Chinese Medical History

Bian NadelnBian Needles (8000-2100 BC)

“Bian” means use of sharp edge stone to treat disease. Bian stone therapy is the precursor of acupuncture. In the process of using Bian to puncture skin, people began to notice That working on one part of the body often had an effect on another part of the body.

Shen Nong, Forefather of chinese herbal medicine /  father of agricultureShen Nong (circa 2500 BC)
Forefather of chinese herbal medicine, Father of agriculture

Shen Nong tasted and identified hundreds of herbs, including seventy poisonous ones and determined their medical property and value in a Time prior to Chinese written history.

Shennong Ben Cao jing (Shen Nong Classic on the Materia Medica) was written by was written by Tao Hongjing around 500 AD, based on Shen Nong’s ffindings. It included findings. It included 365 medicines for more than 170 diseases. It is the Classic on pharmacology in China and laid foundation for the development of pharmacology in later generation.

Shen Nong is described as the world’s earliest discoverer of medicine.

Huang Di, Yellow Emperor (2696-2598 BC) Founder of chinese medicineHuang Di, Yellow Emperor (2696-2598 BC)
Founder of chinese medicine

Huang Di inquired all aspects of medicine and this conversation was later recorded and published as Huang Di Nei Jing (Inner Canon of Huang Di), the earliest medical classic.

Huang di Nei Jing is divided into two parts: Su Wen ( Basic Questions) and Ling Shu (Spiritual Pivot). Emphasis on the prevention of disease , referred in Nei Jing: “The superior doctor is one who can successfully check diseases before they develop.”

Jia Ku Wen, Oracle Bones – Shang DynastyJia Ku Wen, Oracle Bones – Shang Dynasty

The oldest chinese writings on animal shells and bones. The inscriptions on the oracle bone describe use of wine and hot water as medicine and different illnesses.


Bian Que (407-310 BC) – Zhou Dynasty Medical ExpertBian Que (407-310 BC) – Zhou Dynasty
Medical Expert

He originated the chinese medicine diagnosis – observing, listening, asking and palpating.

He was an excellent diagnostician, excelling in pulse taking and acupuncture therapy.

Nan Jing (Classic of Difficulties) written by Bian Que described the pulse examination, five element theory and the use of 5-Shu transport points .

“Skillful doctor treats those who are well but the inferior doctor treats those who are ill.”

Huang Di Nei Jing, Inner Cannon of Huang Di (305-204 BC) - Han DynastyHuang Di Nei Jing, Inner Cannon of Huang Di (305-204 BC) – Han Dynasty

Though Huang di Nei Jing was attributed as a work of Huang Di (Yellow Emperor) over 4,000 years ago, the earliest report Of it was in the Han Dynasty. presented the fundamental theories of chinese medicine, including ancient physiology, pathology, meridian system and classification of diseases. The emphasis was on prevention. Though modern anatomy advanced in the past 300 years and is more precise, chinese anatomy developed over 2000 years ago.

Huang Di Nei Jing is divided into two parts :

Su Wen ( Basic Questions) – Dialogue between Huang Di and Chi Po, an authority on medicine, on yin-yang. 5 elements, diagnosis, differentiation of syndromes, ancient physiology, classification of disease, and anatomy.

Ling Shu (Spiritual Pivot) – first literature on acupuncture, description on meridians, functions of zang-fu organs, needling techniques and location of 160 points.

“Those who have true wisdom remain strong while those who have no wisdom grow old and feeble.”

Hua Tuo (110-207 AD) – Han Dynasty Father of SurgeryHua Tuo (110-207 AD) – Han Dynasty
Father of Surgery

He invented anesthesia, 1600 years before practice was adopted by Europeans in early 19th century. Hua Tuo had used anesthesia to Perform surgeries.

Hua Tuo has created the Five-animal exercise (tiger, deer, bear, monkey and bird styles), a Qi Gong exercise, to promote health and to prevent illnesses.

Not only could he treat parasites, he implemented mouth to mouth Aritifical respiration. Hua Tuo had founded the Hua To JiaJi Points, a set of 34 paravertebral acupuncture points.

Zhang Zhong Jing (150-219 AD) – Han Dynasty Sage of MedicineZhang Zhong Jing (150-219 AD) – Han Dynasty
Sage of Medicine

Prominent achievement in recognition and treatment of infectious diseases, termed febrile disease, recognizing encephalitis, acute pneumonia, acute viral hepatits for example and its treatments.

Zhang had developed the identification of treatment principles according to the six stages, which are the 6 progressions of diseases, applying syndrome differentiation from theory to practice.

He has written Shang Han Za Bing Lun (On Cold Damage and Miscellaneous Diseases), diagnostic theories based on overall analysis of signs and symptoms. Its over 269 prescriptions are the basis of modern clinical practice.

This book was rewritten by Wang Shu-He in 3rd century into 2 volumes: Shang Han Lun (Discussion on Cold Damage), emphazing external disorders classified according to 6 stages. Jin Gui Yao Lue ( Essential Prescription from the Golden Cabinet), focusing on internal and other Diseases of the digestive, respiratory, urological and nervous systems, metabolism and gynecology and classified according to 8 principle differentiation.

