2018 New History
P. O. Box 1-44, Nankang, Taipei 11529, Taiwan, R. O. C.
02-2782-9555 # 226


Histories of Menopause in Comparative Contexts

Jen-der Lee

Institute of History and Philology, Academia Sinica.

Gengnianqi, the modern Chinese translation of “menopause,” is actually Chinese pronunciation of the Japanese kōnenki, a term coined by physicians of the Meiji (1868-1912) era when they encountered European ideas of climacteric. Social scientists and public health scholars have devoted tremendous efforts to critique the medicalization of a natural life stage in the twentieth century, but historians have so far shown little interest in the subject. A few diachronic analyses, however, have gone back hundreds of years and examined early modern medical documents to demonstrate the complexity of issues surrounding menopause in European and American histories. These studies invite historians of Chinese medicine to reflect on their own lengthy tradition and its range of views in understanding the termination of menses. The first part of this article introduces these excellent diachronic studies, including research on the tangled relations between kōnenki, climacteric, and menopause. The second part then investigates a set of two terms in traditional Chinese medical texts to show the changing perceptions and treatments of women who still menstruated after the canonical age for termination at forty-nine. Hopefully, this brief survey will provide a basis for comparison, not only between the modern and the traditional but also between Chinese and Euro-American medical histories on the issue of menopause.


Keywords: menopause, climacteric, kōnenki, blood, Chinese medicine