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History of Traditional Chinese Medicine


475 B.C.E - 265 C.E.

This is the 700 years when the system really took shape.  The publication of 4 classic works marked the formation of the theoretical system we know today.


1. Huang Di Nei Jing: Yellow emperor's classic of internal medicine basically laid out the theoretical foundation of traditional Chinese medicine as we know it today.  It is the earliest publication that exists.  It is comprised of dialogue between Huang Di and a teacher named Qi Bo, a question and answer scenario.  It emphasized prevention being very important, 'a good doctor prevented disease.  It is said that the classic was written by over 100 practitioners over many generations although no names are given.  It is said that Dr. Wang Bing's (710-804ce) interpretation of the Nei Jing is of high quality. The first explanation, which is also said to be very important was written by Quan Yuan Qi.  There are 2 parts to this book, 1/ Suwen: plain questions, and 2/ cannon of acupuncture miraculous pivot. 

2. Shen Nong Ben Cao Jing: Agriculture Emperors Materia Medica, this classic of herbalism laid down the foundation of the traditional Chinese medicine pharmacy.  Although this book was not written by Shen Nong, he was the man who tested more than 1000 herbs to determine safety and toxicity.  In the book it went through 365 medicinals, 252 plants, 46 minerals, and 67 insect/animal.  It also went into specific formulations of medicinals and educated on the use of flavours in treatment.

3. Shan Han Za Bing Lun: Treatise on Febrile and miscellaneous diseases (Shan Han = attacked by cold).  This book established therapeutic principles for treating disease according to overall differentiation of symptoms.  Zhang Zhong Jing (Zhong Ji) is fully credited with being the author of this classic.  This was an era of heavy rashes of strong febrile disease.  This book is said to have saved many lives.

It was divided into two books (by Wang Shu He 210-285ce, who also wrote 'The pulse classic' - Mai Jing): 1/ Shan Han Lun, and 2/ Jing Kui Yao Lue.  Together they established the therapeutic principles of the 6 channels/stages of disease (Taiyang, Yangming, Shaoyang, Taiyin, Shaoyin, Jueyin), the 4 diagnostic measures of TCM (observation, palpation, questioning, smell/listen), the three categories of etiological factors (exterior, interior, others), and, 260 extremely useful medicinal formulations, many of which are still used extensively today.

4. Nan Jing: Classic of difficulties.  Written by Bian Que?  81 questions surrounding the explanation of the Nei Jing.

5. Zhen Jiu Jia Yi Jing: AB classic of needle moxa was written by Huang Pu Mi (215-286ce).  It listed 349 acupuncture points.



Sun Si Miao (581-682ce)

Born in Shaanxi province, was a famous doctor of the Sui / Tang dynasties and lived to be over 100 years old.  It is said that he is the doctor that first recognized beri beri and whole grain connections, also how ants reacted to sweet urine and diabetes.  He wrote 2 books: 1/ Qian Jin Yao Fang 'prescriptions worth a thousand gold' that had over 5300 formulas.  30 years later he revised his first book by adding 2571 more prescriptions.  Sun Si Miao was the first to publicize formulas when all others were intent on hiding their secrets, some now refer to him as 'the Herbal King'.  Considered a daoist alchemist, he used herbs and various spells to successfully help people with everything from gynecology and obstetrics to giving people seaweed for goiter.  He was also the first doctor to feel the queens pulse (at that time it was the norm for a thread to be held on the queens pulse and the doctor would feel the characteristics of the thread.  His contributions to acupuncture were the ghost points.  It was said that the Tang dynasty was a time when the spiritual beliefs of buddhism were being pushed on the people, and the printed word was in full swing.  Hence it was a time of great mental-emotional-spiritual energy and much mental disease came fourth.  The ghost points were developed to treat the 'Ghosts' that were disturbing peoples minds.


Wang Wei Yi (987-1067ce)

Taught acupuncture by developing the bronze statue which was covered in wax, filled with water, and when a point was put in the right place water would leak out!  He made 2 statues, one for the King, and the other was brought to Beijing.  In 1900 Red China was invaded and the Japanese took the second statue from Beijing.  2 duplicates were made of the remaining statue, one is in Russia and the other remains in Beijing.


Jin Yuan Si Da Jia (4 great schools of thought in Jin and Yuan dynasties)

Liu Wan Su (1120-1200ce)

Fire heat is the cause of many diseases, so use cooling medicinals to treat. 'The Cool School'.

Zhang Cong Zheng (1156-1228ce)

Believed all diseases were caused by 'evil factors', external pathogens being introduced into the human body.  To cure; induce sweating, vomiting, and purging.  'School of attacking and purging'.

Li Dongyuan/Li Gao (1180-1251ce)

Believed that Stomach Qi is the Monarch so supplement and tonify the Spleen and Stomach, from which came Pi Wei Lun - teh Treatise on Spleen and Stomach. He is Bu Zhong Yi Qi Tang.  Imbalance of diet, lifestyle, and the 7 emotions damage the middle.  'School of nourishing the earth'.

Zhu Danxi (1281-1358ce) 

Believed that overindulgence in many of lifes pleasures damaged Yin/Essence.  Therefore, nourish and enrich the Kidney Liver Yin.  'School of nourishing Yin'.


Zhang Jing Yue (1518-1639ce)

Wrote many books on everything from gynecology, pediatrics, and surgery.  His fame comes from his annotated version of the Nei Jing, 'Lei Jing'.  There is also 'Jing Yue Quan Shu', the complete works of Jing Yue.


Li Shi Zhen (1562-1593ce)

Ben Cao Gang Mu.  Contained 1094 herbs, 444 animal/insect, 275 minerals, 79 other, and 10,096 formulas !  This took him almost 40 years to accomplish.  He was said to be very particular about proper classification of the medicinals.





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