China and Inner Asia
Organized Panel Session
How and why were religious objects, products, and techniques used as medicines in premodern China? This panel uses a range of disciplinary approaches to discuss the mediating roles that herbs, recipes, scriptures, and the human body played in medicinal and healing practices for premodern Chinese peoples, whether medical professionals, religious practitioners, or even peasants. Most pertinently, the papers emphasize the materiality intrinsic to these peoples’ conversion of previously unimbued substances and processes into simultaneously efficacious healing and spiritual agents. Liu’s paper, interrogating the therapeutic effects of elixirs in Daoist alchemy, explores the significance of associated bodily experiences, and nuances the connections between medicine and religion in the Tang. Delgado Creamer’s paper, highlighting the medical valence of Buddhist scripture-copying among Dunhuang materials, analyzes explicit prescriptions for particular kinds of diseases and underlines how such acts produced healing effects. Sum Cheuk Shing’s paper, centering Dunhuang medical recipes, investigates grain avoidance (bigu 辟穀) in the Guiyijun period and demonstrates how religious practitioners used drugs to attain spiritual goals. Cheng’s paper, focusing on the herb cangzhu 蒼术, charts how cangzhu became an integral part of various peoples’ lives and reveals the trade, market, and environmental considerations of the healing and wellness culture in the Song. Together, the panel presents a wide selection of primary documents from regions throughout premodern China, examining both transmitted and manuscript sources, to illustrate the numerous intersections between medicine and religion and their implications for assorted facets of cultural history in premodern China.