[More 100 Days of Arts and Sciences, featuring “Manuscripts as sources in the history of Chinese Medicine,” by Unschuld and Zheng, in Medieval Chinese Medicine.]
Two medical manuscripts dating from the Han Dynasty were found in Zhangjiashan grave number 247, in Jiangling, Hubei province, i, n 1983. These are the Maishu (脈書, Book of the Mai [vessels/channels]) and the Yinshu (引書, Pulling Book).
The Maishu was composed no later than the middle of the 2nd century BCE (there was a surge in medical development at the end of the 3rd century BCE). The Maishu consists of 6 texts, which were named by Donald Harper as follows:
Five Signs of Death
Care of the Body
Vessels and Vapour
The content is a mix of pre-medical healing techniques and the foundations for medical practice. The same connection between human physiology and natural structures is present here, especially in the Six Constituents.
The Yinshu contains a three-part text regarding macrobiotic techniques intended to pull qi (vapor) in and through the body. This is accomplished via gymnastic exercises, seasonal regimens, daily hygiene, and sexual practices.
Leo’s book is primarily concerned with the 1st century BCE-1st century CE text, Suwen(素問, Basic Questions), which is dedicated to the Yellow Emperor. The text is considered part of Chinese medical canonical thought, and was annotated and amended over the course of 500 years.
The Suwen connects human physiology with natural forms and structures, using the same word (mai) used for river systems as for circulatory systems. This is indicative of the larger framework that guided Chinese thought: “[the] human being as a par of nature means that, by means of intelligence, humanity is capable of co-operating with the productive cycle of heaven and earth” (x).
Schilling also mentions Stephen Owen’s “Reproduction in the Shijing (Classics of Poetry)” and how human fertility and reproduction were presented there as being aligned with agricultural cycles of sowing and harvesting. More pearl-growing for me!
Understanding Chinese views of human sexuality shine a much brighter light on pregnancy and obstetrics, as well as Chinese culture. For example, because sexuality and reproduction were seen as life-sustaining forces, the separation of the sexes in Chinese society was not a way to diminish sexuality but rather used to “control and guide human sexual behavior in certain ways believed to be consistent with the dualistic scheme of nature” (x).
The physical body was seen as an ancestral gift, and fertility an extension of that. There was a “deep concern” (ix) exhibited in Chinese literature for childbearing and fertility, as it was a way to honor one’s family and clan by continuing the ancestral line.
A few weeks ago, I decided to undertake the A&S Century, or 100 Days of A&S, that has been sweeping through the SCA as of late. The challenge was first proposed by Baroness Ameline of Rowany, and is similar to the armored combatant century drill (100 days, 100 blows). Except instead of hitting people/getting hit, you spend at least 10 minutes a day working on an A&S project.
Inspired by Wu daren at the Royal University of Meridies this summer, and prompted by Mistress Catelin’s challenge to research period maternity clothing, I decided to embark on a research focused A&S Century. My topic? Pregnancy and obstetrics in Early-Middle Imperial China (221 BCE – 1234 CE). This covers the Qin through the Song Dynasties, but I will likely focus more on Middle than Early Imperial China, due to available sources.
This is technically a restart, since my start a few weeks ago had gaps between research periods, and the idea of the challenge is to do it every day. So for the reboot, I moved to the interlibrary loan title that I had to give back the soonest – Medieval Chinese medicine: The Dunhuang medical manuscripts, edited by Vivienne Lo and Christopher Cullen, published by Routledge (Taylor and Francis), in 2005.
