© 2015

Health Care in Eleventh-Century China

  • Explores the relations of Chinese medicine and religious ritual

  • Examines the whole spectrum of therapeutic ritual in China

  • Explains curative roles of Daoism, Buddhism and therapeutic rites

  • Makes aspects of curative ritual accessible to non-specialists


Part of the Archimedes book series (ARIM, volume 43)

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-xvii
  2. Nathan Sivin
    Pages 9-30
  3. Nathan Sivin
    Pages 31-52
  4. Nathan Sivin
    Pages 53-91
  5. Nathan Sivin
    Pages 93-128
  6. Nathan Sivin
    Pages 129-170
  7. Nathan Sivin
    Pages 171-181
  8. Nathan Sivin
    Pages 183-192
  9. Back Matter
    Pages 193-223

About this book


By examining all the prevalent varieties of therapy from self-care to religious ritual, this book explores health care practices in China, before modern times. In ancient China most people were unable to afford a doctor, even in the unlikely case that one lived near their village and was willing to treat peasants. What did they do when their children got sick?

The answer is to be found in this book, which goes far beyond the history of medicine. The author uses methods of medical anthropology to explain the curative roles of popular religion, Daoism, Buddhism, and the therapeutic rites performed by imperial officials. Readers will discover the steady interaction of religious healing and classical medicine in this culture.

This highly readable book builds on over forty years of study and analysis of early liturgical and medical writings, and a wide variety of other sources. Its focus on the eleventh century throws new light on a period of rapid transition in many aspects of therapy, and it will appeal to scholars and general readers alike.


Daoist (Taoist) curative ritual Northern Song dynasty classical medicine curative ritual imperial liturgy medical efficacy placebo effect popular religion

Authors and affiliations

  1. 1.University of PennsylvaniaPhiladelphiaUSA

Bibliographic information

  • Book Title Health Care in Eleventh-Century China
  • Authors Nathan Sivin
  • Series Title Archimedes
  • Series Abbreviated Title Archimedes
  • DOI
  • Copyright Information Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015
  • Publisher Name Springer, Cham
  • eBook Packages Medicine Medicine (R0)
  • Hardcover ISBN 978-3-319-20426-0
  • Softcover ISBN 978-3-319-36955-6
  • eBook ISBN 978-3-319-20427-7
  • Series ISSN 1385-0180
  • Series E-ISSN 2215-0064
  • Edition Number 1
  • Number of Pages XVII, 223
  • Number of Illustrations 2 b/w illustrations, 0 illustrations in colour
  • Topics History of Medicine
    History, general
  • Buy this book on publisher's site
Industry Sectors


“Sivin’s synthesis successfully shows how in eleventh-century China the therapeutic practices of elite physicians, officials, monks, priests or popular ritual masters, given their respective backgrounds, all converged towards a similar goal: finding an efficacious way to bring order to what was perceived as a disorder of the body, of society or of the spiritual world.” (Matthias Hayek, Medical History, Vol. 60 (4), October, 2016)

“In his book, Sivin integrates his research with the study of religious history, especially that of Daoism, and begins by examining how some of the most common religions treated diseases at that time. … Based on existing research on medicine and religions in the Song dynasty, this book represents health care in eleventh-century China in a whole new light, with its rich knowledge of medical anthropology, history of religion, Chinese medicine and Western medical history.” (Ka-wai Fan, Metascience, Vol. 25, 2016)