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Jiren (畸人): Daoism, healthcare and atypical bodies
  1. Luís Cordeiro‐Rodrigues1,
  2. Qian Zhang2,
  3. Lei Pang1,
  4. Zhibin Chen1
  1. 1Department of Philosophy, Yuelu Academy, Hunan University, Changsha, Hunan, China
  2. 2Department of Philosophy, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, China
  1. Correspondence to Professor Luís Cordeiro‐Rodrigues, Hunan University, Changsha, China; lccmr1984{at}

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Jiren (畸人), literally translated as irregular (Ji) person (ren), is a critical concept in the classical Daoist text the Zhuangzi (5th–3rd century BC.).1 The concept refers to individuals with atypical body shapes. Some of them lack body parts of the standard human body, like a leg or toes. Some others have an atypical anatomy, like having a chin stuck down their navel; and some of them are, by social standards of the time, considered to be extremely ugly.1 These individuals are described as incredibly virtuous. The description of Jiren individuals as virtuous does not simply aim to show there may be hidden virtues that social conventions blur. The point is not to show that we should also care for those with atypical bodies who have a hidden virtue. Rather, the point is to show that all human beings have an unconditional intrinsic value and moral worth. So, Jiren prescribes that an atypical body shape does not reflect inferiority. The variation of body anatomies should be understood as how the world is, not a value hierarchy. The concept of Jiren encourages, therefore, to consider one’s own and others’ value beyond their physical appearance. What’s more, Jiren encourages individuals to resist social pressures to fit a standard and to search inward for who they really are and accept it. This ethical groundwork set by the Jiren aims at freeing people from existing physical and mental boundaries to their well-being and helping them rethink …

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  • Contributors LC-R conceptualised the article and applied the concept of Jiren to issues in medical ethics. QZ introduced the concept of Jiren and participated in the application of this concept to issues in medical ethics. LP participated in the introduction of the concept of Jiren and collected related resources. ZC helped with the conceptualisation and editing of the concept of Jiren. All authors then further revised and approved the final version.

  • Funding ZC disclosed the receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship,and/or publication of this article: 2019 General Project of Hunan Provincial Philosophy and Social Science Foundation (19YBA065). LC-R disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: This research has been funded by Hunan University’s Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities, grant number 531118010426.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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