The Characteristics of Epidemiology Examined through Translated Medical Books in the 16th~17th Century in the Chosun Dynasty

16 ~ 17세기 조선의 벽역의서(闢疫醫書)를 통해 살펴본 온역학(瘟疫學)의 특징

  • Cho, Won joon (Wonkwang University College of Oriental Medicine)
  • 조원준 (원광대학교 한의과대학)
  • Published : 2006.12.30


Because the size of population was directly related to the power of the nation in the Chosun Dynasty, various efforts were exerted to maintain the size stable and the keys to the efforts were a high birth rate and a low death rate. However, in addition to wars, epidemic diseases had an enormous effect on the death rate. Particularly during the mid Chosun Dynasty, epidemic diseases were more prevalent than ever due to the abnormal climate called the little ice age. To cope with them, the government executed several medical relief policies and published medical books. In Chinese epidemiology, infectious diseases mean sicknesses caused by hot weather, but in Korean epidemiology, they indicate large-scale infectious sicknesses caused by both hot and cold weather. Therefore, as treatment methods for diseases from the cold were not applicable to the pathology of epidemic diseases, China developed separate epidemiology. In Korea, however, the main concern was how to prevent epidemic diseases, whether from hot or cold weather, that drove many lives into death. The characteristics of Korean epidemiology are as follows. First, whenever epidemic diseases were prevalent, in order to cope with them, translated medical books were promptly published including Ganibyeokonbang, Bunmunonyeokihaebang, Sinchanbyeokonbang, Byeokyeoksinbang and Byeokonsinbang. Second, those books were annotated in Korean so that people could read easily and accurately. Third, as an extension of the Hyangyak movement from the late Koryo Dynasty, Danbang was used a lot to treat and prevent epidemic diseases with less financial burden, and things obtainable easily according to individuals' situation were mentioned for anybody to overcome the emergent situation of epidemic diseases. Fourth, methods for praying to God were suggested for practitioners to work with sincere spirit and to keep themselves from epidemic diseases.