This book has 16 essays on a variety of topics pertaining to the medical manuscripts found in the Dunhuang caves. My initial plan of attack for this title was to look up “pregnancy” in the index and go to all the listed pages and see what was mentioned. Three of those four essays (at least in part) are the subject of this post. Other essays of note, which I’ll have to look at before I turn this book in, include:
“Love charms among the Dunhuang manuscripts,” by Liu Lexian
“Tiandi yinyang jiaohuang dalefu and the art of the bedchamber,” by Sumiyo Umekawa
The first essay I looked at was “Manuscripts as sources in the history of Chinese medicine,” by Paul U. Unschuld and Zheng Jingsheng, translated from German by Mitch Cohen. Pregnancy pops up in this essay in the discussion of “medication lists” (yaomu, 藥目) as a type of medical manuscript, though one that is absent from the Dunhuang collection. Unschuld and Zheng have other writings regarding such lists in the Berlin collection of manuscripts (yay pearl-growing!). Medication lists are lists of prepared medicines, usually pills but sometimes powders, salves, or boli, that were sold in pharmacies. The medications were designed for specific diseases, and the lists only name things that could be inventoried and sold. The lists are almost always well organized, either by disease/symptom or with medications numbered and indexed in a table of contents.
There are two kinds of medication lists – printed for publication and, often handwritten, confidential lists. Published lists were used to promote pharmacies by advertising what products were available, offer guarantees of success, and build trust. They sometimes listed the component ingredients to medications, but never the amounts, so as to keep recipes secret. Conversely, confidential lists were handwritten, and had to be copied meticulously since accuracy was key to the pharmacy’s success. These lists were only accessible by those working at the pharmacy, and were more often organized by the amounts of various components, preparation methods, form of medication, or preservation methods. Some items had prices for individual components, others only a price for the whole medication. Since these lists were “trade secrets,” they did not become available to collectors and other interested parties until after 1949, when private pharmacies were banned and either closed or nationalized. Most lists were comprehensive in terms of the areas of medicine they covered (internal, external, gynecology, orthopedics, pediatrics, treating smallpox, ophthalmology, ears/nose/throat) while others were specialized (gynecology, pediatrics, orthopedics).
The second essay I looked at was “From prognosis to diagnosis of illness in Tang China: Comparison of the Dunhaung manuscript P. 3390 and medical sources,” by Catherine Despeux. Manuscript P. 3390 is held by the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris, and is digitized as part of the International Dunhuang Project.
The manuscript has two listed dates, 945 CE and 950 CE, making the reasonable compilation of the manuscript 950 CE. The fragment that describes how to examine the face to divine events and diagnose disease is missing the beginning and end. It consists of 11 illustrations of the face, captioned and annotated, and additional instructional text (columns 50-83). The diagrams of the faces are annotated to show:
the relationship between the parts of the face and the 12 earthly branches;
the relationship between the parts of the face and the 9 regions of China; and,
the relationship between the parts of the face, from top to bottom, and the 12 months of the year.
Coloring of the complexion was interpreted as a release of qi. Using these defined regions and various colors, the practioner made their prediction and/or diagnosis. Of the 80 legible signs, the majority are about auspicious or inauspicious events, such as accident, illness, death, or promotion, prosperity, and legacy. 3 are medical, and one has to do with predicting the gender of an unborn child.
The right side of the face corresponded to Yin, or the feminine, and the left to the Yang, or masculine. If the pregnant woman had yellow coloration under her right eye, she would have a girl – under the left, a boy.
Lastly, I looked at “The Dunhuang manuscripts and pharmacology in medieval China,” by Wang Shumin, translated by Christopher Cullen. Wang talks briefly about the earliest extant work on dietetics, the treatment of diseases through diet – the Shiliao Bencao (食療本草, Materia Dietetica). Meng Sheng’s 934 compilation of over 200 edible items is lost, but a fragment survived in Dunhuang, and it is quoted in later sources.
The Dunhuang fragment, housed by the British Library and digitized as part of the International Dunhuang Project, consists of 139 columns of text, with 82 entries regarding 23 medical foods. The text goes into considerable detail on the dietary needs of children and pregnant women.
If you’re writing Medieval historical lit or pseudo-medieval fantasy and need a way to name your Jewish side-characters (we were there!) here’s a site that could be of some assistance. This is about the Iberian peninsula, but people travel… and the past thousand years have seen a lot of us being kicked out of various countries so even if your setting isn’t Spain or Portugal, these may still be useful.
