The Medical Works of Li Shizen

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The Chinese Empire was a dominant world force during the ruling of the Ming Dynasty. Advances were being made in many different areas which helped the Chinese Empire become a superior nation. One important area of advancement was medicine. The Chinese had used herbal medicine throughout their history as a primary method of curing illnesses (Liao, Jianwei “Famous People of China: China’s Greatest Pharmacologist”). Li Shizhen was a medical practitioner who spent a great deal of his life practicing medicine produced from natural resources to help treat people (Hammond, Stapleton 2).

His work had helped the Chinese Empire rise above the other empires because of advancements made in medicine and pharmacy, and providing an important medical reference for future generations. Li Shizhen was a significant factor in the history of China for his incredible work, which is remembered even presently. Li Shizhen was grew up in a family who had been practicing medicine for generations; his grandfather, and his father Li Yanwen were both doctors. He would travel with his father to different locations where he collected herbs for medicine and observe his father practice.

He abandoned his scholarly studies to pursue his passion in medicine. Li Shizhen’s father accepted the decision and passed onto him all that he knew of his profession (Liao, Jianwei “Famous People of China: China’s Greatest Pharmacologist”). Li Shizhen began to study and practice medicine with his father. He studied many books on medicine and began to conduct his own experiments about the text he read. Li criticised many numerous book he read because they did not seem practical or contained errors.

(Hammond, Stapleton 6). Becoming discouraged by the available information on the pharmacology of medicine, he began to travel all around China, collecting, examining and experimenting with different herbal medicines (Liao, Jianwei “Famous People of China: China’s Greatest Pharmacologist”). Li Shizhen made remarkable discoveries, he came up with new treatments and fixed old ones he studied in books. His work lasted about 27 years, and noted it all down in a book called the Bencao Gangmu (Compendium of Materia Medica).

It contained all of his work, and was considered to be one of the most thorough and accurate medical book on traditional Chinese medicine (Lin, “Top 10 Classics on Traditional Chinese Medicine”). Li Shizhen’s book was a “monumental work in Chinese pharmacology” (Liao, Jianwei “Famous People of China: China’s Greatest Pharmacologist”). It contained all of his work and discoveries along with revised material from over 800 other books he used as reference (Lin, “Top 10 Classics on Traditional Chinese Medicine”).

The book was “composed of 52 volumes with over 1.9 million characters, the book includes 1,892 kinds of medicaments, 11,096 pieces of prescriptions and 1,160 illustrations. It lists all the plants, animals, minerals, and other items that were believed to have medicinal properties” (Lin, “Top 10 Classics on Traditional Chinese Medicine”). The book was not just a database of medical information, it contained detailed descriptions and drawings of plants which were intended to help future doctors treat patients using the methods, treatments and resources which he listed.

Bencao Gangmu was an important advance in medicine and pharmacology as it gave information of the herbs, but also how to use them together effectively to aid people (Hammond, Stapleton 10). The Bencao Gangmu, after being published, was translated and circulated in Europe. It helped in future scientific theories, such as evolution, because of the detailed information and its efficient manner of classification. Even though it was written in the late 1500s, its organization of the book was similar to the work of Carl Linnaeus’ binomial system of classification in the 18th century.

Scientists like Charles Darwin had used the book as a source to help him come up with his theory of evolution (Liao, Jianwei “Famous People of China: China’s Greatest Pharmacologist”). Li Shizhen’s work was an incredible contribution to the medical field in the Ming Dynasty, and also for future generations as his work was referred to throughout history in China, and Europe. Li Shizhen practiced medicine his whole life. As a kid, he was always influenced by the field because of father, and learned a great deal from him.

He made great contributions in medicine and pharmacy because of the experience he gained through treating patients, journey around China and his final product the Bencao Gangmu. It was a presentation of the superiority of the Chinese Empire in the medical field by explaining thousands of prescriptions and treatments to cure illnesses and diseases. Li Shizhen played a key role in helping China become the dominant nation in the world. Works Cited Hammond, Kenneth James. , and Kristin Eileen. Stapleton.

The Human Tradition in Modern China. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, 2008. Books. google. ca. Google. ca. Web. 7 Oct. 2012. Liao, Yan, and Jianwei Wang. “China’s Greatest Pharmacologist. ” Famous People of China. Broomall: Mason Crest, 2006. N. pag. Http://www. ebscohost. com/. EBSCO Publishing. Web. 7 Oct. 2012. Lin, Xu. “Top 10 Classics on Traditional Chinese Medicine. ” China. org. cn. China. org, 15 Sept. 2011. Web. 07 Oct. 2012. <http://www. china. org. cn/wap/2011-09/15/content_23445513_6. htm>.

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