He Bian, "Know Your Remedies: Pharmacy and Culture in Early Modern China" (Princeton UP, 2020)

Summary

He Bian’s new book Know Your Remedies: Pharmacy and Culture in Early Modern China (Princeton University Press, 2020) is a beautiful cultural history of pharmacy in early modern China. This trans-dynastic book looks at how Chinese approaches to knowledge changed during the Ming and Qing as state-commissioned pharmacopeias dwindled, amateur investigations into the knowledge of things soared, and, ultimately, as natural history was de-medicalized, all while commercialization, monetization, long-distance trade, and empire flourished. This exceptionally rich and intimately text-based study introduces readers to a number of fascinating bencao (materia media), makes a compelling case for studying Chinese history through the lens of pharmacy, and demonstrates that Chinese pharmacy itself has a rich and vibrant history—all with stunning ease. This is both an essential and a joyful read for China historians, while still accessible for non-specialists interested in reading about the early modern world, medicine, the history of knowledge, and stories of strange drugs and the even stranger men who dispensed them.
Sarah Bramao-Ramos is a PhD candidate in History and East Asian Languages at Harvard University. She is interested in book history, early modern translation, and anything involving a kesike.

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Sarah Bramao-Ramos

Sarah Bramao-Ramos is a Research Assistant Professor at the Society of Fellows in the Humanities at the University of Hong Kong. She is a cultural historian of Qing China (1644–1911), with a particular interest in Manchu studies. She can be reached at sarahbr@hku.hk
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