Healing with Poisons: The Circulation of Medical Knowledge in Medieval China – Asia in Depth Seminar

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Professor Yan Liu

During China’s formative era of pharmacy, poisons were strategically deployed as healing agents to cure everything from chills to pains to epidemics. Focusing on the early Tang period (7th and 8th centuries), in this talk Professor Yan Liu (SUNY-Buffalo) illustrated how the court regulated the use of poisons and commissioned new medical treatises to achieve effective governance. This further demonstrates how local people in Dunhuang in present-day Gansu Province in northwestern China adapted such texts, in both form and content, to meet their specific needs. By tracing the flow of medicinal substances in the Tang empire, this talk highlighted the entwined processes of the rise of authoritative, standardized medical knowledge and its fluid transformations in local regions.