Distinguished lecture explores the art of historical Chinese illness terminology translation

4 November 2014


The Institute of Creativity co-organised a distinguished lecture with the School of Chinese Medicine last Thursday (30 October). Professor Paul U Unschuld, Director of the Horst-Goertz-Endowment Institute for the Theory, History and Ethics of Chinese Life Sciences at Charité-Medical University Berlin, was invited to speak on “The translation of historical Chinese illness terminology into Western languages”. 

Professor Unschuld, who had served as the Director of the Institute for the History of Medicine of Munich University Medical School for nearly 20 years, is a world-class scholar on research on the comparative history of European and Chinese medicine and philological translation of ancient Chinese medical texts. He said that healthcare and medicine are the cultural response to an existential crisis. He expressed the view that the use of modern biomedical terms to translate historical Chinese medical texts alienates the content from their cultural origin and generates an ideology that is neither Western nor Chinese. From the historical perspective of ideas, medicine and science in both Europe and China, it has been shown that new ideas about health and disease do not emerge because of clinical experience but are related to changes in basic notions of order and crisis in society. The fact is that ancient Chinese medicine, like ancient European medicine, carries a therapeutic and socio-political objective.


Professor Unschuld delivers an insightful lecture on the translation of historical Chinese illness terminology