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The Expressiveness of the Body and the Divergence of Greek and Chinese Medicine Reprint Edition

11 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0942299892
ISBN-10: 0942299892
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Editorial Reviews Review

What are our bodies trying to tell us? In the scholarly yet delicately beautiful The Expressiveness of the Body, Japanese scholar Shigehisa Kuriyama examines two widely divergent traditions of diagnostic examination: Greek and Chinese. While at first glance it would seem that this would entail a straightforward familiar vs. exotic dichotomy for Western readers, only a short way into the book we realize that the ancient Greeks were just as foreign to us as the ancient Chinese. While there is some greater resemblance to modern medicine in the works of Galen and his contemporaries, Kuriyama shows us that their struggle to "decode" the body's signals was just as arbitrary--and just as accurate--as works like the Huangdi Neijing.

Showing that the often dramatic differences between their attitudes about signs such as pulse, breath, and blood both developed from and informed deeper beliefs about the nature of the body, Kuriyama exposes the highly subjective artistry of medicine. Like the proverbial blind men feeling the different parts of the elephant, the ancients focused exclusively on one set of traits and signs and developed a complex theoretical framework around it. Well documented and handsomely illustrated, The Expressiveness of the Body pokes and prods into the space between precise anatomical knowledge and the understanding of qi flow to find the rest of the elephant beyond the trunk, legs, and tail. --Rob Lightner --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Library Journal

In his first book, Kuriyama (International Research Ctr. for Japanese Studies) explores cultural perception through an examination of the historical roots of medicine, tracing a fundamental questionAhow does the body work?Ato ancient Eastern and Western sources. Kuriyama finds widely different perspectives in the Greek and Chinese medical models, expressed through language, touch, sight, breath, and identity. He compares the Western emphasis on anatomy and muscle with the Eastern focus on more sensory aspects: pulse, color, and so on. Ultimately, Kuriyama challenges the notion of a fixed and definite answer to the question and to truth itself. Although the themes of this book have popular appeal, its scholarly nature makes it more suitable for academic or comparative/historical medicine collections.AAndy Wickens, Univ. of Illinois-Chicago Lib. of the Health Sciences
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Zone Books; Reprint edition (March 15, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0942299892
  • ISBN-13: 978-0942299892
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #265,491 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

41 of 41 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 30, 2002
Format: Hardcover
This remarkable book accomplishes several things.
First, it is a stunningly CLEAR analysis of the fundamental concepts of Chinese medicine. For example: what is the difference between 'pulse analysis' in China and 'taking the pulse' in the West? What is the vision of anatomy in early China? How do doctors conduct an examination? What do they look for, and what do they see? How are the abstract, understated illustrations of Chinese medicine to be read and understood? We find that physicians in China not only looked for different things, both healer and patient 'experienced' differently.
If this book had restricted itself to China, that would have been enough. However, it does much more. It also digs deeply into formative ideas of Western civilization, ideas that would become what we now call Western biomedicine. Students of Western medicine are obligated, in my opinion, to read the profound chapter on muscles. It transformed my understanding of what we call anatomy.
If you have ever wondered about the differences between Chinese medicine and Western biomedicine, this is the book.
I used this book one semester to teach undergraduates, and mid-semester, two students approached me and said this: 'We took your class hoping to read a book like this.'
In terms of the writing, this book is a model of economy and lucidity.
It's an immensely enriching work of scholarship.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Leslie Arden Foote on May 1, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Anyone who has explored and studied Chinese medicine is struck by the different perspective it offers. For those intrigued by the history behind how western and eastern perceptions diverged so greatly, this book is an excellent start. In a very scholarly fashion SK has drawn on ancient Greek and Chinese texts to dilineate where that split in perception began. Plato's works reflect a view of medicine not unlike the authors of early chinese medicine texts. Later texts by Galen and Hippocrates, however, begin to show signs of the "evidence based medicine" we all recognize as "western medicine". What led to that transition is the focus of this book and is very absorbing. KS breaks the discussion down into topics such as "Muscularity and Identity", "Blood and Life", and "Wind and Self". Each chapter exploring the vast difference in perception as well as application. This potentially is a very excellent start to developing a bridge between eastern and western medicine. This book gets 4 stars, however, as the vocabulary is cumbersome. I recommend you have a dictionary at your side at all times.
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28 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Saul Boulschett on May 7, 2001
Format: Hardcover
The author is to be commended for doing a service, not only to the medical community, but to all who would seek a greater understanding of how perception feeds and shapes knowledge as such. The prose is elegant, and the subject matter selected and laid out judiciously for the purpose of maximum comparison. The author demonstrates, convincingly that if Eastern Medicine seems strange (and it always did) to Western eyes, Western Medicine is no less so in its peculiar assumptions about the body. All fine and good, BUT... The reason I give it four stars is that there is a lacuna in the logic of comparison here. The design of the study intended to do a one-on-one comparison necessarily restricts the theme drastically. What is seriously lacking is a treatment of the influence on the development of Chinese medicine of Taoist yoga and other esoteric techniques concerning the body, techniques well articulated during the Former Han Dynasty (ca. 200 BCE). The Helenic Civilization, and the West in general, is distinguished from the East by virtue of its lack of systematic techniques of mind-body control, the likes of which may be found in yoga and the various martial arts of the Chinese variety. It seems reasonable to assume that a martial arts technique has to be grounded in a particular, but thorough understanding of the body. And indeed, much of Chinese martial arts and yoga techniques, and medicine are based on experience of things not within the ken of Western modes of perception -- The notion of the ethereal body and various modes of consciousness,for example. But, alas, so much of what is within Chinese medicine and experience remains unmeasured and perhaps unmeasurable by modern Western medical episteme.Read more ›
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By J. Rosen on September 19, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I happened upon this book in a local bookstore a few years ago and thought, well that's an interesting subject. I've read it cover to cover twice, bought a loaner copy to give to friends, and plan to read it a third time this winter. Yes, it's not only that good, it's that packed with ideas that make you want to put it down for a few minutes and just ponder.
I'm a college grad, but not an academic by any means. I don't like reading philosophical texts or literary criticism or anything full of jargon. The language, the development of the argument and the flow of the narrative are all well-done - the book is as much a "good read" as it is a fascinating look at how two cultures from divergent views of how we are made arrived at differing views of what it is to be human.
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