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Know Your RemediesPharmacy and Culture in Early Modern China$
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He Bian

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780691179049

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: September 2020

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691179049.001.0001

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The Last Pharmacopeia

The Last Pharmacopeia

(p.23) 1 The Last Pharmacopeia
Know Your Remedies

He Bian

Princeton University Press

This chapter traces the decentralization of prestige associated with the state-commissioned pharmacopeia up until the end of the sixteenth century. It argues that the decentralization of authority had already been well under way since the eleventh century, when the Northern Song court did commission multiple bencao pharmacopeias. Proceeding chronologically, three trends stand out in this examination of bencao as a field of inquiry. First, the Song state could not exert much control over these elaborate texts in transmission. A variety of authors, acting independently of the imperial court, made changes to the official edition and promoted their work through the manuscript or the newly available technology of printing. Second, major medical innovations during the Jin-Yuan period inspired physicians to explain pharmacological action in cosmic, systematic terms. Lastly, regional official publishing—a hallmark of Ming book culture—made the elaborate Song pharmacopeia widely available in print from the mid-fifteenth century. As a result, an unprecedented number of texts emerged that attempted to integrate cosmic pharmacology with the pharmacopeia, creating new discourses and textual genres.

Keywords:   decentralization, state-commissioned pharmacopeia, cosmology, book culture, publishing, cosmic pharmacology

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