On the Background of Engelbert Kaempfer's Studies of Japanese Herbs and Drugs

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On the Background of Engelbert Kaempfer's Studies of Japanese Herbs and Drugs

Format:
Article
Kyushu Univ. Production Kyushu Univ. Production
Responsibility:
Michel, Wolfgang (Michel-Zaitsu)(Faculty of Languages and Cultures, Kyushu University : Professor : History of Euro-Japanese Cultural Exchange)
Language:
English
Publication info:
Journal of the Japan Society of Medical History. 48, (4), pp. 692-720, 2002-12. Japan Society of Medical History
Version:
Publisher
Abstract:
An analysis of related sources like the medico-pharmaceutical requests in van Dam's and Herbert de Jager's memoranda showed, that Engelbert Kaempfer's plan to conduct research on Japan was not the result of a long term vision. It was born in Batavia after other plans to settle down had failed. His application for the post at Dejima was supported by old and new friends in the Dutch East India Company. Many of them were motivated to help him out of this impasse not only through friendship. They also saw in Kaempfer a scholar capable of conducting extensive research on problems in which they had an interest. As in many other aspects of Kaempfer's Japan project, his investigations concerning Japanese plants and drugs were strongly influenced by questions that had circulated among curious men in Batavia and their counterparts in Europe. Kaempfer, who before his arrival in Batavia knew virtually nothing about Japan, obviously established a link into this circle. His descriptions of plants and drugs in the "Amoenitates Exoticae" (1712) and his manuscript "Heutiges Japan", as well as his notes, clearly indicate that he was fully aware of the current state of knowledge. As three examples of plants and drugs considered by his partners to be of special importance show, Kaempfer was not a lone pioneer on uncharted paths. His research and his writings fit neatly into the context of previous publications and questions. On the basis of the information that he collected in Japan, he attempts to arrange, to clarify and, as far as possible, to add new details. Even when he does not explicitly refer to specific persons, he nevertheless reacts to their opinions. Read more
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