Elisabeth Hsu


Professor of Anthropology; Fellow of Green Templeton College 

Faculty / College Address:

Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology



Research Interests:

Research Interests lie with the fields of medical anthropology and ethnobotany, often with a focus on issues of language and meaning. They concern Chinese medicine; styles of knowing, medical rationale, and pulse diagnosis; body, personhood, and new approaches to kinship and relatedness; touch, pain, feelings, emotions, and sensory experience.

Current Projects:

Current Fieldwork-based Projects:

Current field research is mainly on Chinese medicine in East Africa, funded by the British Academy, and other funding bodies.

After conducting field research on "Tactility and relatedness in the house" within the ESRC-funded project on "Generating synchronicity [as a therapeutic technique] in Southwest China" (2006-2010), AHRC-funding has been obtained to pursue field research on "Icons and Innovation in Pumi religious texts"; in a project that explores how in ritual performances shamans in Southwest China interact with their sacred texts (2009-2012). See

Major Textual Projects:

  1. The annotated translation of the Memoir of Chunyu Yi in the 105th chapter of the Historical Records by Sima Qian (?145- ca 86 BCE) is to be published in W. Nienhauser (ed) The Grand Scribe's Records. Vol. 7. The anthropological analyses of the first ten medical case histories have now been published, see below.
  2. Summaries of the Dunhuang medical manuscripts on pulse diagnosis (P2115, P3106, P3287, P3477, P3481, P3655, P4093, S79, S181, S202, S5614, S6245, S8289), together with an introduction to the corpus, have just been published in C. Despeux (ed) 2010: Medicine, religion et société dans la Chine mediévale: Etude de manuscrits chinois de Dunhuang et de Turfan. Paris: College de France, Institut des Hautes Etudes Chinoises, 107-184. Their analysis is ongoing.
  3. Translation of entries in the Chinese materia medica on the antimalarial qinghao is ongoing, after some entries have just been published (in collaboration with Frederic Obringer, EHESS, Paris): Qing hao 青蒿 (Herba Artemisiae annuae) in the Chinese Materia Medica. In E. Hsu & S. Harris (eds) 2010: Plants, Health and Healing: on the Interface of Ethnobotany and Medical Anthropology. Epistemologies of Healing 6. Oxford: Berghahn, 83-130.

Courses Taught:

Recent Publications:

  • Pulse diagnosis in early Chinese medicine: the telling touch (author, CUP 2010)
  • Wind, life, health: anthropological and historical perspectives (co-ed, 2007, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, Special Issue)
  • Plants, health and healing: on the interface of ethnobotany and medical anthropology(co-ed, 2010, Oxford: Berghahn)

For full list of publications see: 


Further Info:

Since October 2006, ArgO-EMR (Anthropology research group, Oxford, on Eastern medicines and religions) holds seminars in weeks 1, 3, 5, and 7 of term time on Wednesdays, 5-6.30 pm, at 58 Banbury Road, with invited speakers and a yearly workshop in Trinity Term. The theme of next year's workshop will be on the notion of balance in humoral medicines. 
(for the seminar series in MT 2010, see http://www.isca.ox.ac.uk/research/medical-and-ecological-anthropology/ea...)

Elisabeth Hsu