Inter-area/Border Crossing

Organized Panel Session

5 - Jesuit Understandings of Abnormal Behavior in Early Modern Chinese Medicine

Thursday, March 22
7:30 PM - 9:30 PM
Location: Delaware Suite A, Lobby Level

During the end of the Ming dynasty and the rise of the Qing dynasty, European Jesuit missionaries assimilated to Chinese customs, clothing, and language. Their adoption of Eastern culture supposedly provided them more insight into Chinese medicine, in particular, the study of “abnormal” behavior. Chinese medical documents claimed abnormal behavior was a symptom of a physiological disease. Jesuit authors published books for European elites and scholars, explaining how the Chinese understood abnormal behavior. However, these Jesuit authors incorporated Western medical terms and ideas in conjunction with Chinese medicine. This often resulted in Westernized and oversimplified explanations. It is questionable whether Jesuit authors used Western medical comparisons for their European audiences or if the authors themselves struggled to understand these concepts and used Western medical terms for their own clarification. This paper examines Jesuit authors such as Jean-Baptiste Du Halde, Michel Boym, Johann Grueber, and Albert d’Orville as well as their texts, in order to provide a better understanding for distorting Chinese medical theories about abnormal behavior. 

Emily Bowlus-Peck

University at Buffalo - State University of New York, New York

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