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Arabo-Persian physiological theories in late Imperial China

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By | Early Medicine, Events and Visits

The last seminar in the 2017–18 History of Pre-Modern Medicine seminar series takes place on Tuesday 27 February.

Chinese medical image.

Chinese medicine: a practitioner massages a patient’s shoulder. Watercolour by Zhou Pei Qun, c. 1890. Iconographic no. 572423i.

Speaker: Dr Dror Weil (Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin)

Bodies translated: the circulation of Arabo-Persian physiological theories in late Imperial China


Was there a West-East movement of medical knowledge into China other than the one directed by early modern Europe? What were the platforms on which medical knowledge travelled across geographies, languages and cultures, and who were the agents that facilitated such movement? By charting China’s accommodation of Arabic and Persian texts between the 13th and 18th centuries, and the medical knowledge embedded in these texts, this seminar will explore a hitherto little-examined channel of West-East knowledge movement that synthesised Hellenistic, Arabic, Persian and Chinese medical theories and practices. It will discuss the institutional circumstances in which Arabic and Persian texts were imported and reproduced in China, explore some of the physiological theories that these texts introduced to Chinese readers, and examine the processes of translation, adaptation and adoption of these theories in China during the 13th to 18th centuries.


Wellcome Library, 183 Euston Road, London, NW1 2BE.

Doors open at 6pm, seminar will start at 6.15pm.

The seminar series is focused on pre-modern medicine, which we take to cover European and non-European history before the 20th century (antiquity, medieval and early modern history, some elements of 19th-century medicine).

Further details on the seminar series are available in a previous post.

Ross Macfarlane

Ross Macfarlane is the Research Engagement Officer at the Wellcome Library.

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