Professor Elisabeth Hsu

Pulse Diagnostics in Early Chinese Medicine

Professor of Anthropology

Fellow of Green Templeton College

Director of ISCA

Elisabeth Hsu's research interests lie within the fields of medical anthropology and ethnobotany; language and text critical studies. They concern Chinese medicine; the transmission of knowledge and practice; pulse diagnosis; body and personhood; touch, pain, feelings, emotions, and sensory experience.  

Ongoing field research (since 2001) has been for a monograph (forthcoming) on Chinese medicine in East Africa for the medical anthropology book series Epistemologies of Healing.  Since 2002, Elisabeth Hsu has also undertaken ethnobiological and linguistic anthropological research, as well as textual translation work, into the the interpretation of the practical applications of the herbal antimalarial qinghao in the Chinese recipe and materia medica literatures from 168 BCE-1911, with the assistance of academic staff working at the Traditional Chinese Medicine Universities of Shanghai and Beijing, the Swiss Tropical Institute, Basel, and the Pharmacognosy at the University of Bradford. After completing her longterm project on early Chinese pulse diagnostics (Hsu 2010), she revived her research interests derived from her field trips into remote areas of Southwest China (since 1979) and mountainous Huizhou (since 1997) in respect of tactility in caring practices that contribute to emerging anthropological themes regarding ontologies of care and technologies of the self, kinship and relatedness. 

Full publication list

Contact

Email: elisabeth.hsu@anthro.ox.ac.uk
Telephone: +44 (0)1865 274681

Background: After training in classical languages, and a one-year course for learning standard modern Chinese at Beijing's Language Institute in 1978-79, Elisabeth Hsu studied biology at ETH Zurich from 1979-1984. Her dissertation involved an entire year of independent research on the biosystematics and chemotaxonomy of Betonica officinalis L. She then turned to the study of Chinese medicine, while working towards a master's degree in General Linguistics in 1986-87 and a doctorate in Social Anthropology in 1987-92, both at the University of Cambridge. She obtained a ‘habilitation' in Sinology from the Fakultät für Altertumswissenschaften of the University of Heidelberg in 2002 in recognition of her anthropological study on the "text structural semantics" of pulse diagnostics, as recorded in early Chinese medical case histories dating to the second century BCE. She joined the Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology in 2001 for setting up the Medical Anthropology master's courses and she initiated the founding of a post-doctoral Anthropology research group at Oxford on Eastern Medicines and Religions (ArgO-EMR) in 2006. The latter has hosted five one-to-three-year post-docs, six workshops, and over ten Visiting Academics in the last ten years.

Full publications as a PDF.

Books

2010, Elisabeth Hsu, Pulse Diagnosis in Early Chinese Medicine: The Telling Touch, 2010, Cambridge University Press: Cambridge.

1999, Elisabeth Hsu, The Transmission of Chinese Medicine, 1999, Cambridge University Press: Cambridge

Edited Books and Special Issues

2017, Elisabeth Hsu and Paola Esposito (eds),  Anthropology Matters, Especially in Times of Crisis, Special Issue, Journal of the Anthropological Society of Oxford-online, New Series, 9 (2): 192-272. (82 pp.) ISSN: 2040-1876.

2017, Elisabeth Hsu (ed.), The convergence of soul substances in Southeast Asia, and the spillage of blood: notions of personhood and health in transition, Special Section, Asiatische Studien/Asian Studies 71 (1): 243-374.

2015, Caroline Potter, Stanley Ulijaszek and Elisabeth Hsu (eds), Medical Anthropology at Oxford: The First Decade and Beyond, Special Issue, Journal of the Anthropological Society of Oxford-online.

2013, Peregrine Horden and Elisabeth Hsu (eds), The Body in Balance: Humoral Medicines in Practice, 2013, Oxford: Berghahn (since 2015 in paperback).

