Famous Ancient Chinese Physicians
The field of Traditional Chinese Medicine, or TCM, is an ever evolving and adaptive discipline that has gained increased popularity in recent times. The early beginnings of the Traditional Chinese Medicine were recorded in three major classic works; namely The Yellow Emperor’s Internal Medicine (黄帝内径), The Treatise on Febrile Diseases (伤寒染病论), and The Pharmacopeia (本草纲目) or otherwise known as The Indices of Drugs.
The Yellow Emperor
The book, The Yellow Emperor’s Internal Medicine, laid the foundation for early Traditional Chinese Medicine some 5,000 years ago. Initially, it was a verbal record of discussions between the Yellow Emperor and his ministers about medicine, and was only put into writings some 3,000 years after the time of the Yellow Emperor. Diseases were said to arise due to the interplay of yin and yang forces as well as the five natural elements of metal, wood, water, fire and earth.
This was closely related to other traditional Chinese beliefs that utilized the yin yang system that also emphasized on the five natural elements. Acupuncture was already a subject described in the book at that time. This work set a precedent for systematic recording of experiments and observations on traditional herbs and procedures used by ancient Chinese physicians.
Another important book, The Treatise on Febrile Diseases, was written by Zhang Zhongjing ( 张仲景, 150 – 219 AD) in the Eastern Han period who was known as the “Sage of Medicine”. The book comprised of siz parts, which corresponded to the siz pairs of meridians. It was significant because it disucssed diagnosis and treatment methods based on assessments on the symptoms of different pathological conditions. The origin work was lost but Zhang’s work was said to have tremendous influence on the later development of disease treatments in East Asia region such as China, Korea and Japan.
Finally, in the recent time of the Ming Dynasty, a well-known medical practitioner Li Shizhen ( 李时珍, 1518-1593 AD),compiled and classified 1,892 medical substances in the book called The Pharmacopoeia. The book comprised of 52 parts, with over 1,000 complete illustrations and 11,000 prescriptions which took Li some 30 years to complete. Substances with medical properties were classified as inorganic (minerals), herbal plants and animals. His classifications corrected many of the piecemeal and distributed misinformation on the medicinal properties of plants and animals known to the Chinese people. The book was first circulated into Japan in 1606 before being translated into Latin and distributed to Europe after 1647 and was described by Charles Darwin as an “encyclopedia” on Traditional Chinese Medicine.
In recent years, Traditional Chinese Medicine has began to regain its market share among modern Chinese population as an alternative or complementary to Western medicine.
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