Hua Tuo: The Father of Surgery and Anesthesia

華佗 Hua Tuo: The Father of Surgery and Anesthesia

Ancient China has had many highly skilled and humble physicians as well as herbalists born onto its land. We honor those who have preceded us in this lineage by highlighting them in our Famous Ancient Physicians Series.

Today we will be talking about 華佗Hua Tuo’s profound story and invaluable contribution not just to the society of his day, but to the entire global posterity.

華佗 Hua Tuo is commonly referred to as ‘The Father of Surgery and Anesthesia.’ He successfully introduced and practiced surgery on his patients during the late Eastern Han Dynasty, more than 1,500 years before Western Civilization even began to experiment with surgery!  He also is credited with being the first person to perform surgery on an anesthetized patient.

華佗 Hua Tuo's Origin Story

Born into a poor family in Qiao County in the State of Pei, records vary and estimate that his birth year was sometime between 108 and 140 A.D. Having lost his father at the age of 7, the young boy was forced to find work and did so at a local herbal pharmacy. Two of the earliest writings of Hua Tuo’s life state that he felt “called to study medicine after witnessing the bloodshed that came with the shattering of the Han dynasty (206 B.C.–A.D. 220) into the legendary Three Kingdoms (A.D. 220–280).”  During this time period there was continuous political unrest with constant battles and violence.

華佗 Hua Tuo only wanted to help humanity.  He continuously turned down offers to work in the Imperial court and insisted on being a “physician of the people”.

Treat people equally irrespective of their high or low status, of their poverty or wealth, of their distinction or obscurity. Do not run after riches, fear no hardships and toils, and take it as your first duty to take pity on the old and help the young.

華佗Hua Tuo was often called the “miracle working doctor” as he would use a small number of acupuncture points in his treatments as well as only several herbs in his herbal prescriptions for quick and effective relief and healing for his patients.  He could mix herbal ingredients so well that he never needed to measure them.  He was also a master at diagnosis, and incredibly accurate. People said that he bordered on fortune-telling. 華佗Hua Tuo believed that illness was caused in part by a lack of physical activity, and developed the Five Animals Play 氣功 Qigong exercise sequence for clearing the mind and eyes, boosting the cardio-pulmonary functions, strengthening the waist and kidneys and smoothing the joints.  You can read more about that here.

華佗 Hua Tuo and Chen Deng

One day Chen Deng, a Chinese military general and high level official over Dongcheng Commandery, fell ill and could not eat. He summoned 華佗 Hua Tuo to treat him. After checking the official’s pulse, 華佗 Hua Tuo told Cheng Deng:

“You have several sheng (1 sheng is equal to approximately 34-oz) of parasites in your stomach. I assume it happened because you like eating raw fish and meat.”

華佗 Hua Tuo gave the official 2 sheng of an herbal prescription, which caused him to vomit about 3 sheng of small parasites and led to his quick recovery. Before he left, 華佗Hua Tuo warned the official:

The kind of ailment you had will recur three years from now. Make sure you find a skillful physician by then.”

Just as predicted, Chen Deng experienced the same condition exactly 3 years later. He sent for華佗Hua Tuo who was away harvesting herbal medicine in the mountains at the time. Unable to quickly find another skilled doctor, Chen Deng died of his illness at the age of 39.

Prevention, Prevention, PREVENTION!

Although Hua Tuo was considered an exceptional miracle working physician, he always made his patients aware that PREVENTION is the best method to living a balanced life.  Physical activity is key to keeping dis-ease out of the home.

How do you keep you and your family well?  Tell us in the comments below!

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