Research Projects

Medical Culture in the Canton-Hong Kong Region in the Long Nineteenth Century

(Funded under General Research Fund Scheme 2010 – 11 Exercise, Research Grants Council, Hong Kong)

Principal Investigator

Angela Ki Che Leung, Director and Chair Professor of History, Hong Kong Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences, Joseph Needham-Philip Mao Professor in Chinese History, Science and Civilization

Total Fund Awarded

HKD 576,483

Project Duration

January 2010 – December 2013

Project Description

The aim of this project is to study and analyze the practice of medicine in a specific time (1800 – 1920s) and place (Canton/Hong Kong region), in terms of specialties, therapeutics, the social position of practitioners, and institutional development. We will study the medical culture of the region in this period by looking at the development of certain specialties of the region, including Chinese waike (external medicine), which required hands-on therapeutic techniques to deal with a wide range of diseases with symptoms appearing on the skin, bones and eyes. We will analyze the way prevalent or endemic diseases, such as plague, leprosy, and syphilis, were diagnosed and treated. Locally produced Chinese translations of Western medical texts and the appreciation of Chinese medicine by Western practitioners in the region will also be studied. We will also analyze the social background and identity of practitioners, not only practitioners of traditional indigenous medicine, but also those who were familiar with Western medicine. Lastly, we will consider the organization and management of charitable medical institutions in the region, including clinics, charitable halls providing medical services and yiyuan (hospitals, not necessarily on the modern Western hospital model), as the activities of these institutions will reveal specific features of the medical culture in this region. A better understanding of this indigenous medical culture will enrich current notions of a national and universal model of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), refine the conventional polarity between TCM and Western medicine, and lay an indispensable foundation for a proper appreciation of the nature and practice of colonial medicine in southern China in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.