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Barefoot Doctors and Western Medicine in China

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In 1968, at the height of the Cultural Revolution, the Chinese Communist Party endorsed a radical new system of health-care delivery for the rural masses. Soon every village had at least one barefoot doctor to provide basic medical care, creating a national network of health-care services for the very first time. The barefoot doctors were portrayed nationally and internationally as revolutionary heroes, wading undaunted through rice paddies to bring effective, low-cost care to poor peasants.
This book is the first comprehensive study to look beyond the nostalgia dominating present scholarship on public health in China and offer a powerful and carefully contextualized critique of the prevailing views on the role of barefoot doctors, their legacy, and their impact. Drawing on primary documents from the Cultural Revolution and personal interviews with patients and doctors, Xiaoping Fang examines the evidence within the broader history of medicine in revolutionary and postreform China. He finds that rather than consolidating traditional Chinese medicine, as purported by government propaganda, the barefoot doctor program introduced modern Western medicine to rural China, effectively modernizing established methods and forms of care. As a result, this volume retrieves from potential oblivion a critical part of the history of Western medicine in China.

Xiaoping Fang is a research fellow at the China Research Centre of the University of Technology, Sydney, Australia.

Reviews

Xiaoping Fang gives the English-reading world a reliable account of the barefoot doctor movement and its tremendous importance in the creation of the Chinese health-care system. Contrary to received opinion, Fang shows how the movement prompted a decline in the popularity of traditional healing methods while promoting biomedicine in the countryside. This study greatly advances our understanding of the history of medicine in modern China. --Bridie Andrews, Associate Professor of History, Bentley University

"The focus on one village in Hangzhou Prefecture gives the book a specificity and immediateness that brings history to life in sometimes dramatic ways...Recommended." --CHOICE

"[P]aints a richly textured picture of medicine in rural China...This relatively short book is a gem...[A]n excellent book that deserves to be widely read." --Fa-Ti Fan, THE AMERICAN HISTORICAL REVIEW

Details

First Published: 01 Dec 2012
13 Digit ISBN: 9781580464338
Pages: 310
Size: 9 x 6
Binding: Hardback
Imprint: University of Rochester Press
Series: Rochester Studies in Medical History
Subject: History of Science & Medicine
BIC Class: MBX

Details updated on 27 Jul 2014

Contents

  • 1  Introduction
  • 2  Village Healers, Medical Pluralism, and State Medicine
  • 3  Revolutionizing Knowledge Transmission Structures
  • 4  Pharmaceuticals Reach the Villages
  • 5  Healing Styles and Medical Beliefs: The Consumption of Chinese and Western Medicines
  • 6  Relocating Illness: The Shift from Home Bedside to Hospital Ward
  • 7  Group Identity, Power Relationships, and Medical Legitimacy
  • 8  Conclusion
  • 9  Appendixes
  • 10  The Organization of the Three-Tiered Medical System in Rural China, 1968-83
  • 11  Common Medicines in Chinese Villages during the 1960s-70s



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