Case Number 14
This case is intriguing for a number of reasons: First, there is an interesting exchange between Xu and other doctors concerning the appropriate formula to treat the patient. Xu states that his decision is based on knowledge not in the Treatise. He is thus superior even to colleagues who are familiar with the book. He then says that he had to convince the family to follow his treatment strategy. These exchanges show that even a famous physician did not control of medical decisions; he had to argue with competitors and convince the family that his treatment was correct. Second, Xu records the suggestion of another doctor to apply a unique honey enema, which Xu himself used in another case in the collection, suggesting that this was not an uncommon procedure to induce bowel movement. Third, when Xu discusses the doctrinal basis for using the medication, he notes that the formula does not appear in the Treatise. This happens in a number of Xu’s cases, implying that he did not passively accept the contents of the canons, but also used his own proven medications. Some of Xu’s peers, especially the literati physicians who also prepared for the imperial examinations, shared this critical reading of the ancient medical canons. He even says that he does not expect the other doctors to know where his prescription comes from; even if they would have read the Treatise they would have not found it there.
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