It’s a first generation Kindle Fire which my husband bought for me for my birthday several years ago. I love it. I never thought I would like a Kindle, but I used my Fire all the time to read, watch Netflix, and even play the occasional stupid game. I even loaded PDFs for school onto it so I could do my readings on my lunch break without having to lug around a bunch of printed out PDFs.
The trouble with PDFs on a Kindle is that you have to move around the screen in order to read everything, especially if the text is formatted into columns.
After talking with Mistress Una the other night, I got the idea that it was probably possible to convert PDFs to EPUB, which is a much friendly format for e-readers. This would mean that you could read your journal articles and other PDFs (like the free MOMA books) in comfort wherever you read other things on your preferred e-reading device.
A quick Google search turned up a Digital Trends article, How to Convert a PDF file to EPUB, which offers a few different options. I played around with ePUBator on my phone, but if there is a way to tell it where to save the converted file for easy retrieval, I haven’t figured it out yet. I’ve used Calibre for other e-book management features, so I’ve got that flagged as the next one to try.
In the first post in this series, I talked about the basics of writing research – which are really just the basics of writing. There are lots of “how to write documentation” guides out there, which I will link to in Step Four, The Writing, but even if you’re following an outline/template/guide, writing in a clear, concise style that is easy for people to read and understand while pointing them to where they can find out more about The Thing You Did is a skill. And all skills can be honed and tweaked and improved upon.
But before you can write, before you can even Make the Thing, you need to research.
So my historical costuming resources list from 2011 was less than a page long- I’m not saying that I’ve learned a lot in the past three years, but this list is now sitting pretty at a solid nine pages. Whew. And people wonder why I want to redo this damn series.
This list is by no means an exhaustive one- it’s a list of (primarily western) historical fashion resources, both online and offline, that is limited to what I know, own, or use! It’s a work in progress, and I’m definitely hoping to expand on it as my knowledge base grows. First things first, how about a little:
ADVICE FOR RESEARCHING HISTORICAL FASHION
Read, and read about more than just costuming. Allowing yourself to understand the cultural and historical context surrounding the clothing of a particular region/period can be invaluable in sussing out good costume design. Looking at pictures is all well and good, but reading about societal pressures, about construction techniques, daily routines, local symbolism, whatever else will really help you understand the rhyme and reason behind costuming from any given context.
Expand your costume vocabulary. When you’re delving into a new topic, costuming or otherwise, picking up new terminology is essential to proper understanding and furthering your research. Write down or take note of terms as you come across them- google them, look up synonyms, and use those words as a jumping off point for more research. What’s a wire rebato? How does it differ from a supportasse? Inquiring minds want to know.
Double-check your sources. Especially on the internet, and double especially on tumblr. I love it, but it’s ground zero for rapidly spreading misinformation. Books are usually your safest bet, but also take into account their date of publication, who’s writing them- an author’s biases can severely mangle their original source material.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Do everything you can to find out information on your own, but feel free to reach out to people with more specialized areas of knowledge for help! Be considerate about it- the people you’re asking are busy as well- but a specific line of questioning that proves you’re passionate and that you respect their subject matter expertise can work wonders.
Okay, onto the links!
It’s impossible to overstate the importance of getting off the internet and looking into books! God bless the internet, but books are (generally, this isn’t a rule) better-researched and better-sourced. Bibliographies also mean each individual books can be a jumping off point for further research, which is always a fantastic thing.
Remember- owning books is awesome and you should absolutely assemble your own library of resources, but LIBRARIES. Libraries. You’ll be surprised to find what books are available to you at your local library.
A History of Costume A lot of good text and info, to be taken with a grain of salt. Be wary of any reconstructions and or “supposed” patterns that aren’t directly based on extant garments or firsthand accounts.
Fashion in Detail books Not what you want if you’re looking for photos of entire costumes- note the “in detail” bit up there. Just a beautiful series, and great reference for all the little things you might miss otherwise. The V&A has an amazing fashion collection, and it’s great to see them share it with the world.