Dr. Vijaya Deshpande
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
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
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.