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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Dissecting modernity : anatomy and power in the language of science in China Luesink, David Nanson


This study analyzes the construction of modernity by looking at a set of problems that began to be posed in a striking connection in China in the 1910s, related to anatomy, technical language and power. It does so by focusing on a network of people who created and standardized translations for scientific terminology in Chinese, beginning with the terminology for anatomy. This network, lasting from 1915 to 1927, extended to three hundred members, but this study keeps the focus on a much smaller number. Anglo-American physicians were represented by Philip Cousland and Yu Fengbin. Mediating between missionaries and Chinese elite physicians were members of the Jiangsu Provincial Education Association like philologist Shen Enfu, but also Yu Rizhang, also head of the YMCA. Overshadowing these men was Dr. Tang Erhe, government representative and leader of Japanese-trained physicians. Only several years earlier, Tang had almost single-handedly established legal, routinized dissection as the basis of medical education in China. The activities of these men reveal the problems of how scientific modernity would be established as a new orthodox epistemology in the Chinese context. This study examines the rapid shift, in China, from a cosmology centered in Confucian orthodoxy and the institution of the imperial examination system toward a scientific worldview based on material practices like anatomical dissection and bolstered by a vast new technical terminology. In China in 1910 China was still the Qing empire, anatomy was illegal and medical education occurred only in master-disciple relationships. By 1920, these conditions had changed. Even as politics deteriorated, new forms of mundane power were established. The JPEA-Joint Terminology Committee network coincided with, and accelerated trends towards professionalization, first among anatomically-based physicians, but also scientists and educators. Professional groups formed in 1915, publishing the results of the committee and related attempts to regulate the medical field. This regulation led directly to attempts to abolish Chinese medicine. By following members of this committee, we see the institutionalization of anatomically-based medicine in China through its technical language and anatomical practice. We also see a new form of power that sought to eliminate ambivalence through reductionism.

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