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Ancient Chinese bamboo texts tell medical history

Chillies for a headache and a bull's urine for jaundice: These are the latest deciphered messages of how Chinese people two millennia ago cured themselves, and their horses.

Chinese bamboo texts tell medical history
Ancient texts written on bamboo slips [Credit: Kenyon College]
The 920 medical bamboo slips, together with other historical relics of the Western Han Dynasty (202 BC- 9 AD), were found in a subway construction site in Chengdu, capital city of southwest China's Sichuan Province.

A total of 184 bamboo slips are said to be the "guidebook" for horse vets. The remaining 736 can be categorized into nine separate medical texts covering various domains.

According to Xie Tao, a research fellow with Chengdu's archaeology institute, the books could be lost medical classics written by the successors of Bian Que, a medical pioneer from the 5th century B.C.

Two characters in one of the books have the same pronunciation as Bian Que, though in different written forms, said Wu Jiabi, of a bamboo script research institute in neighboring Hubei Province.

Bian Que was said to have invented the technique of taking the pulse and narcosis. He perhaps performed the world's earliest organ transplant, as recorded in Lie Zi, an important classic of Taoism.

The bamboo slips did not contain any sorcery, believed to indicate the separation of medicine and witchcraft and the budding of medical science.

Source: Xinhuanet [December 18, 2013]

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1 comment :

  1. Chilies are a New World fruit, it seems like a mis-translation that they're mentioned in Han Dynasty documents. They are sometimes called "hot peppers", in spite of not being Piperaceae.

    Perhaps the bamboo slips refer to another "pepper"? China's native Sichuan pepper, black pepper or long pepper might be candidates..


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