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Traditional Chinese Medicine History


Progress of Medicine in China
During the Ming Dynasty, many medical specialists                                      compiled the works of their forebears, further                                      expanding the base of medical knowledge.
During the Ming Dynasty, many medical specialists compiled the works of their forebears, further expanding the base of medical knowledge.

The progress of medicine in China runs parallel to the nation's political history. Between the second and fifth centuries A.D., China experienced a period marked by war and political turmoil.

One of the ironies of war is that it has a tendency to lead to advances in medicine. The periodic times of unrest in Chinese history, such as this, were no exception, as the increased need for practical, convenient, effective remedies led to further developments in medical treatment.

During this time, Ge Hong wrote Prescriptions for Emergencies in order to spread the knowledge of acupuncture and moxibustion to the masses.

Around A.D. 650, Sun Simiao compiled Prescriptions Worth A Thousand Gold, which integrated the clinical experiences of the different schools of acupuncture at that time.

During the Tang Dynasty (618-907 A.D.), China's Impe­­rial Medical Bureau established departments of Acupuncture, Pharmacology, and Medical Specialties. Numerous additional treatises and compilations of medical knowledge and experience were prepared.

In the Five Dynasties period (907-1368 A.D.), advancements in printing techniques led to a dramatic increase in the publication of medical texts.

One of the important books of the period was Canon on the Origin of Acupuncture and Moxibustion, in which Wang Zhizhong incorporated the clinical experiences of the practitioners of folk medicine.

During the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), many medical specialists compiled the works of their forebears, further expanding the extensive base of medical knowledge.

The most famous physician of the period was Li Shi Zheng (1518-1593), a kind and generous healer who did not accept payment for his services. After reviving the son of a prince from a coma, he was appointed court physician and served in the Imperial Academy of Medicine.

His most incredible achievement was his 40-year effort in writing the Ben Cao Gong Mu (General Catalog of Herbs), a monumental work published after his death. Consisting of 52 volumes at the time of its printing, the Ben Cao Gong Mu remains an important reference for traditional Chinese herbalists.

More recent advances in traditional Chinese medicine still rely on ancient practices and theories. Find out more about recent medicinal history on the next page.

For more about traditional Chinese medicine, treatment, cures, beliefs, and other interesting topics, see:


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