Andrew Schonebaum has written an insightful and original historical work on popular medicine and literature in late imperial China. This study captures the convergence of two long-standing research themes in Chinese literature, one on vernacular literature as a critique of the overemphasis on the “metropolitan language culture,” meaning the centrally positioned neo-Confucian culture, a theme brilliantly developed by the late Glen Dudbridge, and the other on the relevance and importance of medical things in such literature, a topic opened up by the erudite Wilt Idema in 1977.1 In Novel Medicine, Schonebaum brings vernacular medicine to the fore by analyzing the intertextuality of the popular novel and medical genres. This inspiring approach is partly driven by the abundance of recent publications on the history of medicine in late imperial and modern China, and the increasing accessibility to the rich corpus of popular literary and medical genres.

The term “novel...

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