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A list of some informative books on Chinese medicine. — September 9, 2013

A list of some informative books on Chinese medicine.

Here are *just a few* interesting and useful books for those of you out there who want to get all technical on TCM.  There is an enormous range of books on Chinese Medicine available and these ones are some of the fairly standard and typical text-books for practitioners. Although they are pretty thick and heavy going they are repositories of precious pearls as the ancients might say.  Enjoy!

Chinese Herbal Medicine: Materia Medica by Bensky

Materia Medica

Chinese Herbal Medicine: Formulas and Strategies by Scheid et. al.Formulas & Strategies

A Manual of Acupuncture by Deadman et. al.


The Foundations of Chinese Medicine by Maciocia.


The Channels of Acupuncture by Maciocia

The Channels of Acupuncture

Li Shi-Zhen’s Puls Studies by Li and Morris

Li Shi Zhen

Patterns and Practice in Chinese Medicine by Zhao and Li

Patterns and Practice

The Practice of Chinese Medicine by Maciocia

The Practice of Chinese Medicine

Diagnosis in Chinese Medicine by Maciocia

Diagnosis in TCM

Chinese Herbal Formulas: Treatment Principles and Composition Strategies by Yang

Treatment Principles and Composition Strategies

Ten Key Formula Families in Chinese Medicine by Huang

Formula Families

Warm Pathogen Diseases: A Clinical Guide by Liu

Wen Bing

Pi Wei Lun: A Tratise on the Spleen and Stomach by Li Dong-yuan.

Pi Wei Lun

Chinese Herbal Formulas and Applications by Chen and Nguyen et. al.

Formulas and Applications

Advanced Acupuncture: A Clinical Manual by Cecil-Stermann.

Advanced Acupuncture

Nine Needles and Twelve Yuan-Points by Jiao

Nine Needles and Twelve Yuan

One of my most favourite photos ever! — September 8, 2013
Medical Examination Under the Song Dynasty — September 7, 2013

Medical Examination Under the Song Dynasty

Doing some quiet reading on the history of Chinese Medicine, I came upon the following areas that medical students were tested on during the Song dynasty in China 800+ years ago.

What fun the practitioners back then would have had learning what we know now about pathophysiology and the human body!


Although the official history of the Sung gives prominence to three main divisions in medical education, sources closer to the changing curricula reflect 6, 8, 9, 13 and 14. The 13 areas examined in AD1212 became the usual number in later eras:

(1)Internal and general medicine(ta fang mo)

(2)Miscellaneous medicine (tsa i )

(3)Paediatrics (hsiao fang mo )

(4)Convulsive and paralytic diseases (fêng)

(5)Gynaecology and obstetrics (chhan)

(6)Ophthalmology (yen)

(7)Stomatology and dentistry (khou chhih)

(8)Laryngology (yen hou)

(9)Orthopaedics (chêng ku)

(10)Apotropaics (chu yu )

(11)External medicine (chin chhuang chung)

(12)Acupuncture and moxibustion (chen chiu )

(23)Interdiction (chin)

As late as the 20th century, examinations in traditional medicine followed a somewhat similar division into categories, with the addition of physiotherapy and history of medicine, and of course minus the last two categories.

(1)The so-called ‘black-ink purport’(mo i ), in which the examinee was given a sentence such as ‘those who treat illness must have a clear understanding of the way of Heaven and the patterns of the Earth’. The object was not to explain or interpret it, but to quote exactly from memory the long passage from the Nei chingin which it occurs.

(2)The ‘large purport’, also called ‘purport of the classic’ (ta i , ching i ). The examinee was expected to explain a canonical passage chosen to test mastery of the foundations of medicine, such as ‘the chhiof the liver flows to the eyes; when there is concord in the eye [functions], one can distinguish black and white’. To answer this question satisfactorily required ability to apply yin–yang and Five Elements reasoning.

(3)The ‘pulse purport’ (mo i ), which called for comment on a passage about pulse diagnosis from the Nei ching.

