Health, Medicine and the Body in East Asia - RSST6530

Looking for a different module?

Module delivery information

This module is not currently running in 2024 to 2025.


Traditional Chinese Medicine and other forms East Asian medicine have become available to patients everywhere in the world as Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM), but their cultural backgrounds are mostly misunderstood by patients, providers and adversaries. This module explores the historical emergence of East Asian medical systems, their relations to philosophical and religious worldviews and practices, their trajectories from the East to the West, and their relations, interactions and clashes with bio-medicine.

In this module, we read passages from foundational literature such as the Inner Classic of the Yellow Emperor (in English translation) and discuss key texts in which Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Vietnamese doctors argue about the nature of health and medical ethics. We also compare different views of the body, illnesses and therapeutic intervention, and examine the importance of "tradition" in East Asian medicine, Early Modern exchanges with Western medicine and the transformation and globalisation of East Asian medical systems in the twentieth and twenty-first century. Applying comparative and genealogical methods, we discuss East Asian medicines in terms of efficacy, culture, politics and economics and reflect on healthcare, in general, from (multi)cultural perspectives.


Contact hours

Total Contact Hours: 40
Total Private Study Hours: 260
Total Study Hours: 300

Method of assessment

Main assessment methods

Presentation (15 minutes) – 10%
Annotated Bibliography (1,500 words) – 15%
Essay (2,500 words) – 25%
Examination (2 hours) – 50%

Reassessment methods
100% Coursework (3,000 words)

Indicative reading

The University is committed to ensuring that core reading materials are in accessible electronic format in line with the Kent Inclusive Practices. The most up to date reading list for each module can be found on the university's reading list pages:

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

The intended subject specific learning outcomes.
On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

1 Demonstrate an in-depth and systematic understanding of traditional East Asian (Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Vietnamese) views on health, medicine and the body;
2 Describe and critically analyse a key concept, idea, theme or practice in traditional East Asian medicine;
3 Demonstrate a critical understanding of various forms of East Asian medicine, historical encounters between East Asian and Western medicine, and modernising processes of East Asian medicine in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries;
4 Make systematic cross-cultural comparisons between East Asian and Western views on health, medicine and the body, based on the textual analysis of primary sources (in Englih translation) and a critical engagement with secondary literature in the fields of history and medical anthropology.

The intended generic learning outcomes.
On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

1 Demonstrate their communication skills and organise information in a clear and coherent fashion in their assignments;
2 Demonstrate an ability to engage in critical independent research and appropriate humanities and social scientific approaches to their object of study;
3 Use electronic media to identify and analyse appropriate academic resources based upon independent research from library materials, including primary sources, as well as online journals, and other reliable electronic sources, and reference this material effectively;
4 Deploy a range of IT skills with a high degree of effectiveness, such as use of online search-engines, word-processing text with footnotes, basic formatting, searching databases and text files;
5 Demonstrate a well-developed capacity to take responsibility for their own personal and professional learning and development.


  1. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  2. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
Back to top

University of Kent makes every effort to ensure that module information is accurate for the relevant academic session and to provide educational services as described. However, courses, services and other matters may be subject to change. Please read our full disclaimer.