Famous Chinese Physicians of the Past
To this legendary emperor is attributed the earliest known Chinese medical writing, Huang-ti Nei ching ( The Canon of Internal Medicine ). This work consists of two treatises, one a dialogue about living matter between Huang Ti and his minister Qibo , and the other a description of medical physiology, anatomy, and acupuncture. This famous classic is considered to be the bible of traditional Chinese medicine but its true authorship is unkown.
(Bian Que; ca. 500 B.C.)
Pien Chi'ao [Bian Que] - The most ancient of the physicians from the historical period (ca. 500 B.C.). He was reputed to be an excellent diagnostician, excelling in pulse taking and acupuncture therapy. He is ascribed the authorship of Bian Que Neijing (Internal Classic of Bian Que). Han Dynasty physicians claimed to have studied his works, which have since been lost.
Considered to be the father of Chinese agriculture, this legendary emperor taught his people how to cultivate grains as food, so as to avoid killing animals. He is said to have tasted hundreds of herbs to test their medicinal value, and is assumed to be the author of Shen-nung pen ts'ao ching ( Divine Husbandman's Materia Medica ), the earliest extant Chinese pharmacopoeia. This text includes 365 medicines derived from minerals, plants, and animals. The true authorship of this work is also unknown.
Shen Nung is venerated as the Father of Chinese medicine. He is believed to have introduced the technique of acupuncture.
Chang Chung Ching
(Zhang Zhongjing; 150-219 A.D.)
Regarded as one of the great physicians of the Han dynasty (206 BC-220 AD), the most glorious period in Chinese medical history, Chang Chung-ching wrote Shang han lun ( Treatise on Colds and Fevers ). This work had a profound influence on Chinese medicine and is considered to be the most important medical classic after the Huang-ti Nei ching . Chang Chung-ching is called the Hippocrates of China.
(Hua Tuo; 110-207 A.D.)
Hua Tuo] was the first famous Chinese surgeon. He developed the use of anesthesia, and furthered the limited Chinese knowledge of anatomy. Unfortunately, the tradition of using surgery was not carried on afterward (until Westerners re-introduced it), as there were apparently no books or direct disciples of Hua To to further the cause. When using acupuncture and herbs, he preferred simple methods, using a small number of acupuncture points and formulas comprised of only a few herbs. He practiced Chi-kung [Qi Gong] and taught the "frolics of the five animals," a practice still used today. His fame as a successful healer has led to his name becoming a brand name for Chinese medical products, such as Hua To Acupuncture Needles.
(Sun Simiao; 581-682 A.D.)
Sun Ssu-mo [Sun Simiao] was a child prodigy. He had mastered the Chinese classics by age 20 and then became a well-known medical practitioner. His ideas and collected prescriptions were recorded in the books Prescriptions Worth A Thousand Gold and Precious Formulas for Emergency. He helped develop nutritional medicine; for example, recommending seaweed to people living in the mountain regions who suffered from goiter, and recommending liver of ox and sheep for person suffering from night blindness. He was also a Taoist alchemist, seeking demon-dispelling remedies, including spells, herbal formulas, and toxic alchemical preparations.
(Li Shizhen; 1518-1593 A.D.)
Chinese medicine seems to have reached its peak during the Ming dynasty (1368-1644) when Li Shih-chen wrote his Pen ts'ao kang mu ( The Great Herbal ). This great pharmacopoeia, which summarizes what was known of herbal medicine up to the late 16th century, describes in detail more than 1800 plants, animal substances, minerals, and metals, along with their medicinal properties and applications. Li Shih-chen was 35 years old when he began to compile his Pen ts'ao kang mu . He took 27 years to finish it.