Learning and Teaching Medicine in Late Imperial China

  • Florence Bretelle-Establet
Part of the Boston Studies in the Philosophy and History of Science book series (BSPS, volume 301)


Describing the processes and pedagogical activities that took place within the framework of medical apprenticeship in late imperial China raises a number of issues that have already been addressed in this volume. Firstly, we know very little on the practical processes of teaching in pre-modern traditions and even less on how pupils or beginners actually learned. While teaching schedules were at times defined by masters, we have very little evidence of how teachers and beginners put them into practice. Secondly, when sources related to a teaching/learning situation do exist, a second problem is one that derives from attempting to understand these sources and the activities they support from the point of view of our modern experience of learning and teaching. Against this latter problem, the posture Pierre Hadot adopted in his analysis of the philosophical texts of Antiquity, illustrated by his well-known injunction “toute oeuvre doit être placée dans la praxis dont elle émane” (every work must be replaced in the praxis from which it emanates) appears attractive when analyzing the sources that were written in relation to medical apprenticeship in pre-modern China. This is why while focusing on one particular text, devoted to teaching medicine at the beginning of the nineteenth century in China, I have found it important to reconstruct the social, material, cultural environment in which this text is thought to have been written and to replace the modalities of teaching and learning to which this particular text attests into the wider landscape of medical instruction in late imperial China. As it will appear in the discussion, this landscape was complex even though an imperial institution existed that was intended to set the rule.


Medical Instruction Qing Dynasty Song Dynasty Medical Book Medical Text 
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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Laboratoire SPHERECNRS & Université Paris DiderotParisFrance

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