Marta Hanson, PhD

Marta Hanson, PhD

Associate Professor (Retired)

Research Interests

History of Chinese science and medicine; history of epidemics, disease, and public health in China; disease maps in East Asia; Chinese arts of memory; the healers body in Chinese medicine; and late imperial Chinese cultural and social history.


Affiliate in Department III at Max Plank Institute for the History of Science


Marta Hanson publishes widely on the history of medicine in China, public health in East Asia, and connected early modern Sino-European medical history. She was Assistant Professor of late imperial Chinese history at the University of California, San Diego (1997-2004) and Associate Professor of East Asian medical history in the History of Medicine Department, Johns Hopkins University (2004-2021). She was President of the International Society for the History of East Asian Science, Technology, and Medicine (ISHEASTM, 2015-2019) and is now the Vice-President of the International Society for the Critical Study of Divination (2023-). Currently, she is an independent scholar and an affiliate at Max-Plank-Institut für Wissenschaftsgeschichte in Berlin.

She was Senior Co-editor of Asian Medicine: the Journal of the International Association of the Study of Traditional Asian Medicine (2012-2017) and remains on their editorial board. She is also on the editorial boards of East Asian Science, Technology, and Society, Chinese Medicine and Culture, and the Asian Journal of Medical Humanities. Her book is Speaking of Epidemics in Chinese Medicine: Disease and the Geographic Imagination in Late Imperial China (Routledge, 2011). Her current book manuscript, Grasping Heaven and Earth: The Mind in Hand in Classical Chinese Medicine, is on how premodern Chinese healers used their hands to think with, diagnose, treat, and heal.

Within cross-cultural medical history, she has an on-going scholarly collaboration with Gianna Pomata (early modern European historian) on 17th- to 18th-century translations of Chinese medical texts into European languages. This has resulted in several publications related to the Specimen Medicinæ Sinicæ (1682), the first translation into Latin of Chinese medical texts for European Latin readers. The first article to come out from our collaboration, “Medicinal Formulas and Experiential Knowledge in the Seventeenth-Century Epistemic Exchange Between China and Europe” (2017)  won the 2019 Price/Webster Prize of the History of Science Society for the best article published in the journal Isis in the past three years (July 2019). Our first co-authored chapter is “Travels of a Chinese Pulse Treatise: The Latin and French Translations of the Tuzhu maijue bianzhen 圖註脈訣辨真 (1650s–1730s).” Translation at Work: Chinese Medicine in the First Global Age. Clio Medica: Studies in the History of Medicine and Health, 100 (Leiden: Brill, 2020). An interview was also published about our collaboration: “Swapping Recipes (On How to Study Recipes): A Conversation,” Q&A with Elaine Leong, Gianna Pomata, Marta Hanson, History of Science Society Newsletter, 49.3 (2020) 8-15. I have also published a review essay about Gianna’s scholarship related to her concept of “epistemic genres,” our collaboration, and potential for productive research related to this concept for Chinese medical history: Epistemic Genre as a Conceptual Tool in the History of Chinese Medicine.” Chinese Medicine and Culture 5.1 (March 2022): 1-8.

Related to contemporary issues, she has written about Chinese medical responses to SARS and US responses to COVID-19, co-authored an essay with novelist Lauren Small on what COVID-19 has revealed about US-China differences and patterns of responses to pandemics, and edited a special issue of Chinese Medicine and Culture on “Narrative medicine in China and Chinese sources for narrative medicine.”




Speaking of Epidemics in Chinese Medicine Book Cover Speaking of Epidemics in Chinese Medicine: Disease and the Geographic Imagination in Late Imperial China. Needham Research Institute Series on East Asian Science, Technology, and Medicine. London: Routledge Press, 2011.


“L’esprit en main dans le Canon classifié (Leijing 類經, 1624) [The Mind in Hand in the Classified Canon, 1624]. Special Issue on “Histoires de mains,” Revue Historique. Forthcoming December 2023.

“Grasping Heaven and Earth (Qian Kun Zai Wo乾坤在握): The Body-as-Technology in Classical Chinese Medicine.” Chinese Medicine and Culture. 6.3 Forthcoming October 2023.

Blaming, Naming, and Treating the ‘Deadly Cold’ in 1918 China.” Co-authored with Michael Shi-yung Liu. Global China Pulse. 2.1 September 2023.

Chinese Sources for AfterWards: From Premodern Poetry, Paintings, and Medical Texts, to Modern Novels, Documentaries, and Film.” Special Issue on Chinese sources for Narrative Medicine, Chinese Medicine and Culture 6.2 (June 2023): 127-138. DOI: 10.1097/MC9.0000000000000061

Epistemic Genre as a Conceptual Tool in the History of Chinese Medicine.Chinese Medicine and Culture 5.1 (March 2022): 1-8.

