Buddhism & Medicine in East Asian History



Though Buddhism has developed and grown in locally specific ways in various cultures around the world, it has perennially provided its devotees with a range of ideas and practices that concern health and well-being. Since being introduced to East Asia, these aspects of the tradition have always remained a highly relevant part of the health care landscape. The study of the links between Buddhism and medicine in East Asia has recently undergone a renaissance in Western scholarship and is now emerging as a dynamic new field of study. While, traditionally, scholars have been interested in Chinese and Japanese Buddhist sources for what they might say about the history of Indian medicine, in recent years, the focus has shifted to the exploration of local East Asian cultural and historical facets. This article reviews the state of this field, introduces the available translations of primary sources and reference works, and provides brief summaries of the history of Buddhism and medicine in China and Japan. I also pay special attention to pointing out particular questions or areas that remain open to further inquiry.