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The Institute for Medical Humanities (IMH) at Durham University is delighted to introduce “The Polyphony Meets China”, a new collaborative project between our web platform The Polyphony and the Narrative Medicine Research Centre (NMRC) at Southern Medical University (SMU).

Initiated by our associate editor Nicole Chen, this project aims to introduce critical concepts, and forefront research and practices in medical humanities to China and stimulate cross-cultural exchanges. It also supports The Polyphony’s vision to challenge the predominance of English as the key voice guiding the medical humanities.

The initiative aims to raise awareness in China of specific diseases and medical conditions from a narrative and humanistic perspective. To this end Nicole will select and translate relevant articles on The Polyphony for Chinese readers. We will also set up a “World Health Day and Disease Day” column on The Polyphony to publish articles that highlight the Chinese philosophy in narrative medicine and stories that bring insights into Chinese healthcare and societal wellbeing. The “Intercultural Dialogue Dispatch” joint column will invite guests from different cultural backgrounds for dialogues on medical humanities under a broader parameter.

We will also be exploring options for future collaboration such as opportunities to co-host international conferences and developing a talent training scheme.

Professor Angela Woods, Director of the Institute for Medical Humanities said:

“We are excited to be working with Professor Yang and her team at Southern Medical University in China. The medical humanities have been flourishing in China for over two decades and we are excited that The Polyphony will open up new spaces for a genuine exchange of ideas.”

Prof Yang, Director of the Narrative Medicine Research Centre said:

“I am very honoured to be a witness to the launch of this exciting project. I do hope that "The Polyphony Meets China" can truly expand and strengthen the dialogue between China and the West in the field of medical humanities. I hope it will invite more polyphonic voices from different cultures and of various experiences to join our dialogue.”

Watch a video by Professor Yang introducing the initiative on YouTube.

Nicole Chen, initiative lead, said:

“We are celebrating this new venture of The Polyphony where it becomes accessible to a new audience in a language other than English. This will help The Polyphony achieve its vision to encourage voices from diverse cultures and backgrounds to join dialogues on medical humanities, thus challenging English as the dominant voice for medical humanities conversations and research.”

Chase Ledin, Editor in Chief at The Polyphony, said:

“This project contributes to the Polyphony’s larger aims to promote and advance the medical humanities discipline through cross-cultural engagement. The project will help us to create a platform through which we can explore new perspectives of health and illness through art and culture. Part of the SMU project is also about overcoming language barriers to create a critical and complex vocabulary that expands or departs from traditional and Western narratives about how medicine, health and illness operate and what they look like in many different societies. I hope that we will create critical and challenging perspectives that re-shape the landscape of modern medicine and help to provide cross-cultural perspectives that better map the diverse experiences of health, illness, the arts, and cultural production especially for marginalised and neglected populations.”

Watch a video by Chase Ledin introducing the initiative on YouTube.


The Polyphony was launched in September 2018 by the Institute for Medical Humanities (IMH). The name was chosen to reflect our aspiration to provide a platform for the many voices, perspectives, and interests of the medical humanities community. Since launching, The Polyphony has become the field’s leading web platform, stimulating and intensifying conversations across the critical medical humanities. The Polyphony provides a crucial resource for sharing medical humanities research in an accessible form to a geographically and disciplinarily diverse audience. Its readership, although predominantly from the UK and US, spans the globe.

Nicole Xuan Chen has been an Assistant Editor at the Polyphony since November 2021. Nicole is a final-year PhD candidate at the University of Edinburgh. Her project studies a sudden cluster of contemporary biofictions featuring Virginia Woolf as character. Through the theoretical lenses of the medical humanities, image-text theory, and the art of conversation, this interdisciplinary research explores such key topics in the studies of life-writing as narrative and memory, individual and collective identity, authorship and the ethics of life-writing. She is on the reader panel for James Tait Black prizes, and she is the co-editor and chief translator for the Chinese translation of Literary Medicine: Brain Diseases and Doctors in Novels, Theatre, and Film. Before her PhD programme, she taught both Literary Translation to English Language undergraduates as well as English Language to medical students at SMU.

In 2021, Nicole initiated a collaborative project between The Polyphony and the Bio-Health Narrative Research Centre, SMU, in the hope of creating intercultural dialogue and introducing leading-edge concepts and theories of medical humanities to China. She is currently working as the project manager for “The Polyphony meets China” initiative, managing the delivery of workstreams and individual projects, performing quality control, and contributing to the creation and development of a diverse culture across the project and The Polyphony.


Professor Xiaolin Yang  is a professor at the General Education Department of Southern Medical University (SMU). As the first Chinese researcher to introduce the concept of narrative medicine and the first to publish related research articles textbooks and monographs, she is dedicated to promoting narrative health and narrative medicine in China. She is the founder of the Narrative Medicine Research Centre (NMRC) and the Bio-Health Narrative Sharing Center in Shunde Hospital of SMU, and the chief advisor for over 20 narrative research centres affiliated to leading medical institutes in China. She is on the editorial board for such Chinese academic journals as Medicine & Philosophy, Narrative Medicine and Asian Medical Humanities, and has published around 100 academic papers and led more than 10 research projects. 

Narrative Medicine Research Centre, Southern Medical University

Led by Prof. Yang, the team at the Narrative Medicine Research Centre has been advocating the new concept of narrative medicine in China since 2014 via holding public lectures and narrative consultation sessions at class-A hospitals in China. The NMRC team has also been running its official account on WeChat (the most popular Chinese social media platform) and been publishing regularly narrative-focused articles that introduce literary works, medical stories and key concepts of narrative medicine to healthcare practitioners, medical students, patients and patients' family members. We also have themed columns on every World Disease Day to raise public awareness of poorly understood illnesses and to challenge sociocultural stigmas surrounding them. Our WeChat official account has just celebrated its reach of 16,000 subscribers in September 2022.


Articles in Chinese currently available through the initiative:

31/07: The Polyphony Meets China Launching News article

03/08: Graphical medicine and medical education

13/08: End-of-life care

21/08: Illness narrative

24/08: Disability narrative

02/09: Neurodiversity and autistic narrative