History of epidemics in China some reflections on the role of animals

Di Lu*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


The global pandemic of COVID-19 as a zoonotic disease invites new reflections on the human-animal relationship in the history of epidemics. Historians have explored medical concepts, social impacts, and other aspects of epidemics in China at different geographical and temporal scales. Relevant research significantly enriches historical understanding, yet animals seldom occupy the center of attention despite the fact that a variety of human infectious diseases such as plague are zoonotic in origin. This article suggests the need for a reappraisal of epidemics in Chinese history, with particular consideration of historical information on the multifold involvement of animals in human infections and anticontagious measures. Rethinking historically the interactions between humans and animals within the epidemic context helps to raise our awareness that Chinese medical thinkers were sensitive to the possibility of zoonotic infection, and prompt new analyses of how they understood the human-animal boundary and beyond.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)137-152
Number of pages16
JournalAsian Medicine
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2021


  • COVID-19
  • Chinese medicine
  • Epidemic
  • Medical history
  • Zoonosis


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