A Way of Life Things, Thought, and Action in Chinese Medicine Judith Farquhar

The Terry Lectures Series
Publication date:
12 May 2020
Yale University Press
184 pages: 210 x 140 x 17mm
3 b-w illus.
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A short, thoughtful introduction to traditional Chinese medicine that looks beyond the conventional boundaries of Western biomedical science

Traditional Chinese medicine is often viewed as mystical or superstitious, with outcomes requiring naïve faith. Judith Farquhar, drawing on her hard-won knowledge of social, intellectual, and clinical spheres in today’s China, here offers a concise and nuanced treatment that addresses enduring and troublesome ontological, epistemological, and ethical questions. In this work, which is based on her 2017 Terry Lectures, “Reality, Reason, and Action In and Beyond Chinese Medicine,” she considers how the modern, rationalized, and scientific field of traditional Chinese medicine constructs its very real objects (bodies, symptoms, drugs), how experts think through and sort out pathology and health (yinyang, right qi / wrong qi, stasis, flow), and how contemporary doctors act responsibly to “seek out the root” of bodily disorder. Through this refined investigation, East-West contrasts collapse, and systematic Chinese medicine, no longer a mystery or a pseudo-science, can become a philosophical ally and a rich resource for a more capacious science.

Judith Farquhar is the Max Palevsky Professor Emerita in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Chicago. She studies traditional medicine, popular culture, and everyday life in contemporary China and has published five other books, most recently Ten Thousand Things: Nurturing Life in Contemporary Beijing.

"A rare and nuanced scholarly effort that always remains engaging and delightful. As with any memorable journey, at the end we more deeply understand and feel our own point of departure."—Ted J. Kaptchuk, author of The Web That Has No Weaver: Understanding Chinese Medicine

“This wonderfully challenging book is an induction into another world, a translation between traditional Chinese medicine and Western post-Enlightenment bio-medicine. Judith Farquhar guides us expertly through the things, thoughts, and actions of these mutually understandable worlds.”—Stephan Feuchtwang, author of Popular Religion in China: The Imperial Metaphor

“Judith Farquhar’s anthropological and linguistic focus is novel, making this book a welcome addition to the sometimes-confusing works that attempt to ‘translate’ Chinese medicine for a Western reader.”—William C. Summers, author of The Great Manchurian Plague of 1910-1911: The Geopolitics of an Epidemic Disease

A Way of Life is original, creative scholarship of the highest quality, presented in lovely and stylish prose. It is truly a pleasure to read.”—Dale Martin, author of Biblical Truths: The Meaning of Scripture in the Twenty-first Century and of Sex and the Single Savior: Gender and Sexuality in Biblical Interpretation

“A Way of Life distills decades of anthropological and philosophical study of Chinese medical practice, in which Judith Farquhar was authoritatively trained, into an introduction as lucid as it is deep.”—Nathan Sivin, author of  Health Care in Eleventh-Century China