The Ben Cao Gang Mu by Li Shizhen

A Webinar By Prof. Paul Unschuld

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The Ben Cao gang mu by Li Shizhen (1518-1593), 16th-century Chinese Encyclopedia of Materia Medica and Natural History, The Apex of historical Chinese Literature on Pharmaceutical Therapy; Physiological and Pathological Theory and Clinical Application

The Ben Cao gang mu is the most important book in the history of Chinese clinical therapy based on the application of natural substances (herbal, mineral, animal) and man-made items.

No other work from pre-20th century China offers as many and as detailed facets of the reality of pre-modern medical therapy in China. The Ben Cao gang mu had no equal in pre-modern Europe.

This webinar briefly informs of the historical background of Chinese medical and pharmaceutical literature prior to the compilation of the Ben Cao gang mu. It elucidates the few known facts of Li Shizhen’s life and focuses on the gigantic literary achievement of this erudite physician and material medical expert.

No work in modern English or other European language offers a similarly informative explication of the nature and application of natural and man-made substances in traditional Chinese medicine. Li Shizhen creatively introduced facets to traditional Chinese materia medica literature that to this day seem both innovative and scientific. He presented the experience of healers of 1600 years prior to his life and added his own wise conclusions where contradictory or unclear arguments had evolved over time.

The Ben Cao gang mu is an indispensable foundation and companion for anyone who has a real interest in the traditional Chinese approach to curing disease. There is hardly a health problem that is not addressed by the thousands of recipes added to almost all individual substance entries.

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