Medicinal formulas and experiential knowledge in the seventeenth-century epistemic exchange between China and Europe

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Abstract

This essay deals with the medical recipe as an epistemic genre that played an important role in the cross-cultural transmission of knowledge. The article first compares the development of the recipe as a textual form in Chinese and European premodern medical cultures. It then focuses on the use of recipes in the transmission of Chinese pharmacology to Europe in the second half of the seventeenth century. The main sources examined are the Chinese medicinal formulas translated—presumably—by the Jesuit Michael Boym and published in Specimen Medicinae Sinicae (1682), a text that introduced Chinese pulse medicine to Europe. The article examines how the translator rendered the Chinese formulas into Latin for a European audience. Arguably, the translation was facilitated by the fact that the recipe as a distinct epistemic genre had developed, with strong parallels, in both Europe and China. Building on these parallels, the translator used the recipe as a shared textual format that would allow the transfer of knowledge between the two medical cultures.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-25
Number of pages25
JournalISIS
Volume108
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • History and Philosophy of Science

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