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Age of Barbarism and Pre-Qin Period

The ancient Chinese character “yi” is an associative compound character that is composed of four independent but interrelated parts, i.e. “xì”, “shǐ”, “shū” and “yǒu”, each containing different meanings. 

“xì” means massage, which is a physical therapy for curing disease in ancient China. It is called massage therapy now. 

“shǐ” means stone needle. It is explained in Paraphrasing Texts and Words (Shuo Wen Jie Zi) that “stone needle is used in acupuncture”. It is mainly used to break the swollen part, expel pus, or stimulate some parts of the body to cure the disease. Stone needle is the earliest medical instrument in China.

“shū” means acupuncture, which is a major innovation in ancient Chinese therapeutics. Based on the meridian and collateral theory, it is composed of acupuncture therapy and moxibustion therapy. 

“yǒu” means wine, which is the earliest stimulant and anesthetic. It can promote blood circulation and perform the drug’s efficacy. It also can be used as a solvent, so it is called the “head of medicine” by the Han Book

Both the Chinese nation and traditional Chinese medicine have a long history. Traditional Chinese medicine has a written history of up to 5000 years. The history of traditional Chinese medicine dates back to 2200 BC when Shennong tasted hundreds of herbs. 

After long-term experience and practice, China’s first medical masterpiece, Yellow Emperor Internal Classic, was created in the Zhou Dynasty and the Spring and Autumn Period. During this period, a great medical doctor was born, who is the ancestor of medical science, Bian Que. At that time, Bian Que had started to diagnose and treat patients by looking, listening, asking and feeling the pulse. 

It is worth mentioning that the formula of Yupingfeng Granules, a product of China TCM, was originated from Danxi’s Experiential Therapy, written by Zhu Danxi, the founder of the School of Yin Nourishing in the Warring States Period.

Qin and Han Dynasties, Wei and Jin Dynasties, Southern and Northern Dynasties

During the Han Dynasty, the philosophical thoughts were injected into medicine, such as Taoist health-keeping thoughts and Confucian medical ethics. Later, the earliest pharmacological literature, Shen Nongs Herbal Classic, was created. In the Eastern Han Dynasty, Zhang Zhongjing wrote the Treatise on Febrile and Miscellaneous Diseases, from which the prescription of minor bupleurum tablets produced by China TCM was extracted and derived. This period had also seen many great physicians, including Hua Tuo, a master of surgery and Tao Hongjing, a prime minister hidden in mountains in the Southern and Northern Dynasties. 

Sui and Tang Dynasties, Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms, Song, Jin and Yuan Dynasties

In the Song Dynasty, Chen Zhaoyu participated in the compilation of the Peaceful Holy Benevolence Formulae, which contains 100 volumes and is a masterpiece of traditional Chinese medicine before the Song Dynasty. It has a huge and far-reaching impact on the development of traditional Chinese medicine both at home and abroad.