Classic books of traditional Chinese medicine

Chinese medicine is the traditional medicine of the Han Chinese people. The name Han was from the Han Dyansty because of its great cultural influence. In ancient times, Chinese medicine was introduced to Korean Peninsula and Japan. Nowadays traditional Japanese medicine is still named Han medicine. Classic books of traditional Chinese medicine are still studied by modern people.

China has a history of several thousand years. A lot of ancient Chinese books were written under the name of personages in myths and legends, or were written with the form of dialogues of personages. Unknown authors thought this way made their books convincing.

From tribal leaders to medical sages

Modern Han Chinese people call themselves the descendants of Yan Di and Huang Di. Yan Di and Huang Di are two great leaders in myths. Shi Ji is a historical book written in the first century BC. The book says, after the family of Shen Nong lost control over tribes, Huang Di punished the tribes that didn’t pay tribute, and then the leaders of tribes came to follow him. Yan Di, the leader of another strong tribe, tried to grab the control over tribes. So there was a great battle between the two tribal groups. Yan Di was defeated. After defeating the strongest enemy named Chi You in the battle of Zhuolu, Huang Di took the place of Shen Nong, and became the supreme leader of tribes. The family name of Yan Di was Jiang and the family name of Huang Di was Ji. The two family names generated a large number of branches in the Zhou Dynasty. Therefore, in the nationalist narrative, the alliance of Huang Di and Yan Di was the birth of the Chinese nation.

In the writings of the people who lived in the Han Dynasty, Shen Nong was not only a ruling family in myths, but also a sage. He took care of the common people, so that he tasted a large number of plants by himself, in order to recognize which plants are usable and which plants are not usable. He once met seventy kinds of poisonous plants a day.

Also in the writings of the people who lived in the Han Dynasty, Huang Di was not only a leader who was good at fighting, but also a sage who devoted himself to medicine. He and his ministers discussed how to keep health and treat diseases.

Huang Di Nei Jing and Shen Nong Ben Cao Jing

Huang Di Nei Jing, which name literally means the classic of Huang Di, is the book that tells the fundamentals of traditional Chinese medicine. Shen Nong Ben Cao Jing, which name literally means the herbal classic of Shen Nong, is a pharmaceutical monograph.

The two books are not the earliest extant books about Chinese medicine, because in the third tomb of Ma Wang Dui which was buried in 168 BC, a dozen of medical books were unearthed. The tomb owner loved to collect medical books, but obviously the books he collected show older theory of Chinese medicine. Therefore, the period that the authors of Huang Di Nei Jing and Shen Nong Ben Cao Jing lived should be later than 168 BC.

Huang Di Nei Jing was divided into two books by later people. The two books, which are named Su Wen and Ling Shu, systematically explain the basic theory and treatment principles of Chinese medicine. The two books determined the development way of Chinese medicine.

Shen Nong Ben Cao Jing describes the therapeutic effects of 365 medicinal materials. The book summarizes the principles for the combined use of medicinal materials. With the development of medicine, more and more medicinal materials were found and used in practice. Ben Cao Gang Mu, which was written by Li Shizhen in the 16th century, collects 1892 medicinal materials.

Nan Jing

The book Shi Ji describes the story of a legendary doctor named Qin Yueren who lived in the Eastern Zhou Dynasty. People called him Bian Que which was the name of a mythological bird which could cure diseases. Nan Jing, which name literally means the classic of problems, is a book that discusses eighty-one medical problems. It was written under the name of Qin Yueren. The book is actually the development of medical theory based on Huang Di Nei Jing. So the book was written later than Huang Di Nei Jing.

Shang Han Za Bing Lun and classic recipes

In the beginning of the third century AD, a doctor named Zhang Zhongjing wrote a medical book named Shang Han Za Bing Lun. The name of the book literally means the monograph on cold-induced diseases and other diseases. Zhang Zhongjing had rich experience in the treatment of diseases. His book records the symptoms of many diseases, and discusses their pathological mechanism and how to treat the diseases.

Shang Han Za Bing Lun incarnates complete principles of diagnosis, analysis and treatment on diseases. It greatly promoted the development of Chinese medicine. Accordingly, Zhang Zhongjing was acclaimed as the medical sage by later people.

Shang Han Za Bing Lun was broken into parts in later hundreds of years. People collected the remaining texts and reorganized them into two books. The two books are known as Shang Han Lun and Jin Gui Yao Lue. The name of Shang Han Lun literally means the monograph on cold-induced diseases. Jin Gui Yao Lue, which name literally means the abridgement kept in a golden box, is about other diseases.

The recipes in the two books are called classic recipes. Classic recipes are used in esteem not only by Chinese therapists, but also by Japanese therapists. Japanese realized the successful commercialization of classic prescriptions. When I visited Japan, I bought products of classic recipes.

Su Wen, Ling Shu, Nan Jing, Shen Nong Ben Cao Jing, Shang Han Lun and Jin Gui Yao Lue are the important classic books of traditional Chinese medicine. These books form a unique medical system combined with complete theories and treatment principles. From hand-written copying to woodblock printing, and from China to foreign countries, the contents of the books are valuable, not because they were written under the names of personages and sages, but because their methods are effective to help people improve symptoms, relieve pain and restore health.

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