Pandemic Patterns: How depictions of past epidemics in art and literature illuminate COVID-19 today.” Co-authored with Lauren Small. Journal of General Internal Medicine, (Jan 2022): (7 pages). Published online Jan. 3, 2022.

What a Map and a Portrait Have in Common.” East Asian Science, Technology and Society: An International Journal 15.3 (Sept 2021): 1-5.

From Under the Elbow to Pointing to the Palm: Chinese Metaphors for Learning Medicine by the Book (4th-14th Centuries).” Special Issue on “Learning by the Book: Manuals and Handbooks in the History of Knowledge” of the British Journal for the History of Science: Themes. Edited by Angela Creager, Elaine Leong, and Mathias Grote. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 2020.

From the Sick Man of Asia to Sick Uncle Sam,” Perspective, Current History: A Journal of Contemporary World Affairs 119.817 (Sept 2020): 441-44.

Visualizing the Geography of the Diseases of China: Western Disease Maps from Analytical Tools to Tools of Empire, Sovereignty, and Public Health Propaganda, 1878–1929.” Science in Context 30.3 (2017): 219–80.

Medicinal formulas and experiential knowledge in the 17th-century epistemic exchange between China and Europe.” Co-authored with Gianna Pomata. Isis: The Journal of the History of Science in Society 108.1 (March 2017): 1-25.
[At the HSS meeting in Utrecht in July 2019, this article was awarded the Derek Price/Rod Webster prize for the best article published in Isis in the past three years].

“Kuhn’s Structure in East Asia.” Historical Studies of the Natural Sciences 42.5 (2012): 514-20.

“Kuhn’s Structure in East Asia, Expanded.” East Asian Science Technology and Society 6.4 (2012): 561-7.

“The art of medicine: Maoist public-health campaigns, Chinese medicine, and SARS.” The Lancet, vol. 372 (Oct., 2009): 1457-8.

“Hand Mnemonics in Classical Chinese Medicine: Texts, Earliest Images, and Arts of Memory.” Festschrift issue in honor of Nathan Sivin, Asia Major series 3, 21.1 (2008): 325-57.

“Jesuits and Medicine in the Kangxi Court (1662-1722).” Publication of Keynote Address given March 8, 2007, for “Medicine and Culture: Chinese-Western Medical Exchange.” Symposium at the Ricci Institute for Chinese-Western Cultural History, USF Center for the Pacific Rim, Pacific Rim Report 43 (July 2007): 1-10.

“Northern Purgatives, Southern Restoratives: Ming Medical Regionalism.” Asian Medicine: Tradition & Modernity 2.2 (2006): 115-170.

“Manchu Medical Manuscripts and Blockprints: An Essay and Bibliographic Survey,” Saksaha: A Review of Manchu Studies 8 (2003): 1-32.

“The Golden Mirror in the Imperial Court of the Qianlong Emperor, 1739-1742.” Special issue on Imperial Patronage of Science in East Asia, Early Science and Medicine 8.2 (2003): 111-147.



Late Imperial Epidemiology, Part 1: From retrospective diagnoses to epidemics as diagnostic lens for other ends, 1870s to 1970s,” 245-62 (DOI: 10.4324/9780203740262-19), and “Late Imperial Epidemiology, Part 2: New material and conceptual methods, 1980s to 2010s,” 263-81 (DOI: 10.4324/9780203740262-20). Chapters in the Routledge Handbook on Chinese Medicine. Edited by Vivienne Lo and Michael Stanley-Baker. London: Routledge, 2022.

Late Imperial Epidemiology, Part 2: New material and conceptual methods, 1980s to 2010s,” 263-281, ch. 17, Routledge Handbook on Chinese Medicine. Edited by Vivienne Lo and Michael Stanley-Baker. London: Routledge, 2022.

“Travels of a Chinese Pulse Treatise: the Latin and French translations of the Tuzhu maijue bianzhen 圖註脈訣辨真 (Differentiation of the Genuine in the Pulse Rhymes, Illustrated with Commentary, pref. 1510).”
Co-authored with Gianna Pomata. Translation at Work: Chinese Medicine in the First Global Age, 23-57. Clio Medica series, vol. 100. Edited by Harold J. Cook. Leiden: Brill, 2020.

“The Fever With No Name: Genre-blending Responses to the HIV-tainted Blood Scandal in 1990’s China.” Part 2 “Film and the Public Sphere,” Chapter five in Film and the Chinese Medical Humanities. Routledge Advances in Asia-Pacific Studies. Edited by Vivienne Lo, Chris Berry, and Guo Liping. London: Routledge, 2019.

