li
Ph. D. Candidate, Department of History, National Taiwan Normal University

The exchange of traditional Chinese medicine and Western medicine in modern times has produced many interesting issues in the history of medicine. This study examined the demarcation and context of illness interpretation in Chinese Medicine and Western medicine by reviewing the translation process of the name and meaning of an illness before and after it was translated. Under the background of historical development of Chinese medicine, it highlighted the developmental direction of Chinese medicine in the early period of the Republic of China, as well as the necessity and restrictions of transformation that it faced.

Taking typhoid fever for example, it was a new noun introduced into China from Western countries and Japan, and was integrated with the illness interpretation of the traditional medical classic, “Shang Han Lun,” and its opposite theory of warm illness in the Qing Dynasty. The difficulties that Chinese medicine faced at that time were the disputation over the classification of typhoid between theories of cold illness and warm illness, and the reply to the statements o f Western medicine. It was found that the classical medical definition s of illness in Chinese medicine were firm; however, the impact of Western medicine made it necessary for Chinese medicine to introspect the original definitions of illnesses. Doctors of Chinese medicine started to organize and unify similar statements in the study of heat illness, and re-defined the properties and names of Western diseases within Chinese medical classics. At last, Chinese medicine did not change the discuss ions and descriptions of traditional illnesses thoroughly. It could be s aid that this history of illness interpretation was the insistence of Chinese medicine doctors on the right over illness interpretation, which also revealed the endless dialogues between practitioners of Chinese medicine and classical medicine at that time.

Taiwanese Journal for Studies of Science, Technology and Medicine, Number 11 (October 2010), 25-88