Sun Simiao and His Cultivation Theory Related to Health

August 25, 2012 at 2:24 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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January 16, 2010 | By Shanxing

( Sun Simiao, who is also called China’s King of Medicine and Heavenly Doctor Sun, was a famous doctor in Chinese history. He also practiced preserving health through qigong. Sun was born during the Western Wei Dynasty. Legend has it that he lived for 141 years. Sun decided to learn medicine because when he was young, he often got sick. He was versed in the Chinese classics and history, as well as the thoughts of a hundred schools. He could “memorize thousands of sentences each day” at age seven. For his skill of memorizing a daily article of over one thousand words, he was praised as a “sacred child.” At age 20 he could expertly discuss the theories of Lao Zi and Zhuang Zi, and was also good at the Buddhist classics. Sun refused to become a government official during the Sui and Tang Dynasties. Tang Dynasty Emperor Li Shimin personally visited him.

Sun Simiao made a name for himself for having summarized the clinical experiences and medical theories prior to the Tang Dynasty and compiled them into two renowned medical books, Qian Jin Yao Fang (Prescriptions Worth a Thousand Liang of Gold) and Qian Jin Yi Fang (Supplement to Prescriptions Worth a Thousand Liang of Gold).

1. Sun Simiao’s books passed onto future generations

Sun Simiao authored over 80 books in his lifetime. Besides Qian Jin Yao Fang and Qian Jin Yi Fang (mentioned above), he also wrote Lao Zi Zhu (Notes to Lao Zi), Zhuang Zi Zhu (Notes to Zhuang Zi), one volume of Zhen Zhong Su Shu (Book on the Bed), one volume of Hui San Jiao Lun, three volumes of Fu Lu Lun (On Fortunes and Happiness), one volume of She Sheng Zhen Lun (Advice on Health Cultivation), one volume of Gui Jing (Canon of the Tortoise), and others.

Qian Jin Yao Fang consists of 30 volumes and covers 232 medical subjects. Sun Simiao believed: “A human life is extremely precious; more valuable than one thousand liang [an ancient Chinese unit of weight] of gold.” Because of this belief he titled his book with the two characters “Qian Jin,” which means one thousand liang of gold. The entire book collected 5,300 prescriptions, covering a wide range that is rich in content. It is a colossal work, representative of medical science during the Tang Dynasty. It had a great impact on and made significant contributions to medical developments, especially prescriptions for later generations. The scholarly text also made contributions to medical advancements in Japan and Korea.

Qian Jin Yi Fang also consists of 30 volumes. Sun Simiao wrote it in the later stages of his life. It is a comprehensive supplement to Qian Jin Yao Fang. He divided the entire book of Qian Jin Yi Fang into 189 subjects, covering over 2,900 prescriptions. It describes over 800 medicinal drugs and provides effective ways for treating especially febrile diseases, strokes, miscellaneous diseases, acne, and carbuncles.

2. Sun Simiao’s medical ethics and further contributions to medicine

Sun Simiao expressed his belief that medicine is an art of kindness. In his book Da Yi Jing Chen (Sincerity and Devotion of Great Doctors), he wrote: “When a great doctor treats a patient, he must concentrate himself, calm down, and be free of desires and pursuits. He first needs to have a compassionate heart to devote himself to freeing the patients from the suffering of illnesses. If patients come for treatment, whether they are of high or low social status, rich or poor, elderly or young, beautiful or ugly, enemies or relatives, the Han race or other ethic groups, intelligent or unintelligent, the doctor should treat them the same as if they were all the doctors’ dear ones…”

This short paragraph is a clear representation of Sun Simiao’s noble character as a doctor.

He adopted a holistic approach to treating illnesses. He believed that by skillful nursing and recuperating successfully, one can be free of illnesses. As long as “a good doctor treats the illnesses with prescriptions and acupuncture, the patient’s illness will be curable and disasterson the earthwill be avoidable.” He stressed medical ethics and treated all patients the same. As already stated above, he declared, “a human life is precious, and more valuable than one thousand liang of gold.”

Sun Simiao also paid great attention to gynecology and pediatrics. He authored three volumes of Fu Ren Fang (Gynecology) and two volumes of Shao Xiao Ying Ru Fang (Pediatrics), which were placed on top of Qian Jin Yao Fang.

Qian Jin Yao Fang is the earliest encyclopedia on medical subjects in China. It covers a broad range of categories–from basic medical theories to different clinical subjects, and from theories and methodologies to prescription formulas and drugs. The book covers materials from the classics in one segment, while another category includes the empirical formulas and prescriptions that were circulated among the populace. This book included the strong points of different schools and is suitable for people from different educational backgrounds. It is popular even today.

Much of the book’s content still plays a guiding role, making it of great scientific value. It is indeed an asset for traditional Chinese medicine.

As already stated, Qian Jin Yao Fang has made great contributions to the development of prescription formulas. By summarizing the clinical experiences from the era of Zhang Zhongjing [a famous doctor in the Han Dynasty] to that of Sun Simiao and the achievements in prescription formulas over the previous several hundred years, it demonstrated Sun Simiao’s profound medical knowledge and extraordinary medical skills. Future generations have called Qian Jin Fang–the two books of Qian Jin Yao Fang and Qian Jin Yi Fang–the ancestor of prescription formulas.

Sun Simiao valued preserving health and actively practiced it. Because he was good at the art of cultivating health, he lived to over 100 and still enjoyed good vision and hearing when he was old. He combined ideas on the preservation of health from Confucianism and Taoism, as well as from ancient India, with those of traditional Chinese medicine. He proposed many practical and effective ways to cultivate good health, which, even now, guide people’s daily lives. For example: “One should keep a balanced mindset and not solely pursue recognition and self-interest. Be constrained in food intake, and do not eat or drink too much. Pay attention to the circulation of Qi and blood and do not be lazy and motionless. Live a regular daily life and do not violate the law of the nature…”

Sun Simiao was also the first to invent a urethral catheter. According to historical records, one of his patients could not pass urine. Seeing that the patient was in extreme pain, Sun thought, “It is already too late to treat him with medicine. If there was a way to insert a tube into his urethra, the urine could perhaps flow out naturally.” He saw a neighbor’s child at play blowing on a green onion stem. The green onion stem was very thin, long, and soft. Sun decided to use such a tube and gave it a try. Having chosen a suitable green onion stem, he charred it gently, cut the sharp end off, and then carefully inserted it into the patient’s urethra. He then blew into the tube once. As expected, the urine flowed out of the tube. The patient’s bloated abdomen gradually became smaller, and the patient’s illness was also cured.

By cultivating morality and the body with virtue and by having both virtue and talent, Sun Simiao became a great figure whom common people and medical professionals for several generations have highly respected.

December 24, 2009


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