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<i>Huang Di Nei Jing Su Wen</i>

Nature, Knowledge, Imagery in an Ancient Chinese Medical Text: With an appendix: The Doctrine of the Five Periods and Six Qi in the Huang Di Nei Jing Su Wen

Paul U. Unschuld

Publication Year: 2003

The Huang Di nei jing su wen, known familiarly as the Su wen, is a seminal text of ancient Chinese medicine, yet until now there has been no comprehensive, detailed analysis of its development and contents. At last Paul U. Unschuld offers entry into this still-vital artifact of China’s cultural and intellectual past.

Unschuld traces the history of the Su wen to its origins in the final centuries B.C.E., when numerous authors wrote short medical essays to explain the foundations of human health and illness on the basis of the newly developed vessel theory. He examines the meaning of the title and the way the work has been received throughout Chinese medical history, both before and after the eleventh century when the text as it is known today emerged. Unschuld’s survey of the contents includes illuminating discussions of the yin-yang and five-agents doctrines, the perception of the human body and its organs, qi and blood, pathogenic agents, concepts of disease and diagnosis, and a variety of therapies, including the new technique of acupuncture. An extensive appendix, furthermore, offers a detailed introduction to the complicated climatological theories of Wu yun liu qi ("five periods and six qi"), which were added to the Su wen by Wang Bing in the Tang era.

In an epilogue, Unschuld writes about the break with tradition and innovative style of thought represented by the Su wen. For the first time, health care took the form of "medicine," in that it focused on environmental conditions, climatic agents, and behavior as causal in the emergence of disease and on the importance of natural laws in explaining illness. Unschuld points out that much of what we surmise about the human organism is simply a projection, reflecting dominant values and social goals, and he constructs a hypothesis to explain the formation and acceptance of basic notions of health and disease in a given society. Reading the Su wen, he says, not only offers a better understanding of the roots of Chinese medicine as an integrated aspect of Chinese civilization; it also provides a much needed starting point for discussions of the differences and parallels between European and Chinese ways of dealing with illness and the risk of early death.

Published by: University of California Press


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p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-5


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pp. v-viii

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Prefatory Remarks

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pp. ix-xii

This book is a study of the Huang Di nei jing su wen 黄帝内经素问 (Su wen), an ancient text that, together with its sister text, the Huang Di nei jing ling shu 黄帝内经灵枢 (Ling shu), plays a role in Chinese medical history comparable to that of the Hippocratic writings in ancient Europe. ...

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I. Bibliographic History of the Su Wen

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pp. 1-7

The Huang Di nei jing su wen 黄帝内经素问 and the Huang Di nei jing ling shu 黄帝内经灵枢 form a textual corpus generally known as the Huang Di nei jing.1 Popular accounts of the history of Chinese medicine tend to locate the origin of this text in a distant past, several millennia B.C. Voices refuting authorship by the legendary Huang Di in prehistoric times ...

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II. The Meaning of the Title Huang Di Nei Jing Su Wen

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pp. 8-21

Long Bojian explains the association of the Nei jing with Huang Di with two arguments. First, the Nei jing emphasizes the yin-yang and the five-agents doctrines, which, according to the Shi ji, had been introduced by Zou Yan Ql. Because Zou Yan, in turn, venerated Huang Di, the Nei jing was given his name. ...

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III. Early Su Wen Texts and Commentaries Before the Eleventh Century

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pp. 22-58

In about A.D. 260 a man named Huangfu Mi (215–282) wrote the first medical text transmitted to the present containing historically datable contents that can be traced to the textus receptus of the Su wen. Huangfu Mi, whose childhood name was Jing and whose style name was Shian, was renowned enough to be remembered with a biography ...

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IV. Origin and Tradition of the Textus Receptus of the Su Wen

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pp. 59-75

For more than two hundred fifty years, Wang Bing’s version of the Su wen was transmitted side by side with Quan Yuanqi’s Su wen xun jie of the early sixth century. In addition, the combined edition of the Su wen and the Zhen jing /Jiu juan/Ling shu in Yang Shangshan’s Huang Di nei jing tai su of the second half of the seventh century competed for the attention of scholars ...

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V. A Survey of the Contents of the Su Wen

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pp. 76-318

The Huang Di nei jing su wen is a compilation of fragmentary texts written by an unknown number of authors in a period lasting from about the second or first century B.C. to the second century A.D. Some passages may have been written even later. It may well be that several of the headings of the seventynine discourses of the textus receptus denoted a treatise ...

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VI. Epilogue: Toward a Comparative Historical Anthropology of Medical Thought

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pp. 319-350

The texts collected in the Su wen, as heterogeneous and at times contradictory as they may be, share at least one central feature. They reflect a deliberate break with an older tradition and the genesis of an innovative style of thought that proved to be the seed of a long-lasting new tradition. ...


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pp. 351-384

Appendix: The Doctrine of the Five Periods and Six Qi in the Huang Di Nei Jing Su Wen

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pp. 385-494


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pp. 495-502


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pp. 503-520

E-ISBN-13: 9780520928497
Print-ISBN-13: 9780520233225

Page Count: 536
Publication Year: 2003