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Reproducing Women

Medicine, Metaphor, and Childbirth in Late Imperial China

Yi-Li Wu (Author)

Available worldwide

Hardcover, 378 pages
ISBN: 9780520260689
August 2010
$85.00, £66.00
Other Formats Available:
This innovative book uses the lens of cultural history to examine the development of medicine in Qing dynasty China. Focusing on the specialty of “medicine for women”(fuke), Yi-Li Wu explores the material and ideological issues associated with childbearing in the late imperial period. She draws on a rich array of medical writings that circulated in seventeenth- to nineteenth-century China to analyze the points of convergence and contention that shaped people's views of women's reproductive diseases. These points of contention touched on fundamental issues: How different were women's bodies from men's? What drugs were best for promoting conception and preventing miscarriage? Was childbirth inherently dangerous? And who was best qualified to judge? Wu shows that late imperial medicine approached these questions with a new, positive perspective.
List of Illustrations


1. Late Imperial Fuke and the Literate Medical Tradition
2. Amateur as Arbiter: Popular Fuke Manuals in the Qing
3. Function and Structure in the Female Body
4. An Uncertain Harvest: Pregnancy and Miscarriage
5. “Born Like a Lamb”: The Discourse of Cosmologically Resonant Childbirth
6. To Generate and Transform: Strategies for Postpartum Health

Epilogue: Body, Gender, and Medical Legitimacy

Yi-Li Wu is an independent scholar and a Center Associate of the Center for Chinese Studies, University of Michigan.
“This monograph is a major contribution to the growing literature on the history of women’s reproductive health in late imperial China. . . . Yi-Li Wu’s volume is essential reading for students and researchers alike.”—Larissa N. Heinrich East Asian Science, Technology, And Medicine
“A major addition to the growing literature on the history of gender and medicine in Imperial China.”—Angela Ki Che Leung Journal Of Chinese Studies
“[A] well-written and extensively researched work on traditional medicine in late imperial China.”—Journal Of Interdisciplinary History
“[Wu’s] clear prose and concise explanations make this analysis of intricate ideas accessible to the sophisticated general reader and serves as a fine introduction to the history of Chinese reproductive medicine.”—Harvard Journal Of Asiatic Stds
“[Wu’s] research is meticulous, her erudition deep but lighthanded, and her writing lucid. Conceptually and comparatively sophisticated, this is clearly a book that has undergone a long and full gestation period.”—Journal Of Asian Stds (Jas) / Se Asia & Western Pacific
“Splendid. . . . Wu’s broad command of difficult Chinese classical writings is sharpened by her mastery of the cross-cultural history of medicine, placing Chinese physicians alongside their European counterparts as they struggle to diagnose and treat the perilous conditions threatening mother and baby during (and following) pregnancy and childbirth.”—Bulletin Of The History Of Medicine
“A rich account.”—Times Literary Supplement (TLS)
"Yi-Li Wu’s Reproducing Women is an important, readable book."—Asian Medicine
"This is a tremendously rich, exhaustively researched work. Reproducing Women is a pioneering study that will undoubtedly become a standard reading on women's medicine in Chinese history."—Ruth Rogaski, author of Hygienic Modernity

Rossiter Women's History Prize, History of Science Society

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