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Table of Contents
RESEARCH ARTICLE
Year : 2021  |  Volume : 4  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 165-169

Spread of traditional chinese medicine to the west and the development of sinology: A case study based on the translation of traditional Chinese medicine literature by German doctor gottlieb Olpp


Research Center for the History of Modern World, Nankai University, Tianjin 300350, China

Date of Submission03-Jun-2021
Date of Acceptance04-Aug-2021
Date of Web Publication30-Sep-2021

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Wei- Man Yuan
Research Center for the History of Modern World, Nankai University, Tianjin 300350
China
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


DOI: 10.4103/CMAC.CMAC_27_21

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  Abstract 


German doctor Gottlieb Olpp played an important role in Sino-German medical exchanges during the late Qing dynasty. During his stay in China for more than 9 years, he wrote a large number of texts related to local Chinese medical and hygienic conditions. In these works, he introduced traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and its situation at that time but also translated TCM literature. His translations and his achievements facilitated the development of sinology in Germany. Not only was he responsible for the development of the method used by German sinologists in translating TCM literature, but also his work gave an impetus to the combination of academic goals and current considerations in sinology studies. In this way, the study of TCM is the internal force driving the development of sinology.

Keywords: Gottlieb Olpp, Germany, sinology, traditional Chinese medicine


How to cite this article:
Yuan WM. Spread of traditional chinese medicine to the west and the development of sinology: A case study based on the translation of traditional Chinese medicine literature by German doctor gottlieb Olpp. Chin Med Cult 2021;4:165-9

How to cite this URL:
Yuan WM. Spread of traditional chinese medicine to the west and the development of sinology: A case study based on the translation of traditional Chinese medicine literature by German doctor gottlieb Olpp. Chin Med Cult [serial online] 2021 [cited 2021 Oct 26];4:165-9. Available from: https://www.cmaconweb.org/text.asp?2021/4/3/165/327154



The Germans who came to China during the late Qing dynasty not only introduced modern Western medicine into China but also spread traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) to Germany. During this period, the German doctor Gottlieb Olpp, born in a missionary family in the year 1872, played an important role in the Sino-German medical exchanges. From 1898 to 1907, he served as a medical missionary at the Rhenish Mission Society (Rheinische Missionsgesellschaft), where he performed medical and missionary tasks in Dongguan (东莞 Mission District of the Rhenish Mission Society in Guangdong Province in China). After returning to Germany, he was appointed to be the director of the German Institute of Medical Missionary (Deutsches Institut für ärztliche Mission) and worked as such from 1909 to 1937. Dr. Olpp wrote extensively. As a professional doctor knowledgeable in tropical medicine, not only did he wrote a large number of academic medical papers but also introduced his medical experiences in China to Germany. In this way, his medical writings contain the results of his research in tropical medicine, and a lot of information about the medical and hygienic conditions of China at the time.[1] These writings included not only the introduction and interpretation of TCM and its situation at that time but also the translations of some TCM classics.

Previous studies have mostly used Dr. Olpp's writings to discuss the German medical activities in China during the period of German expansion,[2] the German's view of TCM,[3] and to highlight the instrumental role of medicine in the course of German expansion. Little attention has been paid to Dr. Olpp's role in promoting the spread of TCM to Germany and the academic contributions of his translation of TCM literature. As an integral part of traditional Chinese culture, TCM is an important part of sinology studies. Dr. Olpp's translation of TCM classics is a reflection of German sinology studies in this period. This thesis, based on previous studies, attempts to systematically discuss Dr. Olpp's translation of TCM literature and evaluate the value and significance of his works from the perspective of German sinology.


  German Translation of TCM Literature before the 19th Century Top


Language differences are one of the main factors that hinder Germans from understanding China, and translating Chinese classics is a significant way to break through the barriers. For this reason, the German translations of Chinese classics have always been one of the channels used by Germans to understand China. However, the conversion between two languages is not only a linguistic act but also a dialog between two cultures. For this reason, Western sinologists with dual background, bilingual ability, and knowledge of China have always been the main force in translating various Chinese classics.[4] Although TCM literature is an important part of Chinese classics, its translation has received little attention from German sinologists due to its interdisciplinary characteristics, and there have been few attempts to translate from the original TCM classics directly.

In Germany, before the 19th century, the translation or compilation of Chinese classics was mainly concentrated in the fields of language and history.[5] The German and Latin translations of TCM classics mostly came from works translated by missionaries speaking other European languages, rather than from the original TCM literature directly. During this period, the Germans' knowledge of TCM mainly came from the works of Polish Jesuit Michal Boym, French Jesuits Dominique Parrenin, and Jean Baptiste Du Halde. German translations of TCM classics, such as Huang Di Nei Jing (《黄帝内经》 Huangdi's Internal Classic), Mai Jing (《脉经》 Pulse Classic), Mai Jue (《脉诀》Rhyming Book of Pulse Determination) and Ben Cao Gang Mu (《本草纲目》 Compendium of Materia Medica), were based on the direct or indirect translations of these individuals' works on TCM literature.

