This book brings the study of gender to Chinese medicine and in so doing contextualizes Chinese medicine in history. It examines the rich but neglected tradition of fuke, or medicine for women, over the seven hundred years between the Song and the end of the Ming dynasty. Using medical classics, popular handbooks, case histories, and belles lettres, it explores evolving understandings of fertility and menstruation, gestation and childbirth, sexuality, and gynecological disorders.
Furth locates medical practice in the home, where knowledge was not the monopoly of the learned physician and male doctors had to negotiate the class and gender boundaries of everyday life. Women as healers and as patients both participated in the dominant medical culture and sheltered a female sphere of expertise centered on, but not limited to, gestation and birth. Ultimately, her analysis of the relationship of language, text, and practice reaches beyond her immediate subject to address theoretical problems that arise when we look at the epistemological foundations of our knowledge of the body and its history.
Charlotte Furth is Professor of History, University of Southern California, author of Ting Wen-chiang: Science and China's New Culture (1970), and editor of The Limits of Change: Essays on Conservative Alternatives in Republican China (1976).
"Highly original, and sophisticatedly and convincingly argued. This book is one of the best studies in any language of how Chinese medicine evolved intellectually and socially in the course of the imperial period."—Francesca Bray, author of Technology and Gender
History of Women in Science Prize, History of Science Society