Opening with a contrast between the pulse-reading practices of traditional Chinese medicine doctors in clinics and the objective data on pulses provided by the electronic pulsometer, this discussion analyzes the qualitative judgments involved in medical diagnosis and therapy. Working clinicians who discern and classify pathological processes employ a semiotics of qualities to establish the value, or practical and ethical significance, of bodily signs. The embodied perceptiveness of pulse reading in Chinese medicine is thus understood as an engagement with qualities. As such, it narrows the field of qualities available to the touch in conventional and historically authorized ways, while still relying on a qualitative excess. In spite of a widespread interest in providing objectively proven, evidence-based medicine both in China and in North America, this article suggests that it is in the nature of clinical work everywhere ultimately to prefer a qualitative semiotics that exceeds standardized classification and quantification.

You do not currently have access to this content.