Top 10 classics on traditional Chinese medicine

By Xu Lin
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 Shennong's Herbal (《神农本草经》)


Shennong's Herbal, one of the 'top 10 classics on traditional Chinese medicine' by

Shennong Ben Cao Jing (Shennong's Herbal)

Shennong's Herbal (Pinyin: Shennong Ben Cao Jing) is considered to be the earliest pharmacopoeia in Chinese history. Being the first systematic summary of Chinese medical herbs, it was completed during the Eastern Han Dynasty (25-220) by a number of medical specialists in the Qin and Han dynasties based on their experiences and achievements on pharmaceutics. The title of the works borrowed the name of Shennong, who was a mythical Chinese emperor and was said to have tasted hundreds of herbs to test their medical effect.

The works are divided into three volumes containing 365 entries on medicaments and their descriptions derived from 252 kinds of plants, 67 kinds of animals and 46 kinds of minerals. The medicaments are rated with three grades: top, medium and lower. It is a compilation of all the medicaments knowledge in China before the Han Dynasty. In the book, four energies (rise, down, float and sink) and five flavors (spicy, sweet, sour, bitter and salty) are used to describe the performances and functions of the herbs. It also provides the methodology of the compatibility, processing and storage of medicines and other related issues.

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