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, 20 (4), 300-4

Classical Texts in the Present Tense: The Looking Diagnosis of a Donguibogam School in South Korea


Classical Texts in the Present Tense: The Looking Diagnosis of a Donguibogam School in South Korea

Taewoo Kim. J Altern Complement Med.


Objectives: This paper examines the meanings of classical texts in contemporary East Asian medicine.

Methods: This study conducted anthropological fieldwork of the Hyungsang Medical Society, the major practitioner association in South Korea, which follows the teachings of Donguibogam (Bogam), one of the most influential texts in contemporary Korean medicine. Field data were collected by long-term observation of clinical practices at member clinics, in-depth interviews with practitioners, and participation in activities of the medical society.

Results: The Hyungsang Medical Society follows Bogam's emphases-such as the fundamental constituents of human beings and the constitutional differences among persons-and actualizes the teachings in Hyungsang medical theory. Hyungsang medicine proposes several person types, based on bodily appearances, that inform a person's inner status. These types illustrate emerging diagnostic methods derived from Bogam. The Jung (essence), Ki (energy), Shin (spirit), and Hyeol (blood) types are developed with a premise that disproportionate composition of the fundamental constituents leads to different face shapes among the four types of persons. A case developed in this study demonstrates that once a patient is identified as one of the types, the practitioner gains an advantageous position to approach the patient's health issues.

Conclusions: The emerging person-types of Hyungsang medicine illustrate how a new medical practice is taking place in East Asian medicine today through contemporary actors' interpretation and actualization of classical texts, suggesting that classical texts play, and have the potential to play, a continuing role in East Asian medicine.

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