Hygienic Modernity: Meanings of Health and Disease in Treaty-Port China

Hygienic Modernity: Meanings of Health and Disease in Treaty-Port China

Hygienic Modernity: Meanings of Health and Disease in Treaty-Port China

Hygienic Modernity: Meanings of Health and Disease in Treaty-Port China

Synopsis

Placing meanings of health and disease at the center of modern Chinese consciousness, Ruth Rogaski reveals how hygiene became a crucial element in the formulation of Chinese modernity in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Rogaski focuses on multiple manifestations across time of a single Chinese concept, weisheng --which has been rendered into English as "hygiene," "sanitary," "health," or "public health"--as it emerged in the complex treaty-port environment of Tianjin. Before the late nineteenth century, weisheng was associated with diverse regimens of diet, meditation, and self-medication. Hygienic Modernity reveals how meanings of weisheng, with the arrival of violent imperialism, shifted from Chinese cosmology to encompass such ideas as national sovereignty, laboratory knowledge, the cleanliness of bodies, and the fitness of races: categories in which the Chinese were often deemed lacking by foreign observers and Chinese elites alike.

Excerpt

Sun the perfected one's song of guarding life (Sun Zhenren Weisheng Ge)

Between Heaven and Earth, Man is most precious, His head resembles Heaven, his feet resemble Earth. the best way to cherish the body your father and mother gave you, Is to diligently study this “Five Happiness Longevity” technique.

To guard life (wei sheng) one must know the three things to avoid: Great anger, great desire, and great drunkenness. If of the three, one still lurks, You must be on guard against the harm it may do to your True Original Qi.

If you desire long life, first abstain from sex. If the Fire does not appear, then the Spirit is naturally calm. Just as Wood that avoids Fire does not become ash, He who can abstain from sex can extend his life. To harbor unchecked desire exhausts Seminal Essence; Take care that you do not lose your Original Spirit, If you exhaust the Form and scatter your Qi,

How then can you preserve your Body? If the Heart is greatly exerted, it becomes exhausted, If the Form is greatly exhausted, it becomes weak, If the Spirit is greatly injured, it becomes depleted, If the Qi is greatly harmed, it will be extinguished.

For generations men have desired to know the Way of Guarding Life [wei sheng zhi dao]: Be happy often, rarely be angry, a sincere heart and righteous intentions will naturally make concerns disappear.

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