2012, Elisabeth Hsu and Caroline Potter (eds), Medical Anthropology in Europe: Shaping the Field (Anthropology and Medicine Vol 19, No. 1, Special Issue) (Since 2015 in hardback with Routledge).

2010, Elisabeth Hsu and S Harris (eds), Plants, Health and Healing: on the Interface of Ethnobotany and Medical Anthropology, 2010, Oxford: Berghahn.

2010, Michael Oppitz and Elisabeth Hsu (eds), 米歇尔奥皮茨, 伊丽莎白许 (eds): 纳西, 摩梭,民族志: 亲属制, 仪式, 象形文字。 昆明: 云南大学出版社, Translation by Yang Fuquan et al. into Chinese of Naxi and Moso Ethnography: Kin, Rites, Pictographs (1998), 2010, Kunming: Yunnan University Press.

2009, Elisabeth Hsu and G Stollberg (eds), Globalizing Chinese Medicine. Medical Anthropology: Cross-Cultural Studies in Health and Illness.Special Issue.

2008, Elisabeth Hsu, The Globalization of Chinese Medicine and Meditation Practices. East Asian Science and Technology Studies. Special Issue.

2008, Elisabeth Hsu and C Low (eds), Wind, Life, Health: Anthropological and Historical Approaches. Blackwell Oxford.

2008, Elisabeth Hsu, The Senses and the Social. Ethnos, Special Issue, vol. 73 (4).

2007, Elisabeth Hsu and C Low (eds), Wind, Life, Health: Anthropological and Historical Approaches. Special Issue Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute.

2002, Elisabeth Hsu and E. Høg (eds), Countervailing Creativity: Patient Agency in the Globalisation of Asian Medicines Special Issue, Anthropology and Medicine.

2001, Elisabeth Hsu, Innovation in Chinese Medicine, 2001, Cambridge University Press: Cambridge.

1998, Michael Oppitz and Elisabeth Hsu, Naxi and Moso Ethnography: Kin, Rites, Pictographs, 1998, Völkerkundemuseum: Zürich.

Selected Journal articles and Book chapters

2017, 'Introduction'. In E. Hsu (ed). Converging Soul Substances in Southeast Asia: Introduction. In E. Hsu (ed.) 2017: The convergence of soul substances in Southeast Asia, and the spillage of blood: notions of personhood and health in transition, Special Section, Asiatische Studien/Asian Studies 71 (1): 243-54. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/asia-2017-0001 

2017. Hsu E., Huber F.K. and C.S. Weckerle, 'Condensing Soul Substances within the House: The Rice-boiling Shuhi of Southwest China'. In E. Hsu (ed.) 2017: The convergence of soul substances in Southeast Asia, and the spillage of blood: notions of personhood and health in transition, Special Section, Asiatische Studien/Asian Studies 71 (1): 281-303. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/asia-2016-0023

2017, Huber F.K., Weckerle C.S. and E. Hsu, 'The Shuhi House between Reformist China and Revivalist Tibet'.  In E. Hsu (ed.) 2017: The convergence of soul substances in Southeast Asia, and the spillage of blood: notions of personhood and health in transition, Special Section, Asiatische Studien/Asian Studies 71 (1): 353-374. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/asia-2016-0028

2016, ‘'Bing'-distress in the 'Zuo zhuan': the not-so-good-life, the social self and moral sentiment among persons of rank in Warring States China’, In R.A.H. King (ed.) The Good Life and Conceptions of Life in Early China and Graeco-Roman Antiquity, Chinese Western Discourse 3. Walter de Gruyter GmbH & Co KG, 2016, pp. 157-180.

2016, 'Humour as a mode of cognition’, In L.D. Sciama (ed.) Humour, Comedy and Laughter: Obscenities, Paradoxes, Insights and the Renewal of Life, Social Identities 8. Oxford: Berghahn, 2016, pp. 58-75.

