AAS Annual Meeting

China and Inner Asia Session 621

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Session 621: From Three Sovereigns to Medicine King and Sage: Temples, Physicians and Clerics in Late Imperial and Republican China

Organizer: Xun Liu, Rutgers University, USA

Chair: Charlotte Furth, Independent Scholar, USA

Discussant: Charlotte Furth, Independent Scholar, USA

The Three Sovereigns (Sanhuan) temples were an important locus for promoting and disseminating medical learning, and organizing and distributing medical care in traditional China. As shown in early studies, the Mongol Yuan court provided state support to the Three Sovereigns shrines as the centers for medical learning and organization. But the Ming and Qing courts gradually withdrew their support for the Three Sovereigns shrines throughout the realm. How did the various local actors react to such state withdrawal in the medical landscape of the late imperial period? How did they re-imagine and reconfigure the ritual and medical locus of the old shrine in order to meet both the needs of local communities and those of their own? How did the larger historical processes of modernization of the late Qing period influence the daily ritual and medical operations and the pantheon of these temples in modern times? This panel investigates the social, cultural and religious transformation of the Three Sovereigns temples into the new shrines of Yaowang (medicine king) and Yisheng (medicine sage) respectively in the Jiangnan, Nanyang and Beijing regions of the Ming-Qing and Republican China. It examines the specific roles local physicians, officials, clerics, and devotees played in the operations of the old Three Sovereigns shrines, and seeks to understand the various social, economic, and ritual processes whereby new temples of medicine kings and sage were created as venues where local physicians, devotees and clerics interacted to assert and meet local communities’ various and sometimes conflicting interests and needs

Becoming Gods: the Cult of Physicians in Sanhuang miao and Yaowang miao
Yuan-Ling Chao, Middle Tennessee State University, USA

The sanhuang (Three Emperors) were first officially established as the patrons of physicians in 1295 when Yuan Chengzong decreed the establishment of sanhuang miao in the Imperial Medical Academy as well as in local districts. The set up was patterned after the temple for Confucius (fuzi miao) with the Three Emperors and their assistants in the center, flanked by ten legendary physicians. These were expanded to fourteen in the Ming dynasty. What is the significance of including these famous physicians? Why were these ten/fourteen selected for worship in the sanhuang miao? Later in the Qing dynasty when funding for the temples declined, some were transformed into yaowang miao (Temple of the Medicine King) where often the famous Tang physician Sun Simiao was worshipped. This paper aims to explore two major issues. The first is how these physicians represented key traditions in medicine and their role in the continued effort to formulate an orthodox medical tradition. Second, as state involvement and financial support dwindled, local initiatives transformed the temples into a space for healing and economic activities. Thus the yaowang miao often also became sites of active markets. These two inter-related developments underscore medicine as a dynamic and heterogeneous sphere in traditional China

Physicians, Clerics, and Devotees at the Medical Sage Shrine in Nanyang, 1540s-1950s
Xun Liu, Rutgers University, USA

Ever since its inception in 1546, the Three Sovereigns Shrine (Sanhuang miao) located in the eastern quarters of Nanyang in Henan had been the focal venue where local physicians, Quanzhen Daoist clerics, herbal trade guilds, and devotees converged and interacted in shaping the cults of the deities and famous physicians in the shrine, as the city of Nanyang and its people weathered political, social and cultural tumults and changes from the Qing conquest to the Republican revolution. This paper examines how local physicians, Daoist clerics and devotees and patients cooperated and collaborated in the management and operations of the Three Sovereigns Shrine since the late Ming era. It also investigates how their divergent and sometimes competing interests, beliefs and practices gradually gave rise to the addition of the new Shrine of the Medical Sage to the Ming shrine wherein the Eastern Han physician and the local hero Zhang Ji (z. Zhongjing, 150-219AD) and other famous physicians were vaulted as the new focus of worship from the early Qing onward. I will show that this gradual shift in the focus of the worship not only mirrors the complex process of both competition an conflict among the various constituents of the shrine over time, but it also reflects the shaping impact of the larger historical forces of the early Qing conquest politics, and especially the late Qing and early Republican tumultuous politics of temple expropriation and the “National Medicine” controversy

The Medicine King Temples in Late Imperial and Republican Beijing
Ling Fang, CNRS, France

In old Beijing there were several shrines dedicated to Yaowang, the Kings of Medicine as places of worship for Bhaisajyaguru as well as for famous Chinese healers such Bian Que and Sun Simiao, all of whom were considered as “Yaowang”. The Yuanshu zaji mentions one temple as founded in 1546, but this may well not be the earliest one. By the early Qing, there were already at least four temples in the city that were dedicated to the Kings of Medicine. Two of these appear to have been established under imperial patronage. As in most other Beijing temples, there were Daoist as well as Buddhist clerics, whereas the rituals performed would also include Confucian ceremonies. Devotional associations (xianghui) as well as professional corporations (hanghui) both played important roles in financing and managing the temples, including the annual festivals and the philanthropic activities. This paper will address the following topics : (1) the building of Yaowang temples and the evolution of the worship of famous physicians ; ( 2) the clergy, devotional associations and professional corporations related to these temples ; (3) Their therapeutic activities, focusing specifically on the free consultations and drugs provided by the physicians and herbal merchant guilds at the Southern Temple of the Medicine King near the Altar to Heaven of Beijing during the Republican period