Conference: Sports, Medicine and Immortality

31 January 2008

The Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine at UCL, the University of East London and Queen Mary, University of London, are hosting a two-day conference from 28–29 March 2008, entitled ‘Sports, Medicine and Immortality: From Ancient China to the World Wide Web’

chinese athlete ornament

Convened prior to the Beijing Olympics, the interdisciplinary conference will explore how critical appraisal of the history of sports, body cultivation and sports medicine can contribute to our shared experience of health today. The event, part of UCL's contribution to China Now, will be held at the British Museum and Queen Mary, University of London.

Co-convener and expert in the history of Chinese medical practice, Dr Vivienne Lo (Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine at UCL), said: “Ancient regimen and techniques may seem remote, yet the practices often attempt to resolve issues that are common to us all. Some are directed at the immortality or longevity of the physical body, and include performance-enhancing nutrition and drug-taking. Others train the spirit and souls for the afterlife. Many emphasise the interconnectedness of the human body with its environment.”

The theme of day one will be longevity and immortality in the ancient worlds and afterworlds. Setting the cultural and historical scene for the upcoming Beijing Olympics, the First Emperor exhibition at the British Museum provides the perfect setting to focus on Qin and Han China.

There will be comparative treatments from the museum’s Greco-Roman departments and invited specialists on ancient world sports medicine and sporting traditions. In the afternoon there will be a focus on South Asia and the modernisation of ancient sporting and body cultivation traditions.

Core to the agenda will be how different sporting and exercise traditions become appropriate to changing bodies and populations.

Day two will feature speakers exploring the all-important links between the cultural, regeneration, health and wellbeing domains of the legacy of the London Olympics in 2012. In advance of the games it is intended that such analysis be designed to enhance health promotion programmes and broader regeneration design.

To find out more, use the links at the top of this article.

Image: Painted earthen figurine of a warrior practising boxing, Tang Dynasty (unearthed from Tang Tomb no.336 at Asitana in Turfan, Xinjiang Province, 1960)