巢元方 Chao Yuanfang
巢元方 Chao Yuanfang was a highly influential physician and author in China whose impact in his own community as well as neighboring Japan influenced medical sciences that are still referenced today.
There are not many records about Dr. Yuanfang’s birth and life. He lived during two great Chinese dynasties: the Sui Dynasty (581-618 A.D.) through the Tang Dynasty (618 – 907).
The Sui Dynasty is known for great advancements in medical studies and research. During this time the first Ministry of Imperial Physicians was established. One of the roles of this institution was medical education. The size of the organization surpassed all others in the world at the time.
Some of the tasks that the scholars had to focus on were collecting, organizing and cataloging data on Chinese Medicine from antiquity, such as herbal prescriptions and other modalities.
巢元方 Chao Yuanfang’s skill and experience promoted him to Court Physician and later Minister of Imperial Medical Affairs as well as Academician of the Imperial Medical Academy. He was considered a medical scholar and erudite.
諸病源候論 Zhubing Yuanhou Lun: General Treatise on Causes and Manifestations of All Diseases
Dr. Yuanfang is best known for a medical text entitled 諸病源候論 Zhubing Yuanhou Lun, translated as General Treatise on Causes and Manifestations of All Diseases. It is often considered to be a medical encyclopedia and is used as a theoretical basis in medical research and discussion.
After it was published in the early 600’s, it strongly influenced further development of medical sciences. The book reviews pathology, surgery, obstetrics, gynecology, and pediatrics. The Treatise consists of fifty scrolls and covers more than one thousand seven hundred medical conditions, both internal and external.
One of the exclusive features that this medical compendium offers is more than one hundred sets of therapeutic Dao Yin breathing and stretching exercises, each one prescribed for specific medical conditions. As a matter of fact, the 諸病源候論 Zhubing Yuanhou Lun is one of the earliest Chinese medical texts that includes therapeutic Dao Yin exercises and food therapy as a way of treatment.
A Japanese physician named 丹波康赖 Tamba Yasuyori was so inspired by Dr Yuanfang’s General Treatise on Causes and Manifestations of All Diseases that he wrote 醫心方 Ishinpo. Now considered a national treasure in Japan, this work is the oldest surviving Japanese medical text and was completed in 984.
Ancient Science & Modern Applications
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) reported that what certain medical communities today call autism was recorded in China as early as in the seventh century by 巢元方Chao Yuanfang. They further clarified that Dr. Yuanfang wrote about hun se (muddle-headed) and yu chi (language delay) manifestations, expressed in a child’s lack of speech and neurodevelopmental delays in his monumental work 諸病源候論 Zhubing Yuanhou Lun, translated as General Treatise on Causes and Manifestations of All Diseases.
The ancient wisdom and legacy of 巢元方 Chao Yuanfang echoes through practitioners of Asian Medicine and the medical community to this very day.
Here at Si Jin Bao we honor Dr. 巢元方Chao Yuanfang by continuing his devotion to the study and practice of Chinese Medicine.