Compendium of Materia Medica 04-15-2004 15:06

The traditional Chinese medicine is a great treasure house, in which The Compendium of Materia Medica is an epoch锛峬aking, encyclopedic work.

Talking about the Compendium, one will naturally call to mind its author, the great medicine scientist Li Shizhen.

In 1518 Li Shizhen was born in Qizhou of Hubei Province. Adjoining to the border region of Hubei, Henan, Anhui and Jiangxi provinces, Qizhou was a hub of communications and a distributing centre of medicinal herbs. There grew wormwood and Bamboo used in Chinese medicine.

Li Shizhen's father Li Wenyan was a good doctor and the author of more than ten medical books. Li Shizhen began to study medicine at the age of 23 from his father. At the same time he studied ancient medical books. After ten years as he had become a well锛峫earned and famous doctor, he was called into the capital city and employed as a palace physician. But Li Shizhen was not interested in fame or wealth. His aspiration was to benefit all the people by finding ways to ensure their health. Therefore he resigned from all his posts in the court and returned home. While collecting medicinal materials and practising medicine, he wrote medical books.

Li Shizhen wrote more than ten books, of which only three survived. They are The Compendium of Materia Medica, The Pulse Studies of Binhu, and A Study of the Eight Extra锛岰hannels. The three books established his incomparable position in the history of Chinese medicine.

The Pulse Studies of Binhu has been regarded as the guidance for generations of medical workers. Even today it is a must for students of pulse study.

A Study of the Eight Extra锛岰hannels confirmed the basic methodology of diagnosis on the basis of analysis of the eight extra锛峜hannels. It laid the foundation for Chinese theories on channels and clinical medicine.

The Compendium of Materia Medica, which was completed by Li Shizhen through 27 years of painstaking efforts, encapsulated the highest achievement of ancient Chinese medicine. It surpassed medical works of previous times and brought the theory and practice of Chinese pharmacology to a new height.

The outstanding achievements of The Compendium of Materia Medica are shown in several ways. First, it has abandoned the classification of the medicinal materials into upper, middle and lower classes but has instead put forward a new classification based on 60 types under 16 classes锛 second, it gives precise names, places of origin, curing properties and process methods of the 1892 medicinal materials included in the book锛 and third, by adding 374 new medicinal materials it has enhanced Chinese medical science锛 and fourth, it has recorded more than ten thousand recipes, three quarters of which are newly recorded, and this is a great contribution to Chinese pharmaceutics.

After the publication of Compendium, its value has been increasingly recognized. Through the last four centuries it was repeatedly reprinted. Its influence has reached Asia, Europe and Americas. It has become a treasure house for specialists and researchers in many countries. Many outstanding persons in international field of science have highly evaluated it. In the conference of the World Peace Council held in Vienna in 1951 Li Shizhen was unanimously honoured as an eminent cultural figure of the world.

Editor:Wang Ping

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