Tobacco in Ming-Qing Medical Culture

Carol Benedict

in Golden-Silk Smoke

Published by University of California Press

Published in print October 2011 | ISBN: 9780520262775
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520948563 | DOI:
Tobacco in Ming-Qing Medical Culture

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Chinese physicians in the early seventeenth century recognized that tobacco could harm the body. Well into the early 1900s, numerous medical texts continued to list “smoke grass” (yancao) as a remedy that could be deployed against certain ailments, even though these same texts generally warned against excessive use. Smoking tobacco, an innovative therapy made familiar by way of analogy to other ingestibles, was adopted enthusiastically as a medicinal by Chinese physicians influenced by one particular strand of the medicine of systematic correspondences, namely the “warm and replenish” school. This current of thought was influential among many Jiangnan scholar-physicians in the late Ming period, but was far from hegemonic. Those working in other traditions, particularly those who followed the “nourish the yin” school, criticized the use of tobacco, regarding it as a potent substance which they believed to be totally detrimental to human health. From the vantage point of Chinese pharmacotherapy, tobacco had considerable toxicity.

Keywords: China; tobacco; smoking; physicians; pharmacotherapy; health; medicine; warm and replenish; Ming period; nourish the yin

Chapter.  10934 words. 

Subjects: Asian History

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