Ethical Issues of Contagiousness in Traditional Chinese Medicine: A Discussion Centered on a Song Dynasty Case
Keywords:中醫學, 宋代, 傳染性觀念, 禮教, Chinese medicine, Song Dynasty, contagiousness, ritual
LANGUAGE NOTE | Document text in Chinese; abstract also in English.
In traditional Chinese culture, whether a “plague” is considered contagious is not only a matter of medical fact but a complex issue related to morality, social ethics, and national royal power. Cheng Jiong, a neo-Confucianist scholar in the Southern Song Dynasty, argued in Reserved Copy of Medical Classics that, based on both medical theory and the principle of social harms, an epidemic disease should not be considered contagious. Zhu Xi later criticized this argument; he suggested that the public should be informed that an epidemic disease is contagious but should also be advised not to avoid it for the sake of kindness. This paper speculates on the possible reasoning behind their positions: When anti-epidemic measures had limited practical effect, they focused on addressing the ethical issues brought about by the plague rather than solving the problem of the plague itself. They then chose to construct their arguments as a response to the question of whether the plague was contagious. With their divergent interpretations of neo-Confucianist concepts, Cheng Jiong focused on how to overcome the effects of external adversities, whereas Zhu Xi focused more on how an individual might promote moral character from within.
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