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Chapter 3 A Silk Road of Pharmaceuticals and Formulas This chapter highlights the pharmaceutical aspects of the new knowledge available in the East Asian macroculture and shows how Shōzen was a beneficiary of access to and information about materia medica transported along what I call the Pharmaceutical Silk Road. Five topics are discussed: first, the increasing availability of overseas materia medica; second, the technical challenges faced by Shōzen in trying to understand formulas and materia medica; third, some of the changes in Chinese medicine between the Tang and Song eras and the influence of Islamic medicine on Song medicine; and fourth, the new illness category of disorders of qi and Shōzen’s understanding of it. Then, I will provide some examples of Shōzen’s use of formulas to illustrate how the preceding elements converged to influence Japanese medicine. Increased Availability of Overseas Materia Medica Overseas materia medica reached Japan primarily via a multistage maritime trade network that ultimately linked the east coast of Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, the Persian Gulf, coastal ports of India, ports in Southeast Asia (the region as a whole was referred to as the Nanban or Southern Barbarian region), the trading cities of south China such as Ningbo (Hangzhou) and Mingzhou, and the Ryukyu Islands. Through the early fifteenth century, products arrived primarily in ships operated by Chinese merchants and dispatched from southern Chinese ports. We have occasional references to A Silk Road of Pharmaceuticals and Formulas 47 Japanese pharmacists making purchasing trips to China, but it seems that Chinese merchants also handled the acquisition overseas of the materia medica.1 From the early fifteenth century, as a result of trade restrictions imposed by the Ming government, Naha in the Ryukyu kingdom became a major transshipment center. One by-product of these shipping arrangements was that sometimes the end users did not know the actual origins of the trade goods: Both Korean and Chinese officials thought that some items of Southeast Asian origin were products of Japan.2 Materia medica is known to have been imported into Japan from at least the mid-eighth century.3 Most items seem to have come from China and were presumably brought by Chinese, but they also came from elsewhere . Merchants involved in the trade came from as far away as Persia.4 Imported items appear to have been rare and difficult to replace, and agencies of the imperial government kept very detailed records of their use.5 It is quite likely that leading Buddhist temples maintained their own supplies, employing them primarily as aromatics for ritual activity rather than as medicinal ingredients (although we might be cautious about drawing too sharp a distinction between these uses in this era).6 Thus they are mentioned in works produced by Buddhist priests, such as Kōjishō 香字 抄 (Dictionary of Fragrances), Kōyōshō 香要抄 (Essentials of Fragrances), Kōyakushō 香薬抄 (Book of Fragrances and Medicines), and Yakushushō 薬種抄 (Treatise on Materia Medica)7—compiled by the priest Ken’i 兼 意 in the mid-twelfth century. But they are also noted in the tenth-century (?) Honzō wamyō (Japanese Nomenclature for Materia Medica). We lack useful statistics on the amount and frequency with which these items were imported, but we do gain some sense of what items may have been in demand from the 1052 Shinsarugaku ki 新猿楽記 (An Account of New Monkey Music). Among goods traded by a fictional merchant, twentythree aromatic and medicinal items are listed: aloes, musk, cloves, Chinese spikenard, frankincense, birthwort root, Borneo camphor, white sandalwood , the prepared compound “violet snow,” croton, realgar, chebulic myrobalan, betel nut, copper rust, cinnabar, pepper powder, rhinoceros horn, ox bezoar, “chicken-tongue” cloves, cnidium, Burmese rosewood, sappan wood, and safflower rouge.8 From the mid-thirteenth century, coincident with the growth of cultural and commercial ties across the East China Sea, we have much more useful information about materia medica. That information suggests that items were now available in much larger amounts and on a regular basis, though 48 A Silk Road of Pharmaceuticals and Formulas supply was sometimes interrupted. For example, in the 1270s and 1280s the Mongol Yuan placed an interdiction on trade with Japan in conjunction with preparations for their invasions of the islands. Ironically, or amusingly, Buddhist monks, who at the request of the Kamakura bakufu were preparing ceremonies to ward off and subdue the Mongols, complained that “since in recent years the China Ships have not been coming through, materia medica have been difficult to obtain.”9 But by the...


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