Medicine in the Empire
Imperial Medical Theory
Imperial medicine is based upon the theory of the Seven Systems (see side bar) which are supposed to exist within the body in perfect harmony, ruled by Thought. When these systems go out of balance, illness occurs, and so remedies are designed to restore the balance. Treatment involves lengthy and complex rituals which include the use of herbs, precious stones, certain animal parts, point stimulation (with needles or massage), prayers (written on scroll and either burned as an offering or worn on the affected part of the body in a phylactery) and so on.
Imbalance of the Systems is caused by spiritual disruption. Certain types of spirit can take over different Systems (such as Red Jade Spirits affecting the Fluid System), and magical spells can disrupt a person's Systems. Some believe that failure to obey rao-simvar - one's duty to society - can result in illness. The main cause, however, is the influence of 'miasma', foul vapours that leak from the Underwater Darkness World below. Places where this is more likely to happen, like swamps, are to be avoided as unhealthy. Dry air and sunlight is essential to any cure.
The Imperial College of Medicine
To train in the medical arts a candidate must be educated at least to the level of Clerk of the Fragrant Hills, the first tier of the bureaucracy. The Imperial College of Medicine is centralised in Reflected Glory, as part of the Ministry of Shining Wisdom. It sets the syllabus and ratifies final exam results, but induction and teaching is performed at a local level by teacher-doctors, sometimes as a master-apprentice relationship and sometimes in formalised schools.
An accepted candidate becomes a Humble Student of the Imperial College of Medicine, and is allowed to wear the purple robes of a doctor-in-training. Humble Students are required to shave their heads - a common symbol for humility in the Empire.
Teaching is by rote and repetition, and lasts some four to five years, depending on the master (it can take up to ten if the teacher is particularly fastidious). After passing the final exams, the student becomes a Most Wise Master of the Imperial College of Medicine, and dons the master's robes (also purple but more elaborate, with two layers and longer sleeves) and the characteristic hat of a doctor - purple, bung-shaped with two ribbons that hang down to the small of the back.
With the breakdown of the Empire, ratification of final results can take a long time, especially in the provinces. Willful foot-dragging in order to hamper the troublesome provincials is a major reason for this. The medical faculty of the Collegium Arketium in Llaza introduced the position of Master-in-Waiting, for one who has qualified in fact if not on paper. This rank has now become accepted as the title for a doctor, and outside the current Imperial borders nobody waits for their results to be returned from Reflected Glory before officially assuming doctorial duties. One problem, however, is that there are now many quacks and frauds operating as doctors with little or no training and expertise.
Master Cinnabar and Lady Laughing Corpse
The Immortal in charge of medicine is Master Cinnabar. Whilst the Minister of the Nine Arts is responsible for imparting the knowledge of medicine to humanity, it is Master Cinnabar and his underlings who ensure that the remedies work. He is a well respected deity, often having his own temple rather than a shrine in a general Imperial temple like most lesser deities.
Master Cinnabar's healing powers come from his mother, Lady Laughing Corpse, and hers come from her mother, Lady East. Lady Laughing Corpse, sadly, is now quite demented. Because the powers of life were so strong in her she did not die when she should have done and this drove her mad. She now delights in reversing the deeds of her son, and is in charge of the spirits that breath miasma, spreading disease in the world. As a dutiful son, Master Cinnabar looks after his insane mother despite her wicked ways. Statues of Lady Laughing Corpse can be found in the temples of Master Cinnabar, usually locked in a cage. Offerings are made to her to appease her and thus fend off her diseases.
One problem with Imperial Medicine is that the theory has become hide-bound and rigid. A lot of the remedies are in fact spurious, but a refusal on behalf of the Imperial College to research means that they cannot separate what is useful and what is fluff. In the newer nations, this is not a problem and so places like the Collegium Arketium are more open to refining treatments and to learning new techniques.
One such technique is that taught by the salsham'ai. Because of the sizeable tree-folk population, Llaza is at the forefront of the salsham'ai medicine influx, but other nations are following. Similar in some ways to Imperial theory, salsham'ai medicine is much more geared towards patient well-being than to applying a rigid set of remedies. Having a salsham'ai doctor is a great status symbol amongst the Llazan nobility, although an increasing number of humans are learning salsham'ai medicine too.