Calling in Sick: An Anecdotal History of Medical Excuses in Early China

Monday, January 09, 2023

Calling in sick to get out of work is a time-honored practice, and something of an art form in and of itself. Early and medieval Chinese texts are full of instances of individuals claiming illness to either excuse themselves from current positions, or to avoid appointments to office, a practice firmly situated in the rhetoric of reclusion. This presentation will focus on several cases of men who made medical excuses to reject government appointments to understand their historical significance, asking how these people use illness to avoid service under a particular ruler, and what underlying messages might we glean from how these stories were told.