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Famous Chinese - Li Shizhen
    2007-01-24 20:04:50     CRIENGLISH.com

The traditional Chinese medicine is a great treasure house, in which The Compendium of Materia Medica is an epoch£­making, encyclopedic work. Its author, Li Shizhen is now reverenced as the great medicine scientist in China.

In 1518 Li Shizhen was born in Qizhou of Hubei Province. Qizhou was a distributing centre of medicinal herbs. Li Shizhen began to study medicine at the age of 23 from his father, who was also a good doctor. He often visited hunters, fishermen and medicine farmers to learn from them special recipes and new herbs. He did his own experiments on the nature of herbs while he studying ancient medical books. After ten years, he had become a well£­learned and famous doctor. He was called into the capital city and employed as a palace physician. But Li Shizhen was not interested in finding elixir for the emperor. Therefore he resigned from all his posts in the court and returned home.

While collecting medicinal materials and practicing medicine, he found that many ancient medical books were not altogether correct. Some medicinal herbs were not correctly categorized, some books had got the effect of certain herbs entirely wrong, and some prescriptions in those books were even purely based on superstition. At the age of 35, Li Shizhen set to write his own medical books.

The Compendium of Materia Medica, which was completed by Li Shizhen through nearly 30 years of painstaking efforts, encapsulated the highest achievement of ancient Chinese medicine. It surpassed medical works of previous times and brought the theory and practice of Chinese pharmacology to a new height.

The outstanding achievements of The Compendium of Materia Medica are shown in several ways. First, it has abandoned the old classification of the medicinal materials but has instead put forward a new classification based on 60 types under 16 classes. European scientist put forward a similar way of classification on plants until 200 years later£» second, it corrects the mistakes of past medical books, and gives precise names, places of origin, curing properties and process methods of the 1892 medicinal materials and adds 374 new medicinal materials to the book. It has recorded more than ten thousand recipes, three quarters of which are newly recorded. He also criticized superstition used in some medical practice.

After the publication of Compendium, its value has been increasingly recognized. Through the last four centuries it was repeatedly reprinted and translated to other languages. Its influence has reached Asia, Europe and Americas. It has become a treasure house for specialists and researchers in many countries.

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