Some Important Historical Figures in Chinese Medicine

The exact origin of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) isn’t quite clear, there are no historical accounts talking about the discovery of acupuncture points or even the channels in Chinese medical theory. The earliest record of TCM found is The Yellow Emperor’s Inner Classic. The Yellow Emperor’s Inner Classic was put together and published in 200 BCE; The Yellow Emperor lived 2698 to 2598 BCE. There have been discoveries of inscriptions found on bone and tortoises that were dated 14th to 11th century BCE. There are some archeological discoveries that have shown developments of Chinese medicine that even predates The Yellow Emperor’s Inner Classic. However, The Yellow Emperor’s Inner Classic has the most complete explanation on Chinese medical theories such as yin-yang and five element theories.

Since the compilation of The Yellow Emperor’s Inner Classic, there have been several famous Chinese physicians who are important figures in the development of Chinese medicine. Many of the ancient Chinese physicians developed new ideas that was based from The Yellow Emperor’s Inner Classic.

Zhang Zhongjing – After having read The Yellow Emperor’s classic and other books at that time he was able to create his masterpiece Shanghan Zabing Lun (Chinese: 傷寒雜病論; Pinyin: Shānghán Zábìng Lùn, lit. “Treaties on Cold Pathogenic and Miscellaneous Diseases”).

Hua Tuo – He was the first to use an anesthesia combining wine with an herbal concoction called máfèisàn (麻沸散, lit. “Cannabis boil powder”), he was also known for his expertise in surgery, acupuncture, moxibustion, Herbal medicine and Daoyin exercises. He also developed Wuqinxi (Wade–Giles: Wu-chin-hsi; 五禽戲; lit. “Exercise of the Five Animals), from studying movements of the tiger, deer, bear, ape, and crane.

Sun Simiao ¬– He is most famous for writing Beiji Qian Jin Yao Fang (“Essential Formulas for Emergencies [Worth] a Thousand Pieces of Gold”) and Qian Jin Yi Fang (“Supplement to the Formulas of a Thousand Gold Worth”). In his first book Beiji Qian Jin Yao Fang, he wrote what is called “On the Absolute Sincerity of Great Physician”; it is also known as, “The Chinese Hippocratic Oath”. This is still a required reading for Chinese Physicians.

The Oath reads:
“Whenever a great doctor treats an illness, he must first of all calm his spirit and fix his resolve.
He should not give way to wishes and desires but should develop first of all an attitude of compassion.
He must vow to rescue the sufferings of all sentient beings.
If someone comes for help, he must not ask if the patient is noble or common,
rich or poor, old or young, beautiful or ugly.
Enemies, relatives, good friends, Chinese or barbarians, foolish and wise, all are the same.
He should think of them as his closest relatives.
He should not be overly circumspect and worry about omens or his own life.
He should look on others’ sufferings as his own and be deeply concerned.
He should not hide away in the mountains.
Day and night, in cold and heat, in hunger, thirst, and fatigue, he should single-mindedly go to the rescue. Whoever acts in this manner is a great doctor for the living.
Whoever acts contrary is a great thief for those who still have their spirits.”

Tao Hongjing – His main work is the commentary of the Treaty of medicinal materials (494 ~ 500), a new version of the earlier work of pharmaceutical reference known, it corrects and completes after its own research. It thus adds 365 to 365 new species of origin, invented a new classification category natural (plant, insect …) instead of the three levels of utility of the first text, which will be taken thereafter. It classifies the remedies according to the symptoms they treat, says the relationship between the place of production, harvesting, brewing time and efficiency, as well as the form (pill, powder …).

Zhang Yuansu (aka Zhang Jiegu; ca. 1151-1234) was one of the most historically influential Traditional Chinese Medicine physicians in the period of transition from China’s northern Jin Dynasty to the Mongolian Yuan Dynasty.

Zhang Jiegu integrated medicinal materials into the five element framework (WuXing) with both the five shen herbs (spirit herbs) framework and qi meridians. He helped to more clearly define the association of the “tastes” of medicinals and their believed effect on the different organ systems. Zhang asserted that herbs entered into and influenced the meridians. The culmination of Zhang’s work was a book called Bag of Pearls (Zhenzhu Nang 珍珠囊).

Yang Ji Zhou was one of the great Chinese physician during the Ming Dynasty. He is known for writing the Compendium of Acupuncture and Moxibustion. The Compendium of Acupuncture and Moxibustion is a compilation of the development of acupuncture and moxibustion throughout history up to the Ming Dynasty. The Compendium of Acupuncture and Moxibustion is also the basis for acupuncture and moxibustion for the modern Chinese physician and clinic.

Li Shizhen (Li Shih-chen; 李时珍; Lǐ Shízhēn; July 3, 1518 – 1593), He was one of the greatest Chinese physicians, polymaths, scientists, herbalists and acupuncturists in history. His greatest contribution to clinical medicine was his 27 year work, which is found in his book Compendium of Materia Medica (Bencao Gangmu). He is also considered to be the greatest scientific naturalist of China, and was very interested in the proper classification of herb components.

The history of Chinese medicine is long and there are many important Chinese physicians who contributed to the development of Chinese medicine. In the modern Chinese medicine clinic and hospitals, Chinese physicians are continually developing new ideas and methods of treatment as well. Chinese medicine is a dynamic medicine and continues to evolve. Even though Chinese medicine continues to develop and evolve, it is still based on the ancient Chinese medicine classics mentioned above.

To learn more about Chinese medicine and its theories thoroughly, one must study the classics of Chinese medicine.

To learn more about Chinese medicine or acupuncture how it can help you, your friends, and family please contact us anytime at Master Lu’s Health Center in Salt Lake City at 801-463-1101
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