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Gender, Health, and History in Modern East Asia$
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Angela Ki Che Leung and Izumi Nakayama

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9789888390908

Published to Hong Kong Scholarship Online: September 2018

DOI: 10.5790/hongkong/9789888390908.001.0001

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Weak Men and Barren Women

Weak Men and Barren Women

Framing Beriberi/Jiaoqi/Kakké in Modern East Asia, ca. 1830–1940

(p.195) 7 Weak Men and Barren Women
Gender, Health, and History in Modern East Asia

Angela Ki Che Leung

Hong Kong University Press

Western biomedical and traditional East Asian medical experts disagreed on the causes of the modern Asian epidemic named as beriberi/jiaoqi/kakké in English, Chinese and Japanese. While conflicting explanations made the epidemic experience most puzzling and elusive, there was general agreement among experts from competing medical traditions that the main victims were Asian men, especially soldiers and workers. The triumphant vitamin B1 deficiency theory based on white-rice as an inferior food also worked with East Asian diagnostic assemblages to frame the disease as native to East Asia, now eloquently explained as an unhealthy environment detrimental to masculinity.

Keywords:   Beriberi, jiaoqi/kakké, nutritional disorder, vitamin B1, deficient diet, miasmatic environment, white rice, Asian soldiers and workers

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