Research Project


Physiognomy of Children in the Medical Literature from Jin to Song China (265-1279)

Prof. Dr. Chia-Feng Chang

This projects aims to examine the art of physiognomy of children in the medical literature from the Jin to Song periods (265-1279).

From the Jin dynasty onwards, pediatric texts and experts have increased in terms of both quantity and quality, and thus pediatricians started to claim their own domain and gradually clarify and formulate this new medical field. Unlike adult patients, who could speak of their pain, infant and toddlers could only cry for medical attention. In order to help these young, “silent” sufferers, pediatricians not only further developed and innovated the extant technique of “wang” (look) to determine their client’s health, but also applied physiognomic skills to foretell either healthy or sick children’s current and future health. Physiognomy was used as a diagnostic tool to enhance the accuracy of diagnosis on the one hand, and to compete with other healers in the open market on the other. By delving into its technique, doctrines, and practices, we can obtain a better understanding of the close relationship between shushu (數術) and medicine, and of the characteristics of pediatrics, the medical culture, and the collective social expectation of children in medieval China.

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