After Taiwan opened trade in Qing Dynasty, Western medicine was also brought into Taiwan by the medical missionaries of Presbyterian Church and by foreign medical staffs of the customs. It not only made a great impact on Taiwan, but also left very meaningful historical materials relevant to the observation and interpretation of local traditional medicine. There were a number of Western medical researches based on the Presbyterian Church, but only a few about the foreign medical staffs of the customs. Therefore, this article aims to discuss the observations of diseases and medical treatment of the foreign medical staffs in Taiwan-fu customs (included Taiwan-fu and Takow) and Tamsui customs (included Tamsui and Kelung) and tries to promote the research of diseases and Western medicine in Taiwan in Qing Dynasty.
First of all, it is worth noting that the medical staffs often used the environmental factors or living habits to explain the emergence of diseases. This was because in the nineteenth century, British doctors were influenced by the environmental medicine and tended to explain the emergence of diseases with this theory. They disagreed with the simple idea that diseases were caused by specific micro-organisms. In the historical materials they left, they proposed related medical advice according to the relevance of climate, geographical environment, health habits to disease.
Medical staffs of the customs had paid attention to the local people’s treatment and folk treatment. Since Western medicine was very different from the traditional treatment of diseases in Taiwan at that time, they also observed the local people’s viewpoints about western medicine and found that the local people turned to western medicine and treatment in malaria, skin diseases and surgical cases. This maybe has to do with the western medical treatment technology or medicine, which Chinese medicine or folk remedies lacked, or has to do with free or low cost medical treatment. Although most of the medical staffs thought that the local therapy was superstitious, interestingly, some of them recognized that the local medicine did show effectiveness in the treatment of skin diseases and started to use it. These medical staffs also urged those local people who opposed the autopsy to accept post-mortem so that they could enhance Pathological medical knowledge by examining the cause of death.