Demonstration, Persuasion and Rumor: Medical Missions to Nineteenth-Century China

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This paper examines the controversies aroused by western medical missionaries in China. The missionaries utilized surgical proceedings with dramatic effects to facilitate the conversion of the Chinese. However, the emphasis on the miraculous aspects of western surgery had its danger. Many Chinese identified the missionary medics as witch doctors. The Chinese anti-missionary propaganda repeatedly claimed that the missionaries gouged out the eyes of the Chinese for their practice of alchemy, and took away the organs of the natives to produced magic pills and opium. Several anti-missionary riots were instigated by this kind of rumors. This paper analyzes the ways the missionaries imbued their medical practices with religious meanings through rituals and discourse. It also discusses native reactions to the miraculous dimension of western medicine, especially how the anti-missionary Chinese gentry perceived western medical practice as a form of witchcraft through the filter of their cultural resources such as Chinese medical theories, literature and folklore.

Taiwanese Journal for Studies of Science, Technology and Medicine, Number 8