Over 1,700 years after the original publication, his works are textbook for TCM schools worldwide.

Huang Pu Mi ( 215 – 286) Jin Dynasty AcupuncturistHuang Pu Mi ( 215 – 286) Jin Dynasty

He compiled the first acupuncture classic titled Zhen Jiu Jiayijing (Fundamental Principles of Acupuncture), a book in 12 volumes that systematically organized and summarized chinese acupuncture Compiling information from ancient classics, Huang Pu Mi detailed the meridian and collateral theory, indications of each point, and methods of manipulation. Not only did his work greatly improved the accuracy and effectiveness of chinese acupuncture, it marked an important progress in acupuncture and moxibustion.

He discovered X-Cleft points for acute condition and pain. His book is one of the most influential text in history of chnese medicine.

Sun Si-Miao (590-682) – Tang Dynasty Herbal King/Daoist alchemistSun Si-Miao (590-682) – Tang Dynasty
Herbal King, Daoist alchemist

Sun’s greatest contribution is in nutrition. For example, he treated Goiter with kelp, seaweed and thyroid glands ofdeer and sheep. He has also treated nightblindness, diabetes and beriberi. thousand years later than in China.

Sun Si-Miao was the first to present ethics of medicine, influenced by Taoist philosophy. “ Whenever great physician treat disease, he has to be mentally calm and his disposition firm, attitude of compassion. Clear mind in order to look at himself,…..”

He discovered the ghost points – to treat mentally-disturbed mind And epilepsy.

Bei Ji Qian Jin Yao Fang ( Thousands of Golden Prescriptions for Emergencies) is considered to be the first encyclopedia of chinese medicine. It addressed wide variety of topics, such as internal and external Medicine, gynecology, pediatrics, toxicology, diet, pulse diagnosis and acupuncture.

Wang Wei Yi (907-1067) - Song Dynasty Great Acupuncturist of 11th centuryWang Wei Yi (907-1067) – Song Dynasty
Great Acupuncturist of 11th century

Wang Wei Yi revised and compiled a work on acupuncture, verifying all the points and channels called Tong Ren Shu Xue Zhen Jiu Tu Jing (Illustrated Manual of the Bronze Man). It described 354 points, with the depth of puncture of each point and indication of its use, along with acupuncture charts.

He casted the first full-size 2 bronze statues on which meridians and acupuncture points were engraved for teaching purposes.

Liu Yuan Su (1120 – 1200) Jin Dynasty School of CoolingLiu Yuan Su (1120 – 1200) Jin Dynasty
School of Cooling

Liu developed “Huo Re Lun”, discussion of fire and heat, and proposed the use of cool and cold herbs to treat heat and fire disorders. He observed the high frequency of fever and inflammation in serious diseases. He also believed that heat and fire are the dominat factors causing disorders.

One of his main treatment principles was lowering Heart fire and nourishing Kidney water to alleviate the fire syndrome.

Liu’s work is important because it introduced the concept significantly different

Zhang Cong–Zheng (1156-1228) Jin Dynasty School of Attack and PurgeZhang Cong–Zheng (1156-1228) Jin Dynasty
School of Attack and Purge

Zhang believed that all diseases were caused by “evil factors” or external pathogens introduced in the human body. The cure was to induce sweat, vomit or purge.

He proposed all evils derive from 3 sources : Heaven (wind, cold, summerheat, dampness, dryness, fire), Earth ( fog, dew, rain, ice, water, soil) and Human (inappropriate diet).

He instructed to attack the disease when the patient is strong and tonify the body when the patient is weak. He persuaded people not to use tonics at will.

Li Dong Yuan (1180-1251) Jin Dynasty School of nourishing EarthLi Dong Yuan (1180-1251) Jin Dynasty
School of nourishing Earth

Li is well known for treating disorders of spleen and stomach. He believed that spleen and stomach are the source of original Qi (yuan qi) and adequate yuan qi is the key to health. That damages to spleen and stomach gave rise to many disorders.

Lack of vitality would produce negative conditions, weakness, and Internal heat. Sufficient strength would develop normal physiologcail Functions.

Zhu Dan–Xi (1281-1358) Yuan Dynasty School of nourish YinZhu Dan–Xi (1281-1358) Yuan Dynasty
School of nourish Yin

“Yang is often in excess, yin is often insufficient”

Zhu believed that people suffered from chronic disease mainly due to overindulgence in pleasurable things and activities, resulting in debility of the yin essence. He proposed many theories and formulas to nourish yin of Kidney and Liver.

He also discussed diseases arising from 6 stagnations – Qi, Blood, damp, phlegm, heat and food.

Ye Tian Shi (1667 – 1746) Qing Dynasty Celebrated physician of internal medicineYe Tian Shi (1667 – 1746) Qing Dynasty
Celebrated physician of internal medicine

Ye was famous for his of febrile disease. He postulated transmission of diseases through 4 stages – Wei, Qi, Ying and Blood.