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About the talk:
To what extent can we say that the pharmacy of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) today is a product of specific early modern conditions? In this talk, I demonstrate the recent introduction of novel cures into the Chinese pharmacopeia (bencao) since the seventeenth century as a result of maritime trade and imperial expansion. Unlike previous pharmacopeia, Qing pharmacy texts were heavily influenced by the perspective of urban consumers, who described their personal encounter with exotic remedies and new knowledge gleaned from the marketplace. In addition, a large number of recipes are preserved to shed light on how people came up with creative ways of consuming them, often through culinary means. By the end of the eighteenth century, I argue, the highly profitable trade of pharmaceuticals had developed into an integrated, trans-regional model of business that also transformed previous hierarchies of value and imageries of desire.
About the speaker:
He BIAN works on the cultural history of late imperial China with a special focus on medicine and other “minor arts". She received her PhD in history of science from Harvard University in 2014, and has since taught at Princeton University as assistant professor in History and East Asian Studies. She is currently completing a book on pharmacy and early modern culture in China.