From the middle of the 19th century, more and more Germans came to China when China was forced to open its border. They were in direct contact with the TCM classics and they carried out translation driven by needs and personal interest. Among them, Dr. Olpp was one of the most important figures of the time.


  Dr. Olpp's Translation of TCM Literature Top


As a medical missionary, Dr. Olpp's job was to practice medicine and preach Christianity to the Chinese people. Other than regularly submitting work reports to the missionary organization in Germany, he was given no writing tasks. However, as a doctor, he took the opportunity to carry out medical research on local Chinese medical and hygienic conditions, and actively published his research results in Germany. In the process of living, working, and doing research in China, Dr. Olpp came into contact with TCM, a system of medicine that was different from his own practice.

Just like his contemporaries, Dr. Olpp's overall evaluation of TCM was not high. He was of the opinion that TCM was built on the wrong foundation and was “a tall building of numerous errors and a few golden grains of truth.”[6] However, in contrast to his contemporaries who often wantonly denied and slandered TCM, he observed and discussed it with the “professional” eye of a doctor. In addition, as a result of his one and a half year's systematic study of the Chinese language and continuous improvement of his language skills while working and living in China, he was able to read TCM literature directly.[7]

In the course of introducing TCM to Germany, Dr. Olpp translated TCM literature, not only clarifying the peculiarities of TCM literature in terms of appearance, image, type, style, and so forth, but also translating parts of the content of some TCM classics directly. The main purpose of his translation was to show readers TCM as a whole, rather than out of a purely academic interest in TCM literature itself. As the perception of TCM was generally negative at that time, which was reflected at the medical level, Dr. Olpp placed emphasis on the historical cultural significance of TCM literature rather than on its medical academic benefits. As a result, Dr. Olpp did not translate an entire book but only parts of it.

Dr. Olpp's translations of TCM literature are mainly scattered in his books, magazine articles, and reports. He translated textual contents of some TCM classics. Among them, the Ming Yi Lei An (《名医类案》 A Compilation of Healing Methods of Famous Doctors) (published in 1552, 1871 Version, 12 volumes) edited by the famous doctor of the Ming dynasty, Jiang Guan (江瓘) [Note 1] and his sons Jiang Yingyuan (江应元), Jiang Yingsu (江应宿), and etc., the Shou Shi Bao Yuan (《寿世保元》 Longevity and Life Preservation) (published in 1651, 10 volumes) written by the famous doctor of the Ming dynasty Gong Tingxian (龚廷贤), and the book on surgery Jin Jian Wai Ke (《金鉴外科》 Golden Mirror of Surgery) (published in 1742 [Note 2], 16 volumes) compiled by Hong Zhou (弘昼) and other scholars of the Qing dynasty, and a few other books on TCM were partially translated.

In the series of articles Letters from China (Briefe aus China), which Dr. Olpp published in the magazine Münchener Medizinische Wochenschrift (Munich Medicine Weekly), the following contents are literally translated: “Fu Ren Ke (妇人科 Gynecology)”[6] in volume 7 of the Shou Shi Bao Yuan, as well as “Yi Jie (医戒 Commandments for the Doctor)”[6] in volume 2 and “Se Zhen (色诊 Color Diagnosis)”[7] in volume 10 of the Ming Yi Lei An. Among them, the parts “Fu Ren Ke” and “Yi Jie” are full-text translations, whereas the part “Se Zhen” only the “Story about Pian Que and Cai Huan Gong” and the “Six Incurable Types of Sickness” are translated. In his monograph Beiträge zur Medizin in China mit besonderer Berücksichtigung der Tropenpathologie (On Chinese Medicine from the Perspective of Tropical Pathology), Dr. Olpp translated the catalogs of the Ming Yi Lei An and Jin Jian Wai Ke.[7]

Dr. Olpp also reproduced and translated the original illustrations of some TCM classics, for example, Nei Jing San Bu Zhen Hou Tu (《内经三部诊候图》 Picture of Pulse Diagnosis of Huangdi's Internal Classic) from the Wang Shu He Tu Zhu Nan Jing Mai Jue (《王叔和图注难经脉决》 Work of Wang Shuhe about Classics of Difficult Inquiries and Rhyming Book of Pulse),[7] Chun Chu (《椿樗》 Simarouba) from the Ben Cao Gang Mu,[7] Xuan Er Chuang Tu (《旋耳疮图》 Picture of Ulcer Behind the Ear) and Zha Sai Tu (《痄腮图》 Picture of Parotitis) from the Jin Jian Wai Ke,[6] Dan (《胆》 Gallbladder) and Pi (《脾》 Spleen) from the Chen Xiu Yuan Yi Shu Er Shi Yi Zhong (《陈修园医书二十一种》 Twenty-one Kinds of Medicine Books by Chen Xiuyuan),[7] Lan Hou Bi (《烂喉痹》 Tonsillitis) and Hong Dian Zi She (《红点紫舌》 Glossitis) from the Zeng Ding Yan Fang Xin Bian (《增订验方新编》 Revised Edition of New Compilation of Empirical Formulas),[7] and Ru Yan

