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Table of Contents
Year : 2019  |  Volume : 2  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 77-79

A Review on Ben Cao Gang Mu Ying Jiao Dui Zhao (《本草纲目影校对照》 A Contrast between the Photocopy and Collation of Compendium of Materia Medica)

Department of Medical Paleography, School of Basic Medicine, Nanjing University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Nanjing, China

Date of Web Publication19-Jun-2019

Correspondence Address:
Prof. Shunong Shen
School of Basic Medicine, Nanjing University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Nanjing
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/CMAC.CMAC_7_19

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Ben Cao Gang Mu Ying Jiao Dui Zhao (《本草纲目影校对照》 A Contrast between the Photocopy and Collation of Compendium of Materia Medica), completed by Zhang Zhibin and Zheng Jinsheng, is the latest variorum on Ben Cao Gang Mu (《本草纲目》 Compendium of Materia Medica). Adopting five different Jinling editions as the master copy, the book carefully collates the complex contents on the original book by contrasting the photocopies with the supplement and correction, which makes it easy to use. What is more, full-form punctuation is used to mark the reference books and proper nouns, which is a big success feat in the research history of Ben Cao Gang Mu.

Keywords: Ben Cao Gang Mu (《本草纲目》 Compendium of Materia Medica), Ben Cao Gang Mu Ying Jiao Dui Zhao (《本草纲目影校对照》 Contrast between the Photocopy and Collation of Compendium of Materia Medica), Book review

How to cite this article:
Shen S. A Review on Ben Cao Gang Mu Ying Jiao Dui Zhao (《本草纲目影校对照》 A Contrast between the Photocopy and Collation of Compendium of Materia Medica). Chin Med Cult 2019;2:77-9

How to cite this URL:
Shen S. A Review on Ben Cao Gang Mu Ying Jiao Dui Zhao (《本草纲目影校对照》 A Contrast between the Photocopy and Collation of Compendium of Materia Medica). Chin Med Cult [serial online] 2019 [cited 2019 Nov 16];2:77-9. Available from: http://www.cmaconweb.org/text.asp?2019/2/2/77/260713

  Introduction Top

In 2018, in the 500th birth anniversary of the famous ancient physician and herbal pharmacist – Li Shizhen(李时珍), various commemorative activities were held. During this event, Zhang Zhibin(张志斌) and Zheng Jinsheng (郑金生), two professors, jointly contributed their great accomplishment – Ben Cao Gang Mu Ying Jiao Dui Zhao (《本草纲目影校对照》A Contrast between the Photocopy and Collation of Compendium of Materia Medica) [Figure 1].
Figure 1: (a and b) Ben Cao Gang Mu Ying Jiao Dui Zhao (《本草纲目影校对照》 A Contrast between the Photocopy and Collation of Compendium of Materia Medica)

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Ben Cao Gang Mu (《本草纲目》Compendium of Materia Medica), which took Li Shizhen about 30 years to accomplish, was called “the encyclopedia of 1596” by English biologist Charles Darwin (查尔斯·达尔文). Doctor Joseph Needham(李约瑟), author of Science and Civilizations in China(《中国科学技术史》), said: “there is no doubt that the Ben Cao Gang Mu is the greatest scientific achievement of Ming Dynasty and the acme of the materia medica… Shizhen Li is a scientist reaching high achievement among the people insulated from from Galileo(伽利略) and Vesalius(维萨里) science movement.” “Till now, this great work is still an inexhaustible source of knowledge for the study of the Chinese history of chemical and other sciences.”[1] Ben Cao Gang Mu was added into the Di Yi Pi Guo Jia Zhen Gui Gu Ji Ming Lu (《第一批国家珍贵古籍名录》1st Edition of National Collection of Ancient Document Catalogue) in 2008 and added into the Shi Jie Ji Yi Ming Lu (《世界记忆名录》Memory of the World Register) in 2011. Unfortunately, such a great scientific masterpiece does not have an ideal edition that can pass down over the years.

The first edition of Ben Cao Gang Mu, the Jinling edition(金陵版), was designed by Li's descendants and printed by Nanjing bookseller Hu Chenglong(胡承龙). It is the most precious edition of the book because it is mostly in line with Li's original work. But the existing quantity of the book is very small. There exists only nine copies in total, six of which are stored in foreign countries and only three in China, which are, respectively, kept by the Library of Chinese Academy of Chinese Medical Science in Beijing(北京中国中医科学院图书馆), the Shanghai Library(上海图书馆), and a private library. It is no doubt that Jinling edition of Ben Cao Gang Mu has incalculable historical value. But because of the poor engraving and printing quality, its writing is not clear enough and some words are too obscure to be identified. Shortly after the release of the Jinling edition, there produced the Jiangxi edition(江西版) and on this basis derived a variety of versions of higher quality; but due to various reasons, there are some errors in the text. Therefore, the precious Jinling edition of Ben Cao Gang Mu has been photocopied in recent years at home and abroad. Photocopying has the advantage of keeping true; but it is not very convenient in reading, as there are mistakes and descriptions difficult for the general readers to know, which makes it even more difficult to use.

Besides photocopies, another common form of inheritance is collation. Previously, there was a collating edition of Ben Cao Gang Mu wrote by Liu Hengru(刘衡如) (published by People's Health Publishing House人民卫生出版社, 1977), which used Jiangxi edition as the master copy because of the missing Jinling edition. Later, there developed lots of collation editions based on Jinling edition, such as the edition made by Liu Hengru and his son Liu Shanyong (刘山永), the edition made by Shanyong Liu, and the edition made by Qian Chaochen(钱超尘) and Wen Changlu(温长路) (there are also many simple collations). Collated editions bring great convenience to readers; but, it can lose the original appearance of ancient text to varying degrees and make mistakes because of the deviation of the collator's understanding.

Therefore, finding out a method that can not only “preserve truth” well but also to the greatest extent “make it easy to read” is a great difficulty placed in front of Zhang Zhibin and Zheng Jinsheng; over the years, the two professors gave the perfect answer with the book Ben Cao Gang Mu Ying Jiao Dui Zhao (《本草纲目影校对照》Contrast between the Photocopy and Collation of Compendium of Materia Medica) and the elaborate design in the book.

  Contrast between the Photocopy and Collation Top

The most common ways to pass on ancient books are photocopying and collating. However, for the further study of Ben Cao Gang Mu, using one method alone has some drawbacks. To this end, the book Photocopy and Collation (《影校》) uses photocopying and collating together to solve this problem. To be more specific, it photocopies the original Jinling edition on even pages, records the original text of even pages, and makes collating on odd ones. Moreover, the recording part entirely follows the format of the original book, that is, the lines and the words are basically arranged according to the position of the original book (only the double-line notes on the original book changed to single-line ones). In this way, the reader can see two kinds of text at once: modern collated text on odd pages and original Jinling edition photocopies on even pages; in this way, readers can see the editor's understanding and processing method on the original text. By contrasting, the advantages of photocopying and collating are mutually reinforcing. For Ben Cao Gang Mu, an excellent ancient scientific and technological masterpiece, such a printing method is necessary and worthwhile.

  Cross-Referencing of Five Master Copies Top

The existing Jinling edition Ben Cao Gang Mu in the world is less than ten copies. Although they are all Jinling editions, each of them has some defects or corrections. In the past, researchers can only access to one copy of Jinling edition for studying, which inevitably led to mistakes. In recent years, most photocopies of the Jinling editions in China are photocopied from the collections of the Shanghai Library or the Library of the Chinese Academy of traditional Chinese Medicine (when Jinling edition was used as the master copy for recording and collating, the two copies were the first choice). While after comparison, it shows that the Jinling edition collected by the Japanese Library of Parliament(日本国会图书馆) is of better quality than those in China and is rare in China; so, the editor chose this one as the master copy. To avoid the disadvantages of using only one copy, the editor also made a comprehensive review on the other four Jinling editions, which are, respectively, kept in the Library of Congress of the United States(美国国会图书馆), the Cabinet Library of the Japanese Official Library(日本公文书馆内阁文库), the Library of the Chinese Academy of Traditional Chinese Medicine, and the Shanghai Library, and collated the differences. Noticeably, editors' extremely hard work in collecting the 5 Jinling editions lays an important literature foundation for the success of this book.

  Rigorous and Meticulous Word Processing Top

The word processing of this book is perhaps the most painstaking part of the orchestration.

Ancient books are mostly written in traditional Chinese characters. In mainland China, simplified characters have been used since 1950s, and it is common to use simplified characters to collate ancient works in accordance with the reading habits of the modern readership. However, since simplified characters and traditional characters are not of one-to-one correspondence, the using of simplified characters can lead to the uncertainty of part of text information.

In view of the complex writing phenomenon in the Jinling edition, editors developed a rule which includes basic principles and the principles for the special circumstances after careful studying, devising a reasonable solution to the complex character phenomenon on the original book, which guarantees the quality of this publication.

  Deep Textual Research With Full Punctuation Top

In the punctuation scheme, the book title mark and the proper name mark are included. In the vertical text, corrugated line is for book titles and straight line for proper names. Full-form punctuation, or the use of a complete punctuation system with the emphasis of marking the reference book title and proper names, is a successful initiative in the research history of Ben Cao Gang Mu and a big step forward in the research on this area.

Zhibin Zhang and Jinsheng Zheng, editors of Photocopy and Collation, are highly respected experts. They have been studied the academic field of Chinese herbal medicine, especially Ben Cao Gang Mu, for many years. In 2015, they received grants from the National Publishing Fund to collate and publish the Ben Cao Gang Mu Research Series(《本草纲目研究集成》) is the foundation and core of this series of books, for which the two collators set a high standard. Thanks to the two professors' careful collation, it reached the expected high level according to the publication. Among the Ben Cao Gang Mu Research Series, two other subbooks have been published, one is Ben Cao Gang Mu Dao Du (《本草纲目导读》Introduction of Compendium of Materia Medica) edited by Zhang Zhibin and Zheng Jinsheng and the other one is Ben Cao Gang Mu Tu Kao (《本草纲目图考》Pictorial Research on Compendium of Materia Medica) edited by Wang Jiakui(王家葵), Jiang Miao(蒋淼), and Hu Yingchong(胡颖翀). The former one focuses on guiding the understanding of Ben Cao Gang Mu while the latter one emphasizes on the examination of the graphic changes among the different versions of the Ben Cao Gang Mu, which are both full of creativity. The expected subbooks of Ben Cao Gang Mu Research Series are, respectively, focused on the study of the reference sourcing, words and phrases, identification of origin for ancient herbs, and the ancient herbal medicine literature. Based on the success of the three published books, the companion pieces that have yet to be published are highly anticipated!

Translator: Rui Wang(王瑞)

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

  References Top

Needham J. History of Science and Technology in China. Translated by Yiwei Y. Beijing, Shanghai: Science Press, Shanghai Ancient Books Press; 2015. p. 309-21.  Back to cited text no. 1


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