“‘The Mysterious Names on the Hands & Fingers’: Healing Hand Mnemonics in Medieval Chinese Buddhism.” Chapter 47 in Buddhism and Healing in East Asia, 478-485, ed. by C. Pierce Salguero.  New York: Columbia University Press, 2017.

“Hand Mnemonics in Medieval Chinese Buddhism: Practicing Embodiment as Historical Method.” Translated and published into Korean. Ch. 4 in Myeongsang-gwa chiyu 명상과 치유 (Meditation      and Healing), 105-132. Iksan, South Korea: The Institute of Mind Humanities, Wonkwang University, 2016.

“Zengjia yishi de shijian gan, difang gan, yu shijian gan: Mianxiang yishi de zhongguo yixue shi gongzuo fang” 增加医师的时间感、地方感与实践感:面向医师的中国医学史工作坊 (Enhancing the Practitioner’s Sense of Time, Place, and Practice: The History of Chinese Medicine for Practitioners Workshop), 82-105. In Yu Xinzhong 余新忠and Du Lihong 杜丽红 eds. Yiliao, shehui yu wenhua duben 医疗,社会与文化读本 (Medicine, Society and Culture Reader). Beijing: Peking University Press, 2013. Chinese translation of article from Asian Medicine 2.2 (2006).

“Conceptual Blind Spots, Media Blindfolds: The Case of SARS and Traditional Chinese Medicine.” In Angela Ki-Che Leung and Charlotte Furth, eds., Health and Hygiene in Chinese East Asia. Chapel Hill: Duke University Press, 2011.

“Bei gongfa, Nan buyang: Mingdai yixue de fengtu guan” 北攻伐, 南補養:明代醫學的風土觀  (Northern Purgatives, Southern Restoratives: Ming Medical Regionalism). Chinese version. Cong yiliao kan zhongguo shi 從醫療看中國史 (Medical Perspectives on Chinese History).  Ed. Li Jianmin, Academia Sinica, History and Philology Institute, Taiwan, 2008.

“The Significance of Manchu Medical Sources in the Qing.”  Proceedings of the First North  American Conference on Manchu Studies (Portland, OR, May 9-10, 2003). Tunguso Sibirica 15, Vol. 1: Studies in Manchu Literature and History, 131-175. Ed. by Wadley Stephen and Carsten Naeher in collaboration with Keith Dede.  Weisbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag, 2006.

“Robust northerners and delicate southerners: the nineteenth-century invention of a southern wenbing tradition,” 262-291. Innovation in Chinese Medicine, ed. by Elisabeth Hsu. Needham Research Institute Studies 3. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001.

“Attività editoriali e correnti di pensiero nel periodo Ming,” in Storia della Scienza, editor-in-chief Sandro Petruccioli, Roma, Istituto della Enciclopedia Italiana, v. II, 2001, pp. 516-531. Edited by Karine Chemla, in collaboration with Francesca Bray, Fu Daiwie, Huang Yi-long, and Georges Métailié. Translation into Italian of original manuscript in English titled “Publishing and currents of medical thought during the Ming period.”

Essays on Pedagogy

Co-authored with Reid Szcerba, “Using Teams and SharePoint for Class Website,” The Innovative Instructor, Pedagogy Vol. 21, August 2021. Center for Educational Resources, Johns Hopkins University. Based on History of Medicine: Antiquity to the Scientific Revolution and History of Public Health in East Asia courses taught fall 2020-spring 2021.

Co-authored with Sarah Zanolini, “Pedagogical Forum: Expanded Possibilities for Teaching Asian Medicines,” Asian Medicine: Journal of IASTAM 15.2 (2020): 315-26. Based on the undergraduate course on the History of Medicine in China taught spring 2020.

Other publications, presentations, and media


Issues of Asian Medicine: Tradition and Modernity as Senior Co-editor 2011-2016:

7.2 “Diversity of Medicine in China & of Chinese Medicine in the World” (Winter 2012)

8.1 “Mercury in Ayurveda and Tibetan Medicine” (Spring 2013)

8.2 “Transformations of the Treatise on Cold Damage in East Asia” (Winter 2013)

9.1-2 “The Herbal Pharmaceutical Industry in India” (Double Issue 2014)

10.1-2  “Efficacy and Safety in Tibetan and Chinese Medicine: Historical and Ethnographic Perspectives” (Double Issue 2015)

11.1-2 “New Approaches to the History and Anthropology of Korean Medicine” (Double Issue 2016)

Editorial Essays and Review Essays

As Advisory Editor, “Bibliographic Essays on the History of Pandemics: An IsisCB Special Issue.” Published for the History of Science Society. Isis 114.S1 (September 2023).

