New Approaches to Chinese Medical Literature

Panel organisers:

Name Email
Vivienne Lo
Donald Harper


This panel will be held in honour of Paul U Unschuld whose magisterial contribution to the history of Chinese Medicine needs no introduction. Professor Unschuld was also a driving force in the early years of IASTAM, so it is fitting to celebrate his retirement by convening, at the latest meeting of the society, many of those scholars whose work has been influenced by his tireless dedication to the field. The panel takes its inspiration from his first and only edited volume, “Approaches to

Chinese Medical Literature”, which was published in 1989. That volume, and indeed much of Professor Unschuld’s work since then, addressed issues that arise in translating Chinese medicine. It proved to be prophetic. Issues of translation are very much at the heart of contemporary academic enterprise in the world of Chinese medicine, not to speak of a major focus for international funding agencies.  Since that time there have been intense debates about the nature of translation that focus

on issues of standardisation v. cultural translation on which Professor Unschuld has always taken a distinctive stand. Archaeological discoveries since the 1980s have stimulated important new approaches to the study of manuscripts and material culture which have revolutionized the history of Chinese medicine; and our understanding of China as an ‘open empire’, with deep historical connections along the routes through central Asia has also benefitted from this new wave of studies.

In response to Professor Unschuld’s work on pharmacology, a major element of this panel will therefore be on what happens as ideas, practices, but particularly substances travel. Finally, the investment into transcultural, transnational, and global histories of medicine over the past thirty years also allows us to reflect in new ways on the meta theme of ICTAM VII: Asian Medicines: Encounters, Translations and Transformations from the point of view of the reception of Chinese medical literature in the twenty first century.

Impressions of ICTAM IX

  • Impressions of ICTAM IX, 2017, by Matthias Burmeister, ICTAM IX Filmteam

Trailer ICTAM IX, 2017