Medicine: The Impact on Other Countries
Medicine: The Impact on Other Countries
Koreans. The Korean peninsula played an important part in transmitting Chinese medicine to Japan. From the seventh to the eighth century Korean magician-healers, herbalist apothecaries, and doctors were frequently responsible for the care of Japanese emperors. Eventually the Japanese did away with these mediators and instead sent their own students to China directly or brought over Chinese masters. Korean medical texts were written in Chinese. In the fifteenth century the Korean court physicians and medical officials were required to produce an encyclopedia containing the Chinese classical prescriptions of all periods from the Han dynasty (206 B.C.E.-220 C.E.) to the Ming dynasty (1368-1644). Collection of Classified Medical Prescriptions (1445) provides an excellent introduction to the history of medicine in China.
Japanese. As early as 608 two Japanese studied medicine in China and returned home after fifteen years to spread their knowledge. The Zen sect was interested in Chinese medicine, poetry, and arts, playing a part in distributing respiratory techniques and judo (a martial art form) from China to Japan. Through the religious sects the Song era (960-1279) classics became available to the Japanese and thus continued to provide the foundation of Japanese medicine. The majority of books published in Japan were still written in Chinese, but a few were phonetically transcribed into Japanese characters, while others were completely translated. Many monk-doctors traveled to China during the Yuan period (1279-1368) and Ming period. As in China, there were many medical schools in Japan. In 1593 Li Shizhen published his great book, the Compendium of Materia Medica, which excited great interest in Japan. Its fifty-two chapters detailed the medical uses of more than two thousand plants and animals. It was translated into Japanese in 1596 and republished many times thereafter.
Indians. The golden age of Chinese Buddhism was from the fourth century to the tenth century, during which time pilgrim-monks established relationships between China and India. The late-seventh-century monk Yi Jing compiled the accounts of earlier trips made by Faxian (399-414) and Xuan Zang (629-645). The Buddhist monks brought to China Indian medical works advocating a theory of four elements, which most likely owed something to Greek influence. This theory established the number of recognized diseases at 404, each element being responsible for 101 diseases. Lack of harmony among the elements was the reason for illness. Although Chinese medical schools, apart from those of the Tang period (618-907), hardly ever resorted to Indian etiology, the Chinese found it necessary to combine their pathogenic systems with those of India. In terms of medical use, many plants were common to both India and China. The Chinese imported Indian hemp, chaulmoogra, sandalwood, camphor, long pepper, cane sugar, and cinnamon. Buddhist hospitals, leper wards, and dispensaries in the larger temples received revenue from private donors. This system was secularized toward the middle of the ninth century, and Chinese medicine acquired ethical principles of the highest order.
Persians and Arabs. The transfer of the imperial capital to Hangzhou under the Southern Song dynasty (1127-1279) contributed to the expansion of trade by sea with east Asia, India, and Africa. While chaulmoogra, alcohol, and opium were imported from the Indians and the Persians, the Arabs learned of Chinese medicine. Tabriz, a major city in northwestern Iran, was the main link for these Chinese, Iranian, and Mongol encounters during the Yuan dynasty. Rashid al-Din, a physician and prime minister to Mahmud Ghazan Khan (ruled from 1295 to 1304), acted as a facilitator. He constructed hospitals where Indian, Syrian, Iranian, and Chinese doctors worked together. Rashid al-Din also took advantage of his lofty position to compile an historical encyclopedia that embraced almost all the peoples of Eurasia, from China proper to the Holy Roman Empire.
Tibetans and Mongols. From the seventh century to the ninth century the Mongols were converted to Buddhism and to the medicine of Tibet. Tibeto-Mongolian medicine combined popular remedies with scientific findings. Chinese influence in Tibetan medicine was evident in the use of acupuncture and in the inspection of the tongue for diagnosis. The doctrine of the pulse appeared as early as the eighth century in Tibeto-Mongolian medical texts.
Pierre Huard and Ming Wong, Chinese Medicine (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1968).
Manfred Porkert, The Theoretical Foundations of Chinese Medicine: Systems of Correspondence (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1974).
Robert Temple, The Genius of China: 3,000 Years of Science, Discovery, and Invention (New York: Simon 6c Schuster, 1986).