Narrative Medicine in China and Chinese Sources for Narrative Medicine.” Editorial Essay for Chinese Medicine and Culture2 (2023): 125-26. DOI: 10.1097/MC9.0000000000000067

Situating the History of Medicine Within Chinese History.” Cross-Currents: East Asian History and Culture Review no. 27 (June 2018): 163-177.

“The Anthropology and History of Medicine in Korea: Recent Scholarship and New Directions.”  Asian Medicine: Tradition and Modernity 11.1-2 (2016): 1–19.

“The Coming Together and Separating of Ways of Three Recent Perspectives on the Medical History of East Asia up through the Second World War.” Canadian Bulletin of Medical History 33.2 (2016): 37-46.

“Editorial,” for special issue on “Transformations of the Treatise on Cold Damage in East Asia,” Asian Medicine: Tradition and Modernity 8.2 (2013): 243–47.

“Editorial,” for special issue on “Diversity of Medicine in China & of Chinese Medicine in the World,” Co-authored with co-senior editor Mona Schrempf, Asian Medicine: Tradition and Modernity 7.2 (2012): 1–6.

“Special section on Gender and Medicine” in honor of Charlotte Furth, with an introduction, Late Imperial China 33.2 (2011): 49–50.

“Needham’s Heavenly Volumes and Earthly Tomes.” Early Science and Medicine 12.4 (2007): 405-432.

“Depleted Men, Emotional Women: Gender and Medicine during the Ming Dynasty.” Special Issue on Woman and Medicine in China.  Nan Nü: Men, Women, and Gender in Early and Imperial China.  7.2 (2005): 287-304.  Book version of issue ed. by Angela Ki Che Leung, Medicine for Women in Imperial China (Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2006): 179-196.

“New Directions in the History of Science in East Asia.” East Asian Science, Technology, and Medicine 19 (2002): 107–115.


“‘Laughing Disorders’ and Medical Discourses of Joy in Early Imperial China,” Co-translator with Guo Jie of the award-winning article from Chinese to English by Lee Jen-der, Academic Sinica, Taipei, Taiwan. Forthcoming 2019.

Senior Editorial Consultant of English Translation of Korean Medical Compendium, Treasured Mirror of Eastern Medicine (Dongui Bogam 東醫寶鑑, 1613). Nine volumes. Seoul: Ministry of Health & Welfare and the Korea Institute of Oriental Medicine, August 2013.

Wider audience

Interview in “Carte Blanche: En médecine, les « autres savoirs » de la Chine,” an editorial by Stephane Van Damme for the French newspaper, Le Monde (March 17, 2021).

Marta Hanson: Speaking of Medical Bilingualism,” Purple Cloud Podcast #24 (March 12, 2021).

Swapping Recipes (On How to Study Recipes): A Conversation,” Q&A with Elaine Leong, Gianna Pomata, and Marta Hanson, History of Science Society Newsletter, July 2020.

How Best to Treat the Heat in 1793 Beijing,” Contribution to HEAT! Theme of The Recipes Project: Food, Magic, Art, Science, and Medicine, OpenEdition Books, August 2018, 1-7.

Screen notes on the new bilingual website devoted to Film and the Chinese Medical Humanities

for the Chinese documentary on living with HIV/AIDS in China: Together 

and the Chinese feature film on HIV/AIDS in a rural Chinese village: Love for Life

Interview with the authors by the Isis journal editors about the article “Seventeenth-Century Epistemic Exchange between China and Europe” published in Isis (March 2017): 1–25.

Is the 2015 Nobel Prize a turning point for traditional Chinese Medicine?” The Conversation, October 5, 2015 (Translated into French and Korean).

Views: Renewing a Feverish Debate,” Interview with Harry Lee of Caixin 財新, Beijing, on the Nobel Prize being given to Scientist Tu Youyou, November 2015. 

When East Meets West,” Interview by Catherine Gara with Professor Jun Liu for In Depth, Johns Hopkins Medicine, January 2016.

Medical Pluralism in China,” a presentation for the Asian Studies Development Program (ASDP) “Bridging Cultures Project,” funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities, September 2015.

Wie man in China Hände zum Memorieren verwendet” (“How the Chinese used their hands to remember”), Der Standard (Austria)



The History of Medicine: Antiquity to the Scientific Revolution (undergraduate and graduate level)

The History of Public Health in East Asia (undergraduate lecture course)

The History of Public Health in China (Spring 2007 English bibliography)

The History of Public Health in China (Fall 2009 English and Chinese bibliography)

Medicine (and Science) in History: An Introduction to Historiography

History of Chinese Medicine

History of Science, Technology, and Medicine in Modern China

Comparing Science in China and the West

Graduate Reading Seminar in the History of Science and Medicine in Modern China

History of Science, Medicine and Technology: An Introduction to Historical Methods

Historiography of the History of Medicine and Science