Holistic Wellness in Austin, TX

Chinese Medicine, Literature, and Culture

The material in this section consists of books that a student of Chinese medicine will routinely use for coursework and much more. As a long-term scholar of literature and culture, Paula began her study of Chinese medicine and immediately knew that she wanted to learn as much as possible about not only medicine but also literature, history, and social structures. This section will offer an introduction to Paula’s studies of all matters Chinese.


Sam Hamill, trans. and intro. Lu Chi’s Wen Fu: The Art of Writing. 1991. Minneapolis: Milkweed Publications, 2000. Print.

This small volume provides welcome relief for anyone who finds him or herself slightly embittered and/or annoyed by Strunk and White’s classic screed. A translation of a 3d century Chinese text on the use of language in writing, the Wen Fu is elegant, spare, and beautiful. Also very useful: the translator’s introduction contains an outstanding summary of Chinese history and the life of a scholar in that time period.


 Heinrich, Larissa N. The Afterlife of Images: Transcending the Pathological Body Between China and the West. Bodies, Commodity, Text: Studies of Objectifying Practice. Durham: Duke UP, 2008. Print.

Heinrich’s critical analysis of the use of Chinese medical imagery, both within China and outside of the country, by England, relies on literary, visual, cultural, and historical artifacts to present its case. From the renderings of Chinese infants and children with smallpox in the 18th century to famed artist Lam Qua’s paintings of disfigured and illness-ridden Chinese subjects, the diseased Chinese body became embedded within particular discourses that, Heinrich argues, have effects that are, to a certain extent, prevalent even to this day. This is a fascinating book, one that, in any case, appears to ever-so-slightly objectify China in that its author seems to ignore Britain’s own fascination with diseased bodies not just in China but also within the borders of the United Kingdom.


Hinrichs, TJ and Linda L. Barnes, eds. Chinese Medicine and Healing: An Illustrated History. Cambridge, MA: Belknap P of Harvard UP, 2013. Print.

A genuinely beautiful resource, this book is comprised of chapters contributed by fifty-eight scholars from disciplines that include history, anthropology, religious studies, archeology, and medicine. It covers the broad historical trajectory of Chinese medicine within China and later chapters discuss manifestations of Chinese medicine in countries other than its origin. The considerations of the iterations of Chinese medicine, ranging from topics such as differences in practitioners (from shamans to scholarly physicians and more) to pragmatic and fascinating explorations of women’s health and other applied medical practice themes, makes this collection of interest to anyone, from the casual reader to the scholarly one.


Irwin, Vera R., ed. Four Classical Asian Plays. Baltimore: Penguin, 1972. Print.

The four plays referenced in the title include an example from Indian, Chinese, Noh, and Kabuki theatrical traditions. The Chinese play is “The West Chamber” and is dated roughly to the thirteenth century. This engaging play tells the story of a young scholar’s love affair with the daughter of a minister of the Tang court. Full of sighs, tears, and ultimate happiness, the play is a joy to read and has been translated multiple times into English. This gem of a book is especially thrilling because there are scholarly introductions to each play, the editor’s commentary is extensive, and suggestions for further research are included.


Jia, Wenshan, Xing Lu, and D. Ray Heisey, eds. Chinese Communication Theory and Research: Reflections, New Frontiers, and New Directions. Westport, CT: Ablex, 2002. Print.

The collection of essays that comprise the text offer an extensive and in-depth analysis of Chinese Communications scholarship and theory. They address Chinese Communications as a discipline in and of itself and provide comparative critique that place Chinese theory against and within the boundaries of Western discourses. The focus of this volume is on comparative, internet, and health communications. Of particular interest is Mei-Ling Wang’s chapter, “Chinese Health Communication in the Old and New Millennia.”


Jin, Ha. The Bridegroom. New York: Pantheon, 2000. Print.

