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Novel Medicine

Healing, Literature, and Popular Knowledge in Early Modern China

By examining the dynamic interplay between discourses of fiction and medicine, Novel Medicine demonstrates how fiction incorporated, created, and disseminated medical knowledge in China, beginning in the sixteenth century. Critical readings of fictional and medical texts provide a counterpoint to prevailing narratives that focus only on the "literati" aspects of the novel, showing that these texts were not merely read, but were used by a wide variety of readers for a range of purposes. The intersection of knowledge—fictional and real, elite and vernacular—illuminates the history of reading and daily life and challenges us to rethink the nature of Chinese literature.

About the Author

Andrew Schonebaum is associate professor of Chinese literature at the University of Maryland. He is the coeditor of Approaches to Teaching "The Story of the Stone" (Dream of the Red Chamber).


"Groundbreaking. . . . Explores not only the textual interplay of novel medicine and medical fiction, but also their roles as important literary genres in disseminating vernacular knowledge about health, illness, healing, and the body."—Robert E. Hegel, Nan Nu: Men, Women, & Gender in China

"Novel Medicine is an innovative comparison of medical lore and fictional practice. . . . This is an important study, one that should be read by anyone seriously interested in late imperial Chinese culture; it demonstrates the interactions between realms of knowledge that modern specialized fields so easily overlook."—Harry Yi-Jui Wu, Medical History

"Like an early Chinese novel, Andrew Schonebaum's book Novel Medicine both informs and titillates. . . . This is innovative scholarship. . . . Schonebaum's expansive conception and meticulous research make Novel Medicine an eye-opening read, one that I particularly recommend to historians of medicine and of gender and sexuality."—Hilary A. Smith, Bulletin of the History of Medicine

"Offers exciting new literary and historical methods for unraveling the many intersections between medicine and literature that should be of great interest to readers engaged with the medical humanities, the cultural history of medicine, and late imperial Chinese history."—Marta Hanson, Cross-Currents: East Asian History and Culture Review

"This book is a highly original contribution to the scholarship on traditional Chinese fiction. I very much hope that students of traditional Chinese medicine (and of the introduction of Western medicine into China) will find this work equally fascinating and enlightening."—Wilt L. Idema, Journal of the American Oriental Society (JAOS)

"Andrew Schonebaum has written an insightful and original historical work on popular medicine and literature in late imperial China."—Journal of Asian Studies

"Novel Medicine offers an intriguing opportunity to reorient the study of Chinese medical history toward a broader categorization of 'medical texts,' and therefore a more accurate understanding of late imperial worldviews and medical beliefs. . . . Schonebaum's fascinating subject matter provides a thoroughly engaging read."—Chinese Literature: Essays, Articles, Reviews (CLEAR) - Modern

"Straddling the lines between fields like Chinese literature, medical history, and even gender studies, Novel Medicine is eye-opening in its interdisciplinary rigor."—Asian Medicine


"Novel Medicine, by bringing together disparate material in a novel way, sheds new and interesting light on traditional Chinese medicine, vernacular literature, and society."—David Rolston, author of Traditional Chinese Fiction and Fiction Commentary: Reading and Writing Between the Lines

"The genius of this book is to take what appears to be three disparate realms—healing/medicine, literature, and religion—and demonstrate that they shared a common 'literary logic.' The world before the introduction of modern science and bio-medicine is thus revealed to be wrought of a surprising and equally valid common sense. In focusing on recycling, quotations, and oblique references among familiar and obscure texts, Schonebaum has painted a dynamic picture of vernacular knowledge on the eve of China's modernity."—Dorothy Ko, author of Cinderella's Sisters: A Revisionist History of Footbinding

"Novel Medicine is a highly provocative book. Schonebaum seeks to deal with the discourse of illness as reflected by late imperial and early modern literary masterpieces. His research examines a wide range of subjects, from narrative literature to cultural history, and from medicine as an episteme and medicine as a social institution. Schonebaum particularly focuses on the circulation of infectious diseases as a point of reference to the changing notion of body, disease, hygiene, medical technology, and socioeconomic dynamics of early modern China. This is a groundbreaking work."—David Der-wei Wang, Harvard University

University of Washington Press

9780295744315 : novel-medicine-schonebaum
Paperback / softback
296 Pages
$30.00 USD
9780295995182 : novel-medicine-schonebaum
296 Pages
$99.00 USD

Other Titles by Andrew Schonebaum

Approaches to Teaching The Plum in the Golden Vase (The Golden Lotus)

edited by Andrew Schonebaum
Jul 2022 - Modern Language Association
$80.00 USD - Hardback
$34.00 USD - Paperback / softback

Approaches to Teaching The Story of the Stone (Dream of the Red Chamber)

edited by Andrew Schonebaum, Tina Lu
Jan 2013 - Modern Language Association
$29.00 USD - Paperback / softback

Other Titles in HISTORY / Asia / China

Garden of Eloquence / Shuoyuan

Liu Xiang, translated by Eric Henry, introduction by Eric Henry
Jan 2022 - University of Washington Press
$125.00 USD - Hardback

Temples in the Cliffside

Sonya S. Lee
Dec 2021 - University of Washington Press
$65.00 USD - Hardback

Crusaders Against Opium

Kathleen L. Lodwick
Dec 2021 - University Press of Kentucky
$40.00 USD - Electronic book text
$25.00 USD - Paperback / softback