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‘On heart and liver in Chinese and Tibetan medicine’

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By | Early Medicine, Events and Visits

The next seminar in the 2015–16 History of Pre-Modern Medicine Seminar Series takes place on Tuesday 19 January.

Chinese doctor with woman.

A doctor taking the pulse of a woman patient, seated at a table. Watercolour by Zhou Pei Qun, c. 1890. Iconographic no. 571504i. Wellcome Images V0018517.


Professor Elisabeth Hsu (University of Oxford)

On heart and liver in Chinese and Tibetan medicine: a situated history of not wanting to know


This paper asks why the Chinese pulse of the liver was taken on the right hand side, rather than on the left as in Tibetan medicine (and as is correct according to biomedicine). It finds that this simple question cannot be answered by implementing a reductionist and dissecting gaze. Rather, it advocates a relational perspective. By studying the liver in relation to the heart, this paper investigates how this relation was re-enacted in Chinese bodily routines of medieval times, thereby keeping alive a bi-partite yin yang body schema of early China. The paper takes a comparative approach to an entangled history of body techniques.


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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