This collection of short stories is written in Ha Jin’s characteristic style: spare, understated, and subtle. Jin, now a professor at Emory University, constructs micro-portraits of his native China and, as with his novel Waiting, the vision is somewhat bleak but always deeply human in all its flaws and glories. The best story is “After Cowboy Chicken Came to Town.” The depiction of American fried chicken and a fast-food franchise being foisted on a small town in China and the ensuing cultural miscommunication is elegantly and humorously rendered. The denouement of the piece is both funny and sad in equal measure. After reading this collection, I can’t decide if Jin misses China terribly or resents his former country bitterly. One suspects that it is a mixture of both.

—. Waiting. New York: Vintage International. 2000. Print.

Winner of the 1999 National Book Award and the 2000 PEN/Faulkner Award, this is Ha Jin’s second novel. Waiting tells the story of Lin Kong, an Army doctor, who is trapped in his relationships with two women: his wife, Shuyu, who he spends eighteen years trying to divorce, and his mistress, Manna, who waits, as he does, for his freedom. Shuyu, a rural woman from Kong’s native village, represents the old order—the China of bound feet and Confucianism—while Manna signifies new China in all its industrialized glory. This novel is subtle and touching. Each of the three characters is waiting for something; despite the more explicit subject position of Manna and Kong, Shuyu, too, waits, twisting within the constraints of the interstices connecting China old and new.


Keown, Daniel. The Spark in the Machine: How the Science of Acupuncture Explains the Mysteries of Western Medicine. London: Singing Dragon, 2014. Print.

Daniel Keown is an MD who also holds a degree in Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture. He is a practicing physician and acupuncturist in England. This book is his attempt to bridge the gaps separating Chinese and Western medical theories. It is a lively book—Keown must surely be a witty, charming, and always-welcome guest at any dinner party—and the information is interesting and at times provocative. The book would have been improved had it been edited more firmly and with a more stringent hand, but it is a useful source for anyone who would wish to compare medical systems.


Kleinman, Arthur, Yunxiang Yan, Jing Jun, and Sing Lee, et. al. Deep China: The Moral Life of the Person—What Anthropology and Psychiatry Tell Us About China Today. Berkeley: U of California P, 2011. Print.

This collection of essays explores the inner life of Chinese people today and analyzes the changes wrought by economics, politics, and cultural shifts that move from collectivism to individualism. One essay is by esteemed scholar Kleinman, while the rest of them are the work of his former students. Topics include assessments of the sexual revolution in China; changing attitudes towards depression; the status of HIV-infected nationals; and shifting moral compasses in the younger generations of Chinese people.


Kuriyama, Shigehisa. The Expressiveness of the Body and the Divergence of Greek and Chinese Medicine. New York: Zone Books, 1999. Print.

The author of this book is a cultural and medical historian and this study is a perfect blending of both aspects of his scholarly acumen. The body in and of itself, as an object, exists within multiple frameworks, including but not limited to those related to gender, function, dis/ability, size, shape, and signifying mechanisms. In this study, Kuriyama investigates ways of touching, seeing, and embodiment via discussion of language and the framing of the body, of muscles, of blood-letting, and of the concepts relating to wind. In so doing, Kuriyama clearly and evocatively delineates how Greek and how Asian medical scholarship and tradition constructed notions of the body that, even today, resonate within the respective traditions of Western and traditional Chinese medicine.


Scheid, Volker. Currents of Tradition in Chinese Medicine: 1626-2006. Seattle: Eastland P, 2007. Print.

This thoroughly researched and valuable history traces the development of a particular family of Chinese medicine. This branch of Chinese medicine, known as the Menghe current of practice, is fascinating not only for the patients its adherents treated (everyone from emperors to generals, wealthy people, artists, and more). It further outlines how particular ideologies and associations constructed (and even now construct) what constitutes Chinese medicine. This is a book to read more than once; full of pearls of knowledge, it is beautifully written and evidently meticulously researched.


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