Portico in spring

Vivienne Lo

Scent and Synaesthesia: Spice Bags in Cross-cultural Context

2:30-3:00 PM

ABSTRACT: This paper will begin with a meta-survey of the history of European reception of spices from China including such substances as rhubarb, ginger, ginseng, star anise, the Chinese cinnamons and peppers. Our main focus will, however, be the Chinese use of spice bags as aromatics, and their role in a culturally specific synaesthesia that operated in the Chinese medical context. We will conclude with considering some potential research directions concerned with the cross cultural transfer and translation of Chinese aromatics and spice bags.

About the Speaker

Dr. Vivienne Lo is Convener of the UCL China Centre for Health and Humanity at the Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine and Senior Lecturer of the History of Asian Medicine and Classical Chinese Medicine at UCL. Dr. Lo specialises in the history of Chinese medical practice. Her research concerns the social and cultural origins of acupuncture and therapeutic exercise. Prior to joining the Wellcome Trust Centre, Dr. Lo was a Research Fellow of the University of London’s School for Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), and a Research Fellow of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences’ Centre for the Study of Bamboo and Silk Books. She is Founding Editor of the journal Asian Medicine: Tradition and Modernity, and has published extensively on various aspects of Chinese Medicine.

Dr. Lo translates and analyses manuscript material from Early and Medieval China and the transmission of scientific knowledge along the so-called Silk Roads through to the modern Chinese medical diaspora. She is currently finishing a translation and introduction to texts excavated in Hubei (tomb sealed ca. 186 BC), that describe an early phase in the development of acupuncture, and therapeutic exercise. Current projects also include the creation of an on-line database of early Chinese medical imagery, and a history of food and medicine in China.

Dr. Lo earned both her BA and PhD degrees at SOAS.

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