Mediating Between the Global and the Regional: Knowledge Production, Science, and Practices in Modern China
3: Making Knowledge in Marketplaces and Fields: Zhao Yuhuang and the Birth of a New Materia Medica in Modern China
Friday, March 25, 2022
1:30pm – 3:00pm EST
Virtual Paper Presenter(s)
Fudan University, China (People's Republic)
Since the late 1920s, scientific study of Chinese drugs became a promising and heterogeneous practice among specialists of both Chinese and Western medicine in China. Zhao Yuhuang (1883-1960), a Chinese pharmacologist trained in Japan, introduced a new area of study, pharmacognosy (ch. 生藥學), into this field. Even though his initiative was neither the most innovative nor the most eye-catching one among medical communities in the 1930s, his approach unexpectedly became a mainstream approach to the study of Chinese drugs in the 1950s. He was then memorized as the founding figure of Chinese pharmacognosy among medical communities in the PRC.
This study focuses on the life and works of Zhao Yuhuang and argues his visions of pharmacognosy underwent a critical change after he visited a major marketplace for medicinal trade in north China in 1935. By emphasizing the central role of local knowledge produced in medical marketplaces and producing areas, Zhao successfully developed a widely accepted model that aimed to compete with both the German-Japanese model of pharmacognosy and traditional materia medica in China. The ascendance of Zhao’s status and the spread of his research protocol also signify that the “scientific” study of Chinese drugs underwent a key transition from laboratory-based study in Republican China to experience-based research in PRC.