China’s King of Medicine

孫思邈 Sun Simiao, China's King of Medicine

孫思邈 Sun Simiao was a famous Doctor and author who lived during the Sui and Tang dynasties.  He wrote two major works on medical practice and one on Daoist longevity prescriptions.  Born in 581 A.D., his contribution to Chinese Medicine was so significant that he was honored with the title “China’s King of Medicine.”

孫思邈 Sun Simiao grew up in the countryside of Jingzhao Huayuan, now Sunjiayuan in Shaanxi Province.  At the age of seven years old he began consuming as much information on the Chinese Classics as he could get his hands on.  By twenty years old he had mastered them. 

Growing up, 孫思邈 Sun Simiao was interested in the practice of medicine, and as a young adult he began with healing himself while also treating relatives and neighbors.  Word of his healing abilities and ethics spread throughout the land.  孫思邈 Sun Simiao considered himself a man of the people, and would treat anyone.  It is said that his father commanded that he treat patients as they were his own family, no matter social class or age.

“Whenever eminent physicians treat an illness, they must quiet the spirit and settle the will, they must be free of wants and desires, and they must first develop a heart full of great compassion and empathy. They must pledge to devote themselves completely to relieving the suffering of all sentient beings.”

— Sun Simiao, Bei Ji Qian Jin Yao Fang I.2

Emperor Taizong of Tang & Empress Zhangsun

Emperor Taizong of Tang called upon one of his ministers to help with a serious issue.  His wife, the Empress Zhangsun, had been pregnant for over ten months, and still had not given birth to their baby.  The Imperial Physicians had no solution.  He asked for guidance from his trusted minister. 

Minister Xu Maogong looked at the melancholy Emperor and said, “I heard that there is a famous doctor named Sun Simiao among the people. He can cure intractable diseases. In my opinion, you should summon him to the palace to treat Her Majesty.”

孫思邈 Sun Simiao was immediately ordered to the Imperial Palace.  The Imperial Physicians were worried that if Sun Simiao cured the Empress, the Emperor would put him in a position of power which would threaten their status.

To prevent Sun Simiao from treating the Empress, they told the Emperor that he was of an inferior class, and as such could not get close to the Empress.  Sun Simiao quickly spoke up and said “I can Pulse Diagnosis with a String.悬丝诊脉.”

The Emperor agreed and a court maid gave Sun Simiao a long red string.  He held one end of the line, and had the court maid tie the other end to the Empress’ wrist.  Sitting outside of the window with only a string in his hand, Sun Simiao diagnosed the Empress’ condition. 

Sun Simiao reported back to the Emperor, “I only need to stick a needle on Her Majesty’s left hand, and she can give birth to the baby. After taking several decoctions, she will recover gradually.”

The Empress quickly gave birth to a healthy baby.  Emperor Taizong of Tang was so happy that he asked Sun Simiao to stay on and run the Palace Hospital.  Sun Simiao refused.  He did not serve the ruling class, nor did he pursue wealth or fame.

Emperor Taizong respected Sun Simiao, and allowed him to decline the post.

Sun Simiao went on to collect many methods used for processing, classifying, and storing herbs.  He advocated for prevention and stressed cultivating mental poise and balance.

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