Vietnamese Traditional Medicine: A Social History

$35.00 SGD

By C. Michele Thompson

While reshaping our understanding of the history and development of traditional Vietnamese medicine in the 19th and 20th centuries, Michele Thompson's new book reaches across disciplines to open important perspectives in Vietnamese colonial and social history as well as our understanding of the Vietnamese language and writing systems.

Traditional Vietnamese medicine is generally understood as an import from the Chinese tradition: Thompson's detailed historical and linguistic research restores agency and voice to practitioners of Vietnamese medicine, showing how the adoption of Chinese and then Western ideas of medicine in the 19th and 20th centuries relied on indigenous Vietnamese concepts of health and the human body. She mines medical manuscripts in Chinese and in Nom (vernacular Vietnamese) to capture various aspects of the historical interaction between Chinese and Vietnamese thought. She presents a detailed analysis of the Vietnamese response to a Chinese medical technique for preventing smallpox, and to the medical concepts associated with it, looking at Vietnamese healers from a variety of social classes.

Thompson's account brings together colorful historical vignettes, contemporary observations and interviews, and textual analysis. It stands out as a demonstration of the power of the history of medicine to illuminate adjacent fields of enquiry. It will be of interest to historians of medicine globally and in East Asia, as well as to students of Vietnam and its complex process of modernization.

"This work, the first book-length study on Vietnamese traditional medicine in English, is a major contribution to the field and deserves a wide readership." - Leslie E. de Vries, University of Westminster

"Scholars of Sino-Vietnamese medical and cultural contact and contestation now have a clear model to follow." - Allen Tran, Bucknell University

"... Thompson’s study should now be recognised as a foundational work in the history of Vietnamese medicine. There is no other available study in English that presents such an accessible introduction to the subject of Vietnamese medicine in the 19th and 20th centuries as Thompson’s. It should become the standard work in this field for many years to come."  - Wynn Gadkar-Wilcox, Western Connecticut State University

“… this book covering two decisive centuries, and very well documented, offers an innovative view of Vietnamese medical practices, and especially of the close relations between language and medicine.” - Annick Guénel, Centre Asie du Sud-Est, CNRS

Thompson offers rich content and arguments that are supported with the evidence of historical manuscripts, as well as interviews, observations and textual analysis of the Vietnamese writing and language system.” - Janice Y. C. Lau, The Chinese University of Hong Kong

“a very important contribution to the growing and lively set of social scientific studies that in recent years have set out to account for the making of a specifically Vietnamese national medicine.” - Ayo Wahlberg, Journal of Anthropological Research


C. Michele Thompson is Professor of Southeast Asian History at Southern Connecticut State University. She holds an MA in East Asian History and a PhD in Southeast Asian History, and specializes in the history of medicine and science in East and Southeast Asia.

History of Medicine in Southeast Asia Series
Publication Year: 2015
248 pages, 229mm x 152mm 
ISBN: 978-9971-69-835-5

NUS Press