2015, ‘From social lives to playing fields: ‘the Chinese antimalarial’ as artemisinin monotherapy, artemisinin combination therapy and qinghao juice’, Anthropology & Medicine 22 (1), 2015, pp. 75-86.

2015, with Stanley Ulijaszek, ‘Introduction. In In C. Potter, S. Ulijaszek & E. Hsu (eds) 'Medical Anthropology at Oxford: The First Decade and Beyond'’, Journal of the Anthropological Society of Oxford-online (Special Edition) 7 (3), 2015, pp. 247-255.

2014, ‘How techniques of herbal drug preparation affect the therapeutic outcome: reflections on Qinghao 青蒿 (Herba Artemisiae annuae) in the history of the Chinese materia medica’, In T. Aftab, J. F. S. Ferreira, M. M. A. Khan & M. Naeem (eds) Artemisia annua – Pharmacology and biotechnology, Heidelberg: Springer, 2014, pp. 1-8.

2013, ‘Afterword: On Naming and the Politics of Practice’, East Asian Science, Technology and Society: An International Journal (Special Issue on Tibetan Medicine: Contemporary issues) 7 , 2013, pp. 505-511.

2013, ‘'Holism' and the medicalisation of emotion: the case of anger in Chinese medicine’, In P. Horden and E. Hsu (eds) The Body in Balance: Humoral Medicines in Practice, Oxford: Berg, 2013, pp. 197-217.

2013, ‘What next? Balance in medical practice and the medico-moral nexus of moderation’, In P. Horden and E. Hsu (eds) The Body in Balance: Humoral Medicines in Practice, Oxford: Berg, 2013, pp. 259-280.

2012, ‘'Feeling Lighter': Why the patient's treatment evaluation matters to the health scientist, Topical Review Article’, Integrative Medicine Research 1 (1), 2012, pp. 5-12.

2012, ‘Medical Anthropology in Europe - 'Quo vadis?'’, Anthropology and Medicine, Special Issue: Medical Anthropology in Europe: Shaping the Field 19 (1), 2012, pp. 51-61.

2012, with Caroline Potter, ‘Medical anthropology in Europe: shaping the field’, Anthropology and Medicine, Special Issue: Medical Anthropology in Europe: Shaping the Field 19 (1), 2012, pp. 1-6.

2012, ‘Mobility and connectedness: Chinese medical doctors in Kenya’, In H. Dilger, A. Kane and S. A. Langwick (eds) Medicine, mobility and power in global Africa, Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2012, pp. 295-315.

2012, ‘Treatment Evaluation: An Anthropologist’s Approach’, In S. Scheid and H. MacPherson (eds) Integrating East Asian Medicine into Contemporary Healthcare, London: Churchill Livingstone, 2012, pp. 157-172.

2011, ‘Expériences de la personne, de la santé, et de la maladie en Chine’, In M. Godelier (ed.)Maladie et Santé Selon les Sociétés et les Cultures, Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 2011, pp. 75-110.

2010, with Colin W. Wright, Peter A. Linley, Reto Brun and Sergio Wittlin, ‘Ancient Chinese Methods Are Remarkably Effective for the Preparation of Artemisinin-Rich Extracts of Qing Hao with Potent Antimalarial Activity’, Molecules 15 (2), 2010, pp. 804-812.

2010, ‘Le diagnostic du pouls dans la chine mediévale d'apres les manuscrits de Dunhuang (with notes on P2115, P3106, P3287, P3477, P3481, P3655, P4093, S79, S181, S202, S5614, S6245, S8289, plus index’, In C. Despeux Medicine, religion et société dans la Chine mediévale: Etude de manuscrits chinois de Dunhuang et de Turfan, Paris: College de France, Institut des Haute Etudes Chinoises, 2010, pp. 107-184.

2010, with W. Nienhauser (co-translators), ‘Memoir 45’, In W. Nienhauser (ed.) The Grand Scribe’s Records, Ssu-ma Ch’ien, Volume 9; the Memoirs of Han China, Part 2, Indiana University Press, 2010, pp. 1-88.

