- Paul Unschuld, 2000
Medicine in China: Historical Artifacts and Images
Sun Simiao was born in the 6th Century, around 581 A.D., at the beginning of the short-lived Sui Dynasty (581-618 A.D.) and just prior to the unification of north and south China (589 A.D.).
He carried out his medical work and writing during the Tang Dynasty (618-907 A.D.) and died in 682 A.D., having completed two 30-volume works on medical practice that would establish his place as a central figure in the field of herbal medicine.
Paul Unschuld, head of the Institute for the History of Medicine at Munich University, devoted considerable attention to Sun's position on medical ethics (3) and the iconography of Sun's legend (16; see Figures 1-4).
It is said that Sun studied very hard and mastered various Chinese classics by the age of 20.
had been sickly as a child and took up medicine as an adult, strengthening his
own health (though still suffering various ailments), treating relatives and neighbors, and then practicing in the countryside of Huguan, not far from the capital city of Chang'an.
traveled great distances, perhaps as far as Sichuan province, to learn about useful prescriptions.
After gaining a great reputation and completing his
first book, he
lived mostly in seclusion on Wubai Mountain (later to be known as Medicine King Mountain, Yaowang Shan), where he
followed Taoist principles (Taoism was strongly supported during the Tang Dynasty) and integrated them with Buddhism and Confucianism.
Noblemen would come to him to learn from his
vast knowledge and experience.
A cave where Sun lived in Taoist retreat and received such visitors has long been the destination of pilgrims; a pool where he
is said to have washed herbs is located nearby.
Sun refused at least three official court positions offered to him: by the Emperor Wendi of the Sui Dynasty and by the Emperors Taizong and Gaozong of the Tang Dynasty.
preferred to provide treatment for ordinary people in the rural setting, though he
accompanied Emperor Gaozong for a time.
medical orientation was described in an official history of the Tang Dynasty, as relayed by Paul Unschuld
biography describes him as an extraordinarily talented man, who devoted himself to the teachings of the Yi Jing [I-Ching], of Lao Zi [Lao-tzu; author of the Dao De Jing], and of the yin-yang philosophers, and he
also took an interest in the magical calculation of numbers.
The following is from a translation provided by Paul Unschuld
The next quotes come from the section of Sun's book on eye disorders, presented by Kovacs and Unschuld
The next section comes from Sun's volume on dietary therapy, translated by Paul Unschuld
The following figures are from books by Paul Unschuld
Most often, Sun Simiao is depicted with a tiger below, representing yin, and a dragon above, representing yang.
Taoist skills are illustrated by this command of the yin and yang forces.