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张亓素 Zhang Yuansu's Origin Story

张亓素Zhang Yuansu was born in Yi Shui, Hebei Province in the 金朝 Jin Dynasty (1115–1234 A.D.). When he was just 8 years old, 张亓素Zhang Yuansu passed an imperial exam for children. However, Zhang failed to pass the imperial examination for scholars based on Confucian classics at the age of 27 and decided to give up on his intent to pursue the path of an official.

Instead he chose to explore the medical profession and without delay dove into studying medical classics. He started with the 黄帝内经 Huangdi Neijing, or Inner Canon of the Yellow Emperor, an ancient Chinese medical text that has been treated as the original source of Chinese medicine for more than two thousand years.

In time, 张亓素 Zhang Yuansu gained experience and developed skill. A well known story about Dr. Yuansu describes how he cured a fellow famed physician who failed to heal himself. Liu Wansu rejected 张亓素 Zhang Yuansu’s offers of help out of mistrust. Only after Dr. Yuansu convinced Dr. Wansu of his medical theory and a proposed treatment approach, was Dr. Yuansu able to heal Dr. Wansu. It only took one dose of medicinal herbs. This earned him respect and admiration from his colleagues and the community.

五行 Wuxing & the Effects of Herbal Medicine

张亓素 Zhang Yuansu is remembered for several great accomplishments. He integrated medicinal materials into the 五行 Wuxing, or the five element framework: 金 Jīn, or Metal, 火 Huǒ, or Fire, 土Tǔ, or Earth, 木 Mù, or Wood and 水 Shuǐ, or Water.

Traditional practices of acupuncture and herbal medicine, though already coexisted within the same medical framework at the time, were still often looked at as separate sciences. 张亓素 Zhang Yuansu found it of great importance to unify the two, adding simplicity and clarity to the medical culture.

张亓素 Dr. Yuansu devoted great attention to the effects of herbal medicine. He started by linking the effects of herbs and the physical reactions stimulated by acupuncture treatments. He then defined how flavors of medicinal herbs had effects on different internal organs. He insisted that upon entering a patient’s body, herbs had a way to enter and influence meridians or highways through which the life-energy known as Qi flows.

Dr. Yuansu’s goal was to link effects of medicinal herbs and influences that pathogens had on particular meridians.

“The method of appropriately using herbs in accordance with the symptoms and sign presentations of a patient entails determining substances with the correct Qi, taste, Yin and Yang, and thick and thin properties as well as the pathogenic factor involved and the meridian it has entered.”- 张亓素Zhang Yuansu

Dr. Yuansu insisted that if pathological conditions of the organs were clearly observed and identified, a proper diagnosis could be made and appropriate therapy chosen.


The Modernizer

张亓素 Zhang Yuansu was a modernizer. He argued that diseases of his time had to be approached in a unique way, characteristic of that specific era. He believed that social and geographical conditions had new trends and manifestations and therefore had to be factored in. He did not reject or oppose traditional herbal formulas or methods of formulation and treatment, but, he insisted on making reasonable adjustments in accordance with the current medical conditions. This somewhat revolutionary approach was birthed at the time when Chinese government heavily regulated collection, manufacturing and distribution of herbal medicine and also interpreted causation of disease and standard methods of treatment in a highly narrow and rigid manner.

“In view of different conditions between the ancient and modern times, it is impractical to treat new diseases with old methods. Therefore, the obsolete traditional formulas are to be replaced by modern prescriptions.”

张亓素Zhang Yuansu left several influential written medical works he authored. 醫學啟源Yixue Qiyuan Origins of Medicine was published in 1186 and influenced medical thought for centuries and still does today.

Dr. 张亓素 Zhang Yuansu's Legacy

张亓素 Zhang Yuansu left several influential written medical works he authored. 醫學啟源Yixue Qiyuan Origins of Medicine was published in 1186 and influenced medical thought for centuries and still does today.

“Prescriptions of the past are not appropriate for the illnesses of today.”

The zenith of Dr. Yuansu’s work is considered to be the text called 珍珠囊Zhenzhu Nang, or Bag of Pearls. His focus always remained on new and broader methods of understanding and using medicinal herbs in herbal formulations.

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