Blood, Body, and Gender: Medical Images of the Female Condition in China, 1600–1850

Charlotte Furth

in Chinese Femininities/Chinese Masculinities

Published by University of California Press

Published in print January 2002 | ISBN: 9780520211032
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520935303 | DOI:
Blood, Body, and Gender: Medical Images of the Female Condition in China, 1600–1850

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This chapter explores the medical images—blood, body, and gender—of the female condition in China during the period 1600–1850. In many cultures, including China's, folk practice shows that female blood was shunned as dangerous. Some anthropologists argue that menstrual blood, like other bodily discharges, is symbolically linked with dangers to social order because it is matter out of place that has left the normal confines of the body to mark the perilous transitions of birth and reproduction. Menstrual taboos represent women as sources of dirt and disorder yet mistresses of generation. These taboos create a symbolic system in which female pollution and female power are intertwined and warred on by male authority. The strategy of this chapter is to look beyond popular attitudes to medical symbolizations of female blood in China. The medical texts it draws upon date from the late sixteenth to the late nineteenth centuries. They range from imperially sponsored encyclopedias to popular household manuals.

Keywords: medical image; female blood; menstrual blood; reproduction; medical symbolization

Chapter.  10557 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Anthropology

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