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The aim of this article is to chronologically chart the process of rationalisation and formalisation of medical philosophy in early China, and the development of the literary tradition accompanying it. As it would be impossible to cover the whole spectrum of historical medical thinking, the article focuses on two interrelated topics - the conceptualisation and development of a vessel based anatomical theory as a tool to diagnose and explain disease; and the origin and enrichment of acupuncture as a therapeutic system. These are discussed with reference to relevant primary sources such as the Huangdi neijing, the Shiji medical biographies, and the excavated medical documentation from Mawangdui and Zhangjiashan.
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