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Table of Contents
RESEARCH ARTICLE
Year : 2019  |  Volume : 2  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 129-131

The Silk Road (丝绸之路) and sources of Chinese medicine expansion: Part 4 – Miscellaneous texts


Department of Asian Languages and Literature, University of Washington, Seattle, WA, USA

Date of Web Publication24-Sep-2019

Correspondence Address:
Prof. Sean Bradley
Department of Asian Languages and Literature, University of Washington, Seattle, WA
USA
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


DOI: 10.4103/CMAC.CMAC_30_19

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  Abstract 


Medical works and histories provide a general understanding of foreign influence on Chinese medicine, but a variety of miscellaneous texts give a deeper understanding of the details of this interaction. Trade manuals, notes on foreign interactions, archeological discoveries, and religious works all fill in important details on the incorporation of foreign medicines and ideas into Chinese medicine.

Keywords: Chinese medicine, miscellaneous text, silk road, trade manual


How to cite this article:
Bradley S. The Silk Road (丝绸之路) and sources of Chinese medicine expansion: Part 4 – Miscellaneous texts. Chin Med Cult 2019;2:129-31

How to cite this URL:
Bradley S. The Silk Road (丝绸之路) and sources of Chinese medicine expansion: Part 4 – Miscellaneous texts. Chin Med Cult [serial online] 2019 [cited 2019 Nov 19];2:129-31. Available from: http://www.cmaconweb.org/text.asp?2019/2/3/129/267701






  Secular Works Top


While medical texts and general history provide the vast majority of information we gather for the study of the exchange of medicine and we also must draw information from more general sources to better understand the complexity of the Silk Road (丝绸之路) [Figure 1] on Chinese Medicine. Trade manuals, notes on foreign interactions, archeological findings, and religious works give clarity to thousands of years of trade along the Silk Road and allow for clarity in understanding the influence of foreign practices on the development of Chinese medicine.
Figure 1: Exhibition about the Silk Road

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Miscellaneous texts and trade manuals are important sources of nonmedical works that inform the history of medical trade. The You Yang Za Zu (《酉阳杂俎》Miscellaneous Morsels from Youyang Mountain) written by Duan Chengshi (段成式853 CE) compiled information about 59 imported plants from different regions.[1] Duan Chengshi's timeline is not clear as pointed out in A Tang Miscellany: An Introduction to Youyang Zazu by Carrie Reed, and according to various biographies, he likely spent time in Xiangyang (襄阳), Jiangzhou (江州), or Chang'an (长安).[2] Duan Chengshi also spent time in Sichuan in Southwest China, where the You Yang mountain (酉阳山) [Figure 2] is located. Many of the imported plants listed by Duan Chengshi are aromatics or Xiang Yao (香药), of which at least fourteen are categorized as being of the Persian origin.
Figure 2: Mogao Caves at Dunhuang

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One of those species is the myrrh tree where Duan Chengshi not only gives uses and preparations for medicine but also discusses the sources, trade, and how to identify quality products.[3] Awei (阿魏 Ferula spp.) is another major drug product introduced into the Chinese materia medica mentioned in the You Yang Za Zu (《酉阳杂俎》Miscellaneous Morsels from the You Yang Mountain). Awei is made of several plant substances, usually of the Ferula species including resins, gums, and essential oils. Bernhard Laufer suggests the name awei is from Tocharian or Kuchean ankwa and Iranian angwa. Other species such as Bai Dou Kou (白豆蔻 Amomum kravanh Pierre ex Gagnep.) and Bi Bo (筚拨 Piper longum L.) are also both discussed as foreign plants that are native to areas outside of China.[4],[5],[6] While many of these plants have already been incorporated into Chinese medicine by this time, Duan Chengshi provides considerably more detailed information about the import and quality of these plants.

Much of the information in the You Yang Za Zu (《酉阳杂俎》Miscellaneous Morsels from the You Yang Mountain) text also appears in the Tai Ping Guang Ji (《太平广记》Extensive Records of the Taiping Era) compiled by Li Fang (李昉925–996 CE). Li Fang began his service as the Minister of Finance in 976 and was later appointed to Prime Minister in 983. He was the chief compiler of the Tai Ping Guang Ji (《太平广记》Extensive Records of the Taiping Era) and also the primary editor of another major project, the Tai Ping Yu Lan (《太平御览》Imperial Overview of the Taiping Era), a comprehensive historical encyclopedia.[7] The Tai Ping Guang Ji (《太平广记》Extensive Records of the Taiping Era) has over 7000 tales of the exotic including information on medicines from foreign cultures and lands. Similar information is also found in the Tai Ping Yu Lan (《太平御览》Imperial Overview of the Taiping Era).

The Ling Wai Dai Da (《岭外代答》Substituted Replies About the Southern Regions Beyond the Mountain Passing) by Zhou Qufei (周去非1134–1189) written in 1178 and the Zhu Fan Zhi (《诸蕃志》Treatise on the  Barbarian More Details Countries) written by Zhao Rushi (赵汝适1170–1231) in 1225 also contain information about medicines being imported to China in ports in the Southern seas. While the original has been lost, much of this text has been reconstructed using later Ming (晚明) sources.

A specialized dietary work that has obvious Mongolian influence but also contains significant Arabic influence, arrives in China during the Yuan dynasty (元朝1279–1368). The Yin Shan Zheng Yao (《饮膳正要》Proper and Essential Things for the Emperor's Food and Drink) was written by the ethnic Mongol, Hu Sihui (忽思慧 active 1314–1330 CE), who served as a court dietary physician. This text is referenced often in the Ben Cao Gang Mu (《本草纲目》Compendium of Materia medica) by Li Shizhen (李时珍1518–1593) as these foods are incorporated not just into diet but into the Chinese medicine tradition.[8] Paul D. Buell and Eugene N. Anderson published an extensive study and translation of Hu Sihui's Yin Shan Zheng Yao (《饮膳正要》Proper and Essential Things for the Emperor's Food and Drink) in 2010 entitled, A Soup for the Qan.[9]

By looking at these miscellaneous sources, we can find more information about the medicinal trade both in and out of China; but, unfortunately, most of this information is scattered and piecemeal. By collecting these fragmented pieces, we can gain a better understanding of how medicines came into China from abroad and elucidate how the Silk Road expanded and was a conduit for medicinal knowledge.


  Religious Works Top


These secular works make up one of the miscellaneous texts, but religious works are also an important piece of data that must be more closely examined. As major religions such as Islam and Buddhism made their way into China along the Silk Road, they carried with them medical information from their home regions. Some of the religious imports are clearly medical works such as the Hui Hui Yao Fang (《回回药方》Islamic Formulary) that was widely used in China during the Yuan Dynasty, but, additional medical information can be found in strictly religious works.

The influence of Buddhist medical practices entering China from India has been studied extensively by the historian Pierce Salguero. In his work, Translating Buddhist Medicine in Medieval China, Salguero gives the Taishō Tripitaka (《大正新修大藏经》) as an example of medical knowledge being contained within Buddhist sutras. He lists three characters associated with medicine that appear thousands of times in the work. Bing (病), often meaning “disease” or “illness,” appears over 40,000 times. Yao (药), meaning “drug” or “medicinal substance,” appears over 26,000 times; Yi (医), meaning “medicine” or “physician,” appears over 7000 times.[10] While he stresses that counting characters is a crude method, it does serve as a basic example of Buddhist writing which carries medical knowledge within it.

More concrete examples of Buddhist medical influence can be found in translated sections of the Indian medical doctrines on Aṣṭāṅga and the Tridoṣa [Figure 3] that have been found in fragments discovered at the Silk Road site of Dunhuang-Mogao Caves at Dunhuang (敦煌). Beijing University (北京大学) scholar, Chen Ming (陈明), in the Annual Report of the International Research Institute for Advanced Buddhology (高级佛学国际研究院) at Soka University (索卡大学) in 2