Social Perceptions of Quack in Qing Dynasty and Its Transformation in the Late Qing Period
"Yong-yi" means "quack" in English, which generally refers to a doctor who does not have good medical skills. In the Ming and Qing dynasties in China, various criticism about "Yong-yi" became popularized, and by the late Qing period, "quacks" had become a serious social issue. The theory of traditional Chinese medicine was developed during the Ming and Qing dynasties, and local medical resources also increased. Moreover, the prevalence of medical book publishing led to the openness and
... enness and generalization of medical knowledge. As a result, not only the number of doctors increased, but also the number of doctors who lack medical knowledge and clinical experience increased. However, at the outset, "Yong-yi" did not only mean doctors with poor medical skills. "Yong-yi" also reflected conflicts and contradictions between doctors. Doctors consistently criticized quacks in an attempt to maintain their identity as a "good" doctor or a Confucian doctor. In this sense, "Yong-yi" was used among physicians as an expression of discrimination and exclusion. The concept of "quackery" was also determined by the relationship between patients and doctors. In general, itinerant doctors, midwives and shaman doctors were regarded as "Yong-yi"; however, they served the medical needs of various patients. Thus, to some extent, "Yong-yi" were also useful medical resources. On the contrary, in certain situations, "shiyi," physicians who serviced a family for generations and were generally believed to be reliable and as trustworthy doctors, were also labelled as quacks, especially when the patient did not trust them or was not satisfied with the treatment. Therefore, doctors' thoughts about "Yong-yi" did not always coincide with patients' thoughts about "Yong-yi." However, by the late Qing period, the description of quacks in media reports found a singular connotation, and the divergent social image of quacks disappeared. By this time, quacks were uniformly described as ignorant and irresponsible Chinese medicine practitioners. Specifically, in one murder case in which a "Yong-yi" was accused as the murderer, the report unilaterally reported the patient's claims. Consequently, Chinese medicine practitioners who failed in their treatment of patients became labeled as "quack" doctors. In newspaper reports, "Yong-yi" no longer simply referred to individual cases of "quacks" but had come to represent the entirety of the Chinese medicine practitioner community. On the contrary, Western medical doctors who replaced the status of traditional doctors were positively portrayed. Pictorials also had similar perspectives with newspapers, supporting the narrative of the news with ironic drawings and articles. Overall, media reports regarding "Yong-yi" did not focus on reporting facts, but they had the purpose of making quacks a serious social problem.