Chapter

Chinese Pharmacology

Paul U. Unschuld

in What Is Medicine?

Published by University of California Press

Published in print September 2009 | ISBN: 9780520257658
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520944701 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1525/california/9780520257658.003.0047
Chinese Pharmacology

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The Chinese authors who created the new pharmacology starting in the eleventh and twelfth centuries were not narrow-minded physicians who focused solely on the human body's suffering and remained isolated from history, politics, and the ideas of their philosophers. As the political philosophy of the Neo-Confucians restored the comprehensive validity of Confucianism and incorporated themes hitherto reserved for Daoism, they produced, for the first time, the comprehensive validity of the doctrines of yin-yang and the five agents by applying to the explanation of the effects of the pharmaceutics in the body. Political philosophy and professional physicians' politics permitted the origins of pharmacology. It is not unusual in China for doctors to offer a diagnosis for free and to earn their living from the sale of pharmaceutics. For this, patients first need to see a physician instead of going directly to an apothecary. It was the task of pharmacology and gave physicians the knowledge of where and how pharmaceutics worked in the body.

Keywords: new pharmacology; Neo-Confucians; Daoism; doctrines of yin-yang; five agents; pharmaceutics

Chapter.  550 words. 

Subjects: Medical Anthropology

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