(《乳岩》 Matitis) from the Xu Hui Xi Xian Sheng Shi San Zhong (《徐洄溪先生十三种》 Thirteen Kinds of Books by Xu Huixi)[7] [Figure 1], [Figure 2], [Figure 3], [Figure 4], [Figure 5], [Figure 6]. By publishing these illustrations, the contents of TCM literature and the concepts of TCM could be conveyed more clearly to the German readers.
Figure 1: Nei Jing San Bu Zhen Hou Tu (《内经三部诊候图》 Picture of Pulse Diagnosis of Huangdi's Internal Classic)

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Figure 2: Chun Chu (《椿樗》 Simarouba)

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Figure 3: Xuan Er Chuang Tu (《旋耳疮图》 Picture of Ulcer behind the Ear) and Zha Sai Tu (《痄腮图》 Picture of Parotitis)

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Figure 4: Dan (《胆》 Gallbladder) and Pi (《脾》 Spleen)

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Figure 5: Lan Hou Bi (《烂喉痹》 Tonsillitis) and Hong Dian Zi She (《红点紫舌》 Glossitis)

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Figure 6: Ru Yan (《乳岩》 Matitis)

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Overall, Dr. Olpp's translations focus mainly on the TCM classics published in the Ming and Qing dynasties, including both textual translation and illustration reproduction. In comparison with the translation and introduction of TCM literature in Germany before the 19th century, Dr. Olpp began to translate from the original texts of TCM literature. As a result, although the scope of his translation and the quantity of his translations were limited and his primary purpose was of an introductory nature, his translation work and achievements increased the academic value of his writings on TCM. While the German scholar on the history of TCM, Dr. Franz Hübotter, denied in the late 1920s most European works on TCM, but he listed Dr. Olpp's articles Letters from China and his monograph Beiträge zur Medizin in China mit besonderer Berücksichtigung der Tropenpathologie (On Chinese Medicine from the Perspective of Tropical Pathology) as important documents of early European research on TCM.[8] This is a testimonial to the academic significance of Dr. Olpp's works and his contributions to the spread of TCM to the West. In addition, his translation of TCM literature had a positive influence on the development of sinology in Germany.


  Contributions to the Development of German Sinology Top


A change took place in German sinology at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century. With the advancing expansion of the German influence in China, deeper understanding of China became an increasingly pressing issue for the German government. Under the impetus of politics, sinology studies developed rapidly in Germany. In this context, German sinology began to shift from “amateurish” and “utilitarian” to “professional” and “academic.”[9] However, the transformation was a gradual process, and so German sinology scholars at that time was a mixture of old amateurs and new professionals. The official profession of Dr. Olpp was that of a medical missionary and his translation of TCM literature was a typical activity of “amateur sinology.” But at the same time, the works and achievements of his translation were also the epitome of this transformation process, promoting the development of German sinology.

First, Dr. Olpp's activity of translation promoted the development of translating methods for TCM literature in the field of sinology. Before the 19th century, most translations of TCM classics were done by Jesuits with certain knowledge of the Chinese language. The Jesuits usually had some medical background, but many had no professional medical training. The correct interpretation and translation of TCM literature must be realized both in the context of Chinese culture and medical expertise. Therefore, although the translations by the Jesuits and their translating methods laid the foundation for Europeans to translate TCM literature, there was room for the expansion of medical professionalism in translation.

Dr. Olpp received professional medical education and training, and although he was not a sinologist, he was familiar with the Chinese language. He wrote, “One and a half year's study of the Chinese language enabled me to research into the intricate problems of TCM and forcefully demonstrated to me the need to use Chinese characters in Chinese literature studies and their scientific processing.”[7] At the same time, during his long-term contacts and exchanges with local residents in China, his understanding of Chinese culture was imperceptibly deepened. It can be said that Dr. Olpp, sometimes supported by his Chinese teachers or Chinese assistants in China, fostered the connection between “cultural background” and “medical expertise” with his translation of TCM literature more than the Jesuits had done. This was a preliminary implementation of cooperative translation by sinologists and medical professionals, which is advocated by the current academic circle.[10] Dr. Olpp's promotion of the translation method set an example for the translation of TCM literature. This also helped the professional development of the translation of TCM literature and the formation of German “professional sinology.”

