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Irruption et influences de la médecine française en Chine du Sud, XIXe-XXe siècles

Florence Bretelle-Establet


In the last years of the nineteenth century, the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Colonies decided to establish French physicians in Chinese areas located outside Indochina. The ministries intended the physicians to inform about the diseases that prevail at the door of Indochina and to reinforce French influence. Bolstered up by a recent decision which consisted in delivering the monopoly of exercising medicine to the lonely graduates, in 1892, and entirely converted to the pasteurian medicine, these physicians are ready to achieve their mission and they fully agree to publicize Western science. But upon arriving in China, the French physicians have to win the confidence of a population immersed in an ancient and complex medical culture. After thirty years of confrontation between Western and traditional practices, it is possible to note some evolutions in the local practices of health: creation of a new police in charge with sanitary problems marking the beginnings of Chinese governmental initiative in public health, creation of private establishements providing medical assistance by local philanthropists, and larger use of Western medicine among the population. But these forms of modernization concern only a few big towns and before the inauguration of a Ministry of Health in 1928, the traditional practices are still vivacious.

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Electronic reference

Florence Bretelle-Establet, “Irruption et influences de la médecine française en Chine du Sud, XIXe-XXe siècles”Cahiers d'histoire [Online], 47-1 | 2002, Online since 13 May 2009, connection on 13 August 2022. URL:; DOI:

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