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Epidemic Illnesses in Japan
Topic Started: Oct 11 2017, 08:21 AM (138 Views)
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Rice Farmer
Lately I've taken an interest in how epidemic illnesses have shaped and affected societies around the world, and since Japan is a particular interest to me, I've read Epidemics and Mortality in Early Modern Japan by Ann Bowman Jannetta, which seems to be the primary English scholarship on this subject, though I've find scholarship lacking in other aspects. I'm sure most of you are aware of the massive smallpox epidemic that ravaged Japan in the Nara period, which is estimated by some to have killed every third person in Japan, but later epidemics are also of interest - Jannetta particularly notes that there are no indications of Bubonic Plague ever reaching Japan in the 14th century, despite ravaging almost all of Eurasia in the same period, and crossing to Britain, Scandinavia and alter even Iceland without issue. I find this particularly interesting - Jannetta speculates that the sea traffic between Japan and China was insignificant at this point, and didn't support the crossing of rats necessary to spread the plague. The effects of the Black Death in China haven't really been studied in detail yet, despite knowledge that it originated in Asia and struck in the Hubei province in the 1330'es and 1340'es at least. I find the fact that it didn't cross to Japan of particular interest, and I haven't managed to find information on the presence of the plague in Korea, though you'd imagine it would be present here. The apparent lack of Asian scholarship on these issues somewhat surprise me, since fully understanding the global spread of plague would be crucial to understand the nature and full effects of the illness.

Lastly, the epidemic of syphilis in Japan in the Sengoku period is also interesting. Syphilis was a worldwide epidemic in the 1500'es, likely due to import form the New World to the old, and became established in Japan with the European traders - Jesuit records describe in detail how they treated syphilis victims in their charity hospitals in Kyushu. Syphilis also had a political importance, because quite a few Sengoku warlords died of it when it was at its high around 1600, inlcuding Kato Kiyomasa, whose death may have had a decisive effect on the outbreak of the Osaka Campaign. However, complete scholarship on this is still absent, so I'm looking for resources, which leads to the point of this thread: Does anyone have any other information about the Bubonic Plague in Korea and China (or any thoughts about it, I'm interested to hear them), or why it couldn't spread to Japan, and especially I'm looking for resources and information on the spread of syphilis in Japan during the worldwide epidemic, though a complete picture is of course hard to acquire.
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Daijo Daijin

Just did a quick library search, and here's some titles that came up that looked like they might help:

Goldschmidt, Asaf Moshe. The Transformations of Chinese Medicine During the Northern Song Dynasty (A.D. 960-1127): The Integration of Three Past Medical Approaches Into a Comprehensive Medical System Following a Wave of Epidemics. Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Pennsylvania, 1999

Goldschmidt, Asaf Moshe. The Evolution of Chinese Medicine: Song Dynasty, 960-1200. London: Routledge, 2009. (Chances are this is the published version of Goldschmidt's dissertation above)

Brown, Miranda, The Art of Medicine In Early China: The Ancient and Medieval Origins of a Modern Archive.

Salguero, C. Pierce, Translating Buddhist Medicine In Medieval China.
Edited by ltdomer98, Oct 11 2017, 09:15 AM.
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Daijo Daijin Emeritus
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Rice Farmer
Interesting stuff, thank you.
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