Chinese Medicine and the Rhetoric of Science

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The science / pseudoscience debate has a long history in China and persists right up to the present. It is interesting to consider how categories and distinctions such as science and pseudoscience are drawn up, by and for whom, in what context and for what purpose. It is striking that many Chinese medicine doctors today hold science up as revealing the truth. Biomedicine is considered scientific medicine, with Chinese medicine judged by its criteria. Nevertheless, at the same time, not only in the West but also in China, Chinese medicine research is frequently criticised for its poor scientific quality. The purpose of this article is not to enter into that discussion. Rather, I would like to highlight the way in which the rhetoric of science changes according to historical context in China, by means of a brief review of the changing discourse on science during successive periods since the mid- 19th century: the late Qing Dynasty, the Republican era, the early Communist era, the Cultural Revolution, and the post-Mao period of opening up to the west.
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Author Trian Ward
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