Project (2015)

Recipes and Experiential Knowledge in the Seventeenth-Century Epistemic Exchange between China and Europe

This project investigates the medical recipe as the vehicle for the transmission of experiential knowledge between cultures. I start by describing the bifurcation of pre-modern pharmacology into two main forms, formula and recipe/prescription, which is found in both European and Chinese medical cultures. I then analyze the early modern exchange of information on materia medica between Europe and China, with particular attention to the transmission of Chinese pharmacology to Europe in the second half of the seventeenth century. My main sources are the medical formulas and list of materia medica included in Specimen Medicinae Sinicae (1682), edited by Andreas Cleyer and presumably written by the Jesuit Michael Boym—a text that played a fundamental role in the introduction of Chinese pulse medicine to Europe. I examine how Boym adapted the Chinese formula structure for a European audience, in his effort to find a common ground between European and Chinese medicine. An important part of this common ground was, for Boym, a strong appreciation of experience-based knowledge.

Working Group Book