Secondly, Dr. Olpp's translation works gave an impetus to the combination of academic goals and current considerations in sinology studies. By translating TCM literature and combining with his experience in China, Dr. Olpp was able to understand TCM, the medical and hygienic conditions in China at that time. As a result, he was able to provide relevant examples of medical experiences to German doctors who were interested to come to China armed with the necessary learning about the Chinese culture. That was exactly the important reason for which Dr. Olpp wrote and published his works on TCM. As he said, “Out of practice, they are primarily intended for practice.”[7]

This marked the paradigm shift in sinology studies advocated by the famous contemporary German sinologist Otto Franke: “The scientific power of sinology lies in the connection between ancient and modern times.”[11] Franke, who had proven himself as a historian for both ancient and modern China, shaped “the modern, scientifically founded and practically oriented sinology of Hamburg” and he also influenced the development of sinology in Germany.[12] He was of the opinion that sinology studies in the contemporary era should eliminate the situation of the present sinology studies which was limited to research on ancient China and lacked current considerations. He also felt that contemporary sinology studies should not use the present sinology approach which made no academic claims and only served as language training and advice about national conditions of China. He suggested that “sinology studies should not only convey ancient knowledge, but also grasp the contemporary through this knowledge.”[11] He considered that this kind of sinology studies should be the research approach adopted by German sinologists. Instead of relying solely on medical phenomena, Dr. Olpp paid attention to TCM literature and used the knowledge from TCM literature and his China experience to understand TCM and its situation. Dr. Olpp's research on TCM, in particular his translation of TCM literature, might not have reached the level of “academic research” and “actual understanding” in Franke's understanding, but he promoted the development of the combination of “academy” and “reality,” which was what emphasized in sinology studies at that time.


  Conclusions Top


It should be noted that it was difficult for Dr. Olpp to break free from the limitations of the times from the political motivation and medical professional standpoints, but he still differentiated himself in his attitude to TCM from the majority of his European contemporaries who turned to various medical phenomena in China and arbitrarily denied the value of TCM. Although the translation of TCM literature was not the focus of his mission in China, his translation works and achievements made him one of the most important figures in spreading TCM to the West and advancing the development of German sinology by way of translation method and research paradigm. Based on Dr. Olpp's activity, we can see the interior connection between the spread of TCM to the West and the development of sinology. In this way, the study of TCM is the internal force driving the development of sinology.


  Note Top


Note 1

Jiang Guan (江瓘), also Jiang Tingying (江廷莹) or Jiang Minying (江民莹). Dr. Olpp made a mistake in marking the author of the Ming Yi Lei An as Chen Ying (陈瑛), possibly due to transliteration problem.

Note 2

Dr. Olpp's statement, that the Jin Jian Wai Ke (《金鉴外科》 Golden Mirror of Surgery) was published in 1740, is incorrect.

Funding

This study was financed by a grant from the Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities of China (No. 63202040).

Ethical approval

The author has no ethical conflicts to disclose.

Conflicts of interest

None.



 
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Zhang XP. Some views on the translation of Chinese classics by western sinologists. Int Commun 2015;11:53-4. Chinese.  Back to cited text no. 4
    
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6.
Olpp G. Letters from China. Munich Medicine Weekly 1903;36:1569-70. Germany.  Back to cited text no. 6
    
7.
Olpp G. On Chinese medicine from the perspective of tropical pathology. Supplements to the archive for ship sanitation and tropical hygiene. 1910;5:7, 12, 15, 18, 24, 27-30. Germany.  Back to cited text no. 7
    
8.
Hübotter F. Chinese medicine at the beginning of the XX. century and its historical course of development. Leipzig: Verlag der Asia Major; 1929. p. 7-8. Germany.  Back to cited text no. 8
    
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Xie M. The translation and study of Chinese contemporary literature from perspective of German sinology. Nanjing: Nanjing University Press; 2016. p. 12. Chinese.  Back to cited text no. 9
    
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Unschuld PU. German research in the field of natural and human studies of China. In: Martin H, Hammer C. Chinese studies. German developments: history, people, perspectives. Hamburg: Institut für Asienkunde; 1999. p. 386-7. Germany.  Back to cited text no. 10
    
11.
Franke O. The sinological studies in Germany. In: Martin H, Eckhardt M, editors. Clavis Sinica: On the history of Chinese studies. Bochum: Ruhr-Universität Bochum Sektion Sprache und Literatur; 1997. p. 201, 207. Germany.  Back to cited text no. 11
    
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Steen A. German-Chinese relations 1911 to 1927. from colonialism to “equal rights”. a collection of sources. Berlin: Akademie Verlag; 2006. p. 423. Germany.  Back to cited text no. 12
    


    Figures

  [Figure 1], [Figure 2], [Figure 3], [Figure 4], [Figure 5], [Figure 6]



 

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