(4)The ‘discussion of a medicinal formula’ (fang lun ), taken from acanonical source such as the Shang han tsa ping lunor the Thai-phing shêng hui fang (Imperial grace formulary of the Thai-phing-hsing-kuo era, +). The object was to explain the physiological activity of each ingredient, as well as the results of their synergy.

(5)The ‘hypothetical instance’ (chia ling ) of diagnosis or therapy, meant to test the ability to apply learning to patients. One instance asked the student to explain a formula recommended for given symptoms by a standard source, containing ingredients that according to standard principles ought not to be combined.

(6)The question on ‘phase energetics’ (yün chhi ), which required the student to determine what effect the cosmic dispensation of a given year would have on therapy. This practice was not altogether unlike the astrology that was a routine part of medical practice in early modern Europe. In China no astronomical computation was involved, merely simple arithmetic.

Although it was essential to memorise many volumes of medical classics before one could cope with an examination of this sort, it also evaluated a command of abstract concepts and the ability to apply this learning to diagnosis and therapy. On the other hand, it did not presuppose clinical experience. One may not conclude that practical knowledge was never relevant to the evaluation of medical students.

When pupils in the National University, the Law School, and the Military School, as well as officers in the military garrison, fall ill, the students are to be sent in rotation to treat them. A printed form(yin chih) is to be issued to the student for each instance. The officials of the school or garrison are to write down the diagnosis and manifestations, and whether the illness ended or [the patient] died. The report is to be certified by officials of the Service. If after examining the patient [the student declares that the illness] is incurable, someone else is to be dispatched to treat it, and determine whether [the patient] dies or recovers. The details are to be written down as a basis for adding points to, or deducting them from, the student’s score. At the end of the year [the scores] are compared, and the [100 most successful] students divided amongst three levels.  The ranking determined not only the student’s standing but his salary for the next year. The document adds that those who rank below the top 100 might be punished or expelled. After the Sung period, there were many minor modifications but little in the way of significant innovation. The Yüan and its successors tended to recruit students from medical families, although the Chhing relaxed this policy. Local practitioners could apply to fill teaching vacancies in the Yüan provincial system. The Imperial Directorate of Medicine(Shang i chien ) demanded that applications contain the details of the doctor’s social standing as well as of the medical cases he had treated. From AD1285 on the State periodically tested provincial medical teachers. The Directorate graded their examination papers as well as those of their students.

The Ming–Chhing system relied upon quarterly local examinations and a triennial central examination. Both were oral as well as written. The government used grade rankings to promote and demote incumbents, and to appoint neophytes Physician or, if the grade were lower, Student of General Medicine.

Hmm, so there we have it.  The different purports taken together equal a fairly badass examination system and I guess that medical students then were just as typically stressed and under-pressure as they are these days too.  Thats good to know!  heheh… studying medicine has never been  particularly easy thing to do.  For me I appreciate seeing what the standards were back then as it gives me something to reach for and the impetus to keep on at it.   There is always more to know huh?

Sports Day– From Science and Civilization in China Volume 6

Phang Hsüan sai… — August 28, 2013

Phang Hsüan sai…

Phang Hsüan said to the king of Cho-hsiang, ‘Have you not heard that Duke Wên asked the great physician, Pien Chhüeh of Wei , “of your three brothers, which is the best physician?” Pien Chhüeh answered “The eldest is the best, then the second, and I am the least worthy of the three.” Duke Wên said, “Might I hear about this?” Pien Chhüeh replied, “My eldest brother, in dealing with diseases, is attentive to the spirit (shên ). Before [any symptoms] have formed, he has already got rid of it. Thus his fame has never reached beyond our own clan. My next brother treats disease when its signs are most subtle, so his name is unknown beyond our own village. As for myself, I use stone needles on the blood vessels, prescribe strong drugs, and fortify the skin and the flesh. Thus my name has become known among all the feudal lords.”’
– Ch. 16, pp. 10bff.; cf. Defoort (1997), p. 215

Chinese Herbal Medicine Materia Medica 3rd ed. extracts. — August 2, 2013
Books… — August 1, 2013
Music to listen to… — May 2, 2013