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By 胡之骥


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As a result, although Xi was trying to describe a novel phenomenon whose precise description demanded a distinction between infection and contagion, he was forced to use the term chuanran, whose meanings included both contagion and infection. Thus his language neither allowed the existence of the novel phenomenon nor was prepared to describe it. In order to capture the puzzling nature of Xi’s assertion and to foreground the related issues of language and translation, I have chosen to leave chuanran untranslated.

At first the answer appears to be very straightforward: modern Western medicine achieved monumental success in containing this devastating plague, whereas Chinese medicine failed miserably. 2 To put the puzzle in the form of a more specific and useful question: What was so special about the history of the Manchurian plague that it could bring about the concurrence of multiple breakthroughs in these four aspects of medical history? To the officials in charge of dealing with this tragic event, the Manchurian plague was a very special kind of epidemic.

As mentioned previously, even after recognizing the pneumonic nature of the Manchurian plague, Dr. Kitasato Shibasaburo repeatedly warned that a bubonic plague might join forces with it when rats emerged from hibernation. After Japanese scientists dissected more than thirty-five thousand but found none infected with plague,87 Dr. 90 If Dr. Wu Liande had not been right about the existence of pure pneumonic plague and thus played a pioneering role in advancing scientific knowledge about its nature, it is hard to imagine that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs would have been interested in holding the first international scientific conference in China, let alone having the young Dr.

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