RBSC Home Library Home Princeton University Home Search
Friends of the Princeton University Library
Department and Collections Conducting Research Catalogs, Databases, and Finding Aids Exhibitions New and Notable Visiting Fellowships
  Friends Home

2000-2001 Visiting Fellows

Dr. Vijaya Deshpande
Shantishila Society

I was awarded a Princeton University Library Fellowship for 2001-2002. I visited the Princeton University for a month in August-September 2001, to carry out a literature survey for my proposed work on the systematization of medieval Chinese medicine. This particular aspect of systematization of Chinese medicine was a phenomenon chiefly of Sui (AD 581-618), Tang (AD 618-907) and Song (AD 960-1279) dynasties. Increased contacts with other culture areas like India and Arabia led to the exchange of ideas, which played a role in the development of Chinese medicine as it did in all other fields of knowledge. Chinese medicine slowly developed from its more or less archaic state and assumed the distinctive form characterized by its own fundamental beliefs, corpus and methods.

Evolution of any medical system is partly a natural process influenced by a number of factors such as changing cosmological ideas, philosophy and religion, changing patterns in social structure, incorporation of folk medicine, scientific advancement and increase in medicine-related experience in general. All these are partly due to external influences. Sino-Indian medical exchanges followed the close Buddhist contacts, which began in the late Han period (AD 25-220). New medical ideas, which accompanied Buddhist philosophy, and medicine-related works which Buddhist monks brought to China altogether made a large influx of foreign material into Chinese medicine. My earlier work on exchanges with respect to ophthalmology revealed that ideas related to various aspects of ophthalmology, including surgical methods used in the treatment of eye diseases, penetrated into Chinese medicine from India in the medieval period.

There are also indications in Chinese historical records of exchanges with respect to various other disciplines of medicine such as pharmaceutics, women's and children's diseases to name a few. It probably was then necessary for the Chinese medical scholars as well as the administrators to scrutinize and absorb the useful parts into the then current system as official medicine leading to their incorporation in the newly made/revised medical textbooks and pharmacopoeia.

To investigate the overall process of systematization it is essential to study the changing character of successive medical writings and pharmacopoeia as well as medical education. It is necessary to understand it in its various aspects ranging from concepts to practice i.e. to understand the development in every field of Chinese medicine during the time period under consideration. Since no library in India has special collection on Chinese science and medicine, I applied for the Fellowship to work at the Gest library, which is famous for its East Asian collection.

At the Gest library I could get a number of books taking a review of the development of Chinese medicine through ages and also those discussing exchanges between China and foreign countries in the field of medicine. They take into account the contents of ancient medical works and trace the evolution of Chinese medicine through them. I also could read articles by Chinese as well as western scholars, both in Chinese and English. These articles act as pointers to the primary sources and thus are useful in finding the landmarks in the evolution of Chinese medicine, in determining the points of entry of new and hence possibly foreign ideas, their adaptation and eventual homogenization into the system. A study of these sources enablesone to understand universalization of medicine achieved through intentional or, at a times, unintentional transmission of ideas, techniques and the medicines themselves.

The Chinese Journal of Medical History was especially rich in articles, which discuss the overall progress of Chinese medicine as well as progress in specialties like pharmaceutics, gynecology and pediatrics during the period under consideration. Articles, which discuss specific issues like gender or reproductive medicine, depicted social scenario behind the change. Some doctoral dissertations were found to reflect upon social, political, geographical aspects of transformation of Chinese medicine during a particular era.

Reference works like comprehensive list of medical works contained in various Chinese libraries, which give an update of the availability and location the successive editions of ancient medical treatises, studies of medical books, reprints of medical compendia were useful in tracing them. Biographical dictionaries of famous Chinese medical men, bibliography of works on Chinese medicine and its history written in foreign languages as well as Chinese, all these were very useful in locating the necessary material. Subjectwise-classified catalogues of medical works arranged chronologically were also useful in finding the earliest and successive treatises written on any topic. Works on relation between Buddhist philosophy and medicine, biographies of Chinese Buddhist medical men in various periods of Chinese history, helped in understanding the contribution made by the Buddhists. Special commemoration issues of the Chinese Journal of Medical History gave an idea regarding contributions of certain prominent personalities of Chinese medicine.

Firestone library with its special collections was of great help for extensive reading and also for looking into other by-lanes which any research invariably leads one to. Recent publications as well as the ancient works made the visit very worthwhile. Moreover there was an easy access to on-line catalogues, copying machines, microfilms viewers in the library. The Gest library also proved to be a place to meet scholars with similar interests from different parts of the world. It was indeed a pleasant bonus to exchange ideas with them.
I express my sincere thanks to the Friends of the Princeton University Library and Chairman Mr. John Delaney in particular for providing this excellent opportunity. The East Asian Gest library being strong in Chinese medicine was especially very useful in this regard. This visit was of vital importance to my research and it would not have been possible to continue working in this field without it.

I thank Dr. Ma, Dr. Heijdra, Ms. Gale and others of the Gest library for their very willing cooperation. I would like to specially thank Dr. Heijdra for introducing me to the modern research techniques like the RLIN Eureka network and the compact disks on Chinese Studies, I also thank him for making arrangements to get the microfilms and books, articles and doctoral dissertations through the Inter-library loan system.


PU home
2001 Princeton University Library
One Washington Road
Princeton, New Jersey 08544 USA
Department of Rare Books and Special Collections
Email: rbsc@princeton.edu 
Tel: (609) 258-3184
Fax: (609) 258-2324

Copyright infringement reports