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Antisyphilitic mercury drugs in early modern China and Japan


Trambaiolo, Daniel (2015). Antisyphilitic mercury drugs in early modern China and Japan. Asiatische Studien / Études Asiatiques, 69(4):997-1016.

Abstract

Toxic mercury chloride compounds, including preparations and mixtures of corrosive sublimate (HgCl2) and calomel (Hg2Cl2), were widely used in early modern Chinese and Japanese medicine. Some of these drugs had been manufactured in East Asia for more than a thousand years, while others were produced using newer recipes developed in East Asia after the arrival of syphilis or introduced through contact with European medical knowledge. This paper traces the history of the uses and methods of production of sublimated mercury chloride drugs in early modern East Asia, showing how the Chinese doctor Chen Sicheng’s invention of the drug shengshengru (J. seiseinyū) 生生乳 in the seventeenth century exerted a strong influence over eighteenth- and nineteenth century Japanese doctors’ treatment of syphilis. Japanese doctors’ efforts to produce and use seiseinyū provided a foundation of technical knowledge that was important for their later reception of European-style mercury chloride drugs.

Abstract

Toxic mercury chloride compounds, including preparations and mixtures of corrosive sublimate (HgCl2) and calomel (Hg2Cl2), were widely used in early modern Chinese and Japanese medicine. Some of these drugs had been manufactured in East Asia for more than a thousand years, while others were produced using newer recipes developed in East Asia after the arrival of syphilis or introduced through contact with European medical knowledge. This paper traces the history of the uses and methods of production of sublimated mercury chloride drugs in early modern East Asia, showing how the Chinese doctor Chen Sicheng’s invention of the drug shengshengru (J. seiseinyū) 生生乳 in the seventeenth century exerted a strong influence over eighteenth- and nineteenth century Japanese doctors’ treatment of syphilis. Japanese doctors’ efforts to produce and use seiseinyū provided a foundation of technical knowledge that was important for their later reception of European-style mercury chloride drugs.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:Journals > Asiatische Studien / Études Asiatiques > Archive > 69 (2015) > 4
Dewey Decimal Classification:Unspecified
Language:English
Date:2015
Deposited On:23 Jan 2017 10:23
Last Modified:23 Jan 2017 10:23
Publisher:De Gruyter
ISSN:0004-4717
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1515/asia-2015-1044

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