Queen Jin's Handbook of Pregnancy

Reviewed Publisher: 
Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books. 116 pages. ISBN: 1556434057.
Reviewed Title: 
Queen Jin's Handbook of Pregnancy (2002)
Reviewed Author: 

Jeremy Seligson, a long-time member of APPPAH, was born in the nation's capital, studied international relations at the University of Southern California and won a J.D degree from Indiana University. Upon graduation in 1970 he served as a Peace Corps volunteer lawyer in the Ethiopian Ministry of Land Reform during the reign of Haile Sellasie II, the last Emperor of Ethiopia. In the 1970s he explored remote regions of Africa, Asia, and Europe, studied poetry in Japan and began teaching English at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies in Seoul, Korea.

A soft-spoken scholar, poet, and popular professor, Seligson has been fascinated with the ancient birth traditions of Asia. His last book, Oriental Birth Dreams (1990), was published in both English and Korean. At our International Congress in Washington, D.C. he presented a fictional Diary of the Buddha's mother, Maya, during her pregnancy-a favorite topic which will soon become a book in its own right.

Queen Jin's Handbook of Pregnancy, published in January, is a cultural treasure illuminating a high tradition of pregnancy and birth dating back to the 12th century B.C. Paradoxically, the illumination is needed as much in Asia as in the West. The timing of this book is surely auspicious as Western obstetrics, yet in its infancy, threatens to engulf all previous visions of pregnancy in cultures past and present everywhere in the world.

Based on three decades of living and teaching in Asia, and powerfully motivated by the adventure of two pregnancies with Young Im, his Korean wife, Seligson takes us on an enchanting journey through time where voices of oriental men and women speak to us of their daily lives and ideals for pregnancy and birth. Young Im and her ancestors teach us by their meditations and prayers, their letters, dreams (and dream interpretations), their foods, drinks and herbal formulas, their use of music and color, and in poems and proverbs. This classical oriental vision of pregnancy asserts three major epochs of parenting, first, notably, preparing for conception; second, nurturing the baby in the womb; and finally, giving birth. Running through this ancient tapestry is the unobtrusive thread of the writer's personal experiences.

Seligson tells how he fell in love with the idea of nurturing, with his wife, a healthy and compassionate child inspired by the example and rules of Queen Jin-a woman of towering influence in China, Japan, and Korea for over 3,000 years. Her explosive contribution, Embryonic Education, is a remarkably prescient set of guidelines for royals and aristocrats, for their servants, and eventually for the rest of humanity generation after generation. Her credibility was secured by the birth of her son, the sage-king Wan who wrote the enduring classic I-Ching.

The timing of this new publication is auspicious also because of the burst of interest in prenatal medical and psychological research in the West over the last two decades and, particularly, interest in the topic of prenatal stimulation. Amidst the traditional controversy over the possible value of such efforts by physicians and psychologists, experimental research has tipped the scale sharply in the affirmative by providing documentary evidence of its many salutary benefits. APPPAH celebrated this new body of evidence in a special edition of the Journal of Prenatal and Perinatal Psychology and Health, Volume 14: 1 and 2, 1999.

The stage is therefore set-after fourteen centuries of widespread indifference-for the convergence of intuitive wisdom from the East and scientific verification from the West allowing a full appreciation of the sentient nature of babies in the womb. I hope that Queen Jin's Handbook of Pregnancy will assist with this convergence of East and West which bodes well for the parents and babies of our future world.

Publication Date: 
12/2001