2010, ‘Plants in Medical Practice and Common Sense: On the Interface of Ethnobotany and Medical Anthropology’, In E. Hsu and S. Harris Plants, Health and Healing: on the Interface of Ethnobotany and Medical Anthropology, Oxford: Berghahn, 2010, pp. 1-48.

2010, in consultation with Frederic Obringer, ‘Qing hao 青蒿 (Herba Artemisiae annuae) in the Chinese Materia Medica’, In E. Hsu and S. Harris Plants, Health and Healing: on the Interface of Ethnobotany and Medical Anthropology, Oxford: Berghahn, 2010, pp. 83-130.

2010, ‘Tian’anmen in Yunnan: Emotions in the Field during a Political Crisis’, In J. Davies and D. Spencer Emotions in the Field: the Psychology and Anthropology of Fieldwork Experience, Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2010, pp. 155-170.

2009, ‘Experiences of Personhood, Health, and Disease in China: Some Reflections’, Cambridge Anthropology 29 (3), 2009, pp. 69-84.

2009, ‘Outward Form (xing 形) and Inward Qi 氣: The “Sentimental Body” in Early Chinese Medicine’, Early China 32 (-), 2009, pp. 103-24.

2009, ‘The History of Traditional Chinese medicine in the People's Republic of China and its Globalization. In E. Hsu (ed)’, The Globalization of Chinese Medicine and Meditation Practices. Special Issue. East Asian Science and Technology Studies , 2009.

2009, ‘Diverse Biologies and Experiential Continuities: Did the Ancient Chinese Know that Qinghao Had Antimalarial Properties?’, Medicine and the Soul of Science: Essays by and in Memory of Don Bates. Special Issue. Canadian Bulletin of Medical History 26 (1), 2009, pp. 203-213.

2009, ‘Wonders of the Exotic: Chinese Formula Medicines on the East African Coast’, Knowledge, Renewal and Religion: Repositioning and Changing Ideological and Material Circumstances among the Swahili on the East African Coast , 2009, pp. 280-299.

2009, ‘Chinese Propriety Medicines: An "Alternative Modernity?" The Case of the Anti-malarial Substance Artemisinin in East Africa’, Globalising Chinese medicine. Special Issue. Medical Anthropology: Cross-Cultural Studies in Health and Illness 28 (2), 2009, pp. 111-140.

2009, Elisabeth Hsu and M. Willcox (in consultation with E. Hsu), ‘Artemisia Species: From Traditional Medicines to Modern Antimalarials – and Back Again’, The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine 15 (2), 2009, pp. 101-109.

2009, ‘Introduction’, In E. Hsu (ed.) The Globalization of Chinese Medicine and Mediatation Practices. Special Issue, East Asian Science and Technology Studies, 2009.

2008, ‘Medicine as Business: Chinese Medicine in Tanzania’, China Returns to Africa: A Rising Power and a Continent Embrace , 2008, pp. 221-235.

2008, ‘A Hybrid Body Technique: Does the Pulse Diagnostic cun guan chi Method Have Chinese-Tibetan Origins?’, Gesnerus 65 , 2008, pp. 5–29.

2008, ‘Medical Pluralism’, International Encyclopedia of Public Health 4 , 2008, pp. 316-321.

2008, with R.L. Barrett, ‘Traditional Asian Medical Systems’, International Encyclopedia of Public Health 4 , 2008, pp. 349-357.

2008, ‘The Senses and the Social: An Introduction’, The Senses and the Social. Special Issue. Ethnos 73 (4), 2008, pp. 433-443.

2008, ‘脈,視覺到聽覺再到觸覺診查:運用「身體感」對漢代早期醫學手稿的新解讀 (From a visual to an auditory to a tactile examination of mai: a new reading of Han medical manuscript texts based on the anthropology of bodily experiences)’, 體物入微:物與身體感的研究(Engaging Things: Researches on Things and Experiences of the Body) , 2008, pp. 135-64.

2007, ‘Zanzibar and its Chinese Communities’, New Chinese Diasporas. Special Issue. Populations, Space and Place 13 (2), 2007, pp. 113-124.

2007, with Christopher Low, ‘Introduction’, Wind, Life, Health: Anthropological and Historical Approaches. Special Issue, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 13 (s1), 2007, pp. S1-S17.

2007, ‘The Experience of Wind in Early and Medieval Chinese Medicine’, Wind, Life, Health: Anthropological and Historical Approaches. Special Issue, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 13 (s1), 2007, pp. S117-S134.

2007, ‘La médicine chinoise traditionelle en Republique populaire de Chine: d'une ‘tradition inventée’ à une ‘modernité alternative’’, La pensée en Chine aujourd'hui, 2007, pp. 214-238.

2007, ‘The Biological in the Cultural: The Five Agents and the Body Ecologic in Chinese Medicine’, Holistic Anthropology: Emergence and Convergence, 2007, pp. 91-126.

2007, ‘Huangdi neijing, Ishinpo, Zhubing yuanhou lun, Qianjin fang, Sun Simiao, Wang Bing, jingluo, qixue, renmai and dumai, wuzang (ten brief entries)’, The Encyclopedia of Taoism, 2007.

2007, ‘中醫和藏醫脈診中身體技術的視覺描述 ﹣對‘寸關尺’診法史的新闡釋 (How Tibetan medicine shapes Chinese medicine: Visual depictions of body techniques in Chinese and Tibetan pulse diagnosis throw new light on the history of the examination method cun guan chi)’, 形象 中 醫 - 中醫厲史圖像研究, 2007, pp. 211-215.

2007, ‘Chinese Medicine in East Africa and its Effectiveness’, IIAS (International Institute for Asian Studies) Newsletter 22 (Autumn), 2007.

2006, ‘Chunyu Yi’, Dictionary of Medical Biographies 2, 2006, pp. 343-348.

2006, ‘Participant Experience: Learning to be an Acupuncturist, and Not Becoming one’, Critical Journeys: The Making of Anthropologists, 2006, pp. 149-163.

2006, ‘The History of Qing Hao in the Chinese Materia Medica’, Transactions of the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene 100 (6), 2006, pp. 505-508.

2006, ‘Reflections on the ‘Discovery' of the Antimalarial Qinghao’, Future Developments in Clinical Pharmacology. Special Issue. British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology 61 (6), 2006, pp. 666-670.

2005, ‘Time inscribed in Space, and the Process of Diagnosis in African and Chinese Medical Practices’, The Qualities of Time: Anthropological Approaches, 2005, pp. 155-170.

2005, ‘Tactility and the Body in Early Chinese Medicine’, Science in Context 18 (1), 2005, pp. 7–34.

2005, ‘Acute Pain Infliction as Therapy’, The Senses. Special Issue Etnofoor 18 (1), 2005, pp. 78-96.

2002, with Erling Høg, ‘Introduction’, Countervailing Creativity: Patient Agency in the Globalisation of Asian Medicines. Anthropology and Medicine. Special Issue 9 (3), 2002, pp. 205-221.

2002, ‘‘The medicine from China has rapid effects’: Chinese medicine patients in Tanzania’, Countervailing Creativity: Patient Agency in the Globalisation of Asian Medicines. Anthropology and Medicine. Special Issue 9 (3), 2002, pp. 291-314.

2002, ‘Medical Anthropology, Material Culture, and New Directions in Medical Archaeology’, Practitioners, Practices and Patients: New Approaches to Medical Archaeology and Anthropology, 2002, pp. 1–15.

2002, ‘Die drei Koerper - oder sind es vier?’, Curare 24 (1 + 2), 2002, pp. 57-64.

2001, ‘Figuratively Speaking of ‘Danger of Death’ in Chinese Pulse Diagnostics’, Historical Aspects of Unconventional Medicine. Approaches, Concepts, Case Studies, 2001, pp. 193-210.

2001, ‘Introduction, plus six brief introductions to six sections’, Innovation in Chinese Medicine, 2001, pp. 1-11, etc.

2001, ‘Pulse Diagnostics in the Western Han: How mai and qi determine bing’, Innovation in Chinese Medicine, 2001, pp. 51-91.

2000, ‘Spirit (shen), Styles of Knowing, and Authority in Contemporary Chinese Medicine’, Culture, Medicine, and Psychiatry 24 (2), 2000, pp. 197-229.

2000, ‘Towards a Science of Touch, Part I: Chinese Pulse Diagnostics in Early Modern Europe’, Anthropology and Medicine 7 (2), 2000, pp. 251-268.

2000, ‘Towards a Science of Touch, Part II: Representations of the Tactile Experience of the Seven Chinese Pulses indicating Danger of Death in Early Modern Europe’, Anthropology and Medicine 7 (3), 2000, pp. 319-333.

2000, ‘Zangxiang (The Hidden and Apparent) in the Canon of Categories (1624) and Body-Centred Traditional Chinese Medicine in the PRC’, Studies in the History of Natural Sciences 19 (2), 2000, pp. 165-87.

1998, ‘Yinyang and Mao's Dialectics in Traditional Chinese Medicine’, Asia in Swiss Anthropology - Asien in der Schweizer Ethnologie. Sondernummer. Asiatische Studien 52(2), 1998, pp. 419-444.

1998, 'Introduction’, Naxi and Moso Ethnography: Kin, Rites, Pictographs, 1998, pp. 19-20.

1998, ‘Moso and Naxi: The House’, Naxi and Moso Ethnography: Kin, Rites, Pictographs, 1998, pp. 47-80.

1997, ‘La Soupe, Die Suppe’, Manger en Chine, Essen in China, 1997, pp. 334-347.

1996, ‘Innovations in Acumoxa: Acupuncture Analgesia, Scalp nd Ear Acupuncture in the People's Republic of China’, Social Science and Medicine 42 (3), 1996, pp. 421-430.

1996, ‘The Polyglot Practitioner: Towards Acceptance of Different Approaches in Treatment Evaluation’, Communication in and about Alternative Therapies. Studies in Alternative Therapy 3, 1996, pp. 37-53.

1996, ‘Acumoxa in Yunnan: A Case Study of Standardising Chinese Medicine at a Medical College of the PRC’, Journal on Southwest China Studies 1, 1996, pp. 217-248.

1996, ‘Hexen, böse Zungen, und die Wahrheit’, Wahrheiten auf der Spur, 1996, pp. 271-279.

1995, ‘The Manikin in Man: Culture Crossing and Creativity’, Syncretism and the Commerce of Symbols, 1995, pp. 156-204.

1995, ‘Ueber die Harmonie der Säfte - von Galen zur Akupunktur’, Krank Warum?, 1995, pp. 313-321.

1994, ‘Change in Chinese Medicine: Bian and Hua. An Anthropologist's Approach’, Notions et Perceptions de Changement en Chine. Mémoires de l'Institut des Hautes Etudes Chinoise 36, 1994, pp. 41-58.

1993, ‘Schmerz, Individuum und Gemeinschaft’, Les Frontières du Mal: Approaches Anthropologiques de la Santé et la Maladie. Ethnologica Helvetica 17/18, 1993, pp. 65-74.

1992, ‘The Reception of Western Medicine in China: Examples from Yunnan’, Science and Empires, Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science, 1992, pp. 89-101.

1992, ‘The History and Development of Auriculotherapy’, Acupuncture in Medicine. Journal of the British Medical Acupuncture Society 10, 1992, pp. 109-18.

1989, ‘Outline of the History of Acupuncture in Europe’, The Journal of Chinese Medicine 29, 1989, pp. 28-32.

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