National and local projects to systematize ethnic or “nationality” medical systems are well underway in many parts of China. With colleagues in the China Academy of Chinese Medical Sciences, and in collaboration with scholars associated with various nationalities, we have undertaken the task of editing a catalog of early texts in Chinese minority nationality medicine. We argue that it is both more efficient and more intellectually coherent for the central government, rather than local nationality agencies, to lead the process and coordinate the work of a number of collaborating researchers from various nationality traditions and several regions. Through such collaboration we seek to gather and preserve the most essential textual information. The ultimate aim is to systematize all resources in a unified database in which diversities can still be perceived. In this discussion we report some of the history of archiving and database construction with special reference to Tibetan and Uighur medical history. And we conclude by discussing some of the practical, conceptual, and technical challenges that face any such project to systematize traditional bodies of knowledge.
The Collection of Early Texts and the Establishment of Databases for Chinese Nationality Medicines
Zhen Yan is associate professor in the Department of Minority Medicine, China Institute for History of Medicine and Medical Literature, at the China Academy of Chinese Medical Sciences, Beijing. She holds a PhD in the history of science, and her research concerns the medical history and literature of China's minority ethnic groups, especially the history of Tibetan medicine. At present she directs one national project, two projects for the State Administration of Traditional Chinese Medicine, and several research projects in the academy. She has published China's Tibetan Medicine and two translations, An Illustrated Guide to Health Cultivation in Tibetan Medicine and Tibetan Herbal Legends. She is the author of over twenty academic articles, and she travels often to minority regions for collaborative work with Tibetan scholars.
Hu Yingchong is an affiliated researcher in the Department of Minority Medicine, China Institute for History of Medicine and Medical Literature, at the China Academy of Chinese Medical Sciences, Beijing, and has an MS in the history of science. His current research is on the history of medicine in China and on minority nationality medical traditions. He directs one independent research project and several projects within the academy. He is the coeditor of many research volumes and translator of two reference works. Important recent publications include “Preliminary Research on the Digitalization of Uighur Medical Literature” (Xinjiang Uighur Medical Technical Schools Report, 2011) and, as a coauthor, with Zhen Yan, “The Chronology of Affairs in Minority Nationality Medicine in Modern Times” (Chinese Journal of Medical History, 2012).
Zhen Yan, Hu Yingchong; The Collection of Early Texts and the Establishment of Databases for Chinese Nationality Medicines. East Asian Science, Technology and Society 1 December 2014; 8 (4): 461–478. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/18752160-2784773
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