Author:Sunyoung Han (College of Korean Medicine, Kyung Hee University)
Paper short abstract:
Pulse touching is a shared bodily experience of suffering and healing between doctor and patient. Through an ethnographic investigation, this paper demonstrates the meaning of pulse touching as an "embodied perceptiveness" and its clinical implications.
Paper long abstract:
Pulse touching is one of the four diagnostic methods of Korean medicine, and is the most susceptive experience among them. Pulse touching is conducted as part of a sensitive and intimate doctor-patient relationship. It is not merely the physical contact between a doctor's fingertips and a patient's wrist, but rather a shared bodily experience that transcends the restricted boundaries of individuals and their spatiotemporal conditions.
Patients' sensory experiences, such as pain, are expressed through bodily responses including their pulses. To trace a patient's bodily manifestation of qi and blood through sensation on fingertips, a Korean medical doctor collectively applies styles of knowledge on pulse touching, such as concepts and perceptions of pulse images and embodied experiences of pulse, all of which, as a whole, enable the practitioner to investigate the links between pulse and a patient's symptoms. Pulse touching provides doctors with a method for feeling patients' suffering in a more diachronic and direct way.
While biomedicine tends to discard suffering that cannot be transferred into numerical values, Korean medicine takes a closer look at patient suffering by diagnosing and treating sensation itself. Through an ethnographic investigation of cases in clinical settings of contemporary Korean medicine, this paper explores the bodily experience of suffering and healing shared between doctor and patient by means of pulse touching, and thus demonstrates the meaning of pulse touching as an "embodied perceptiveness" and its clinical implications.
The sensory experience of suffering and healing