Medicine wasn’t always an empirical study, at least for Japan. Traditional medicine from the Chinese was used hand in hand with science-based practice from the West during the Edo Period (1603-1867) in the country. This unique blend of medical system used in Japan can be seen by people visiting the National Museum of Nature and Science in Tokyo for an exhibit called Ii wa Jinjutsu (“Medicine as a Philantrophic Art”).
One entering the Center of the History of Japanese Industrial Technology would be treated with scroll illustrations of criminals’ bodies opened and organs inflated for the doctors’ observation. Such was the way autopsies were conducted then, in a time where touching corpses with your own hands is a religious taboo. Because traditional Chinese medicine discourages one from cutting open a body, as it merely would show the effects of the illness and not the actual cause, Japanese physicians until 1754 refrained from doing so. It was only in 1774, at the influence of Dutch and Portuguese settlers in the country, did the curiosity with the German “Anatomische Tabellen,” or “Ontleedkundige Tafelen” in Dutch, translated as Anatomic Tables in English, did the Japanese came to practice sectioning a human body to verify its accuracy. The Japanese translation of this book called Kaitai Shinsho (“New Text on Anatomy”) is also on display in the exhibit.
Kazuyoshi Suzuki, director of the center, noted that the Japanese translation was also distributed to the common people for their knowledge. The art exhibit shows how Japan took both elements of traditional medicine with western practice to “adapt to their own needs.“ It also shows how the nationalized medicine system can be traced back as far as the Edo Period, and does not begin postwar as most people think, according to Suzuki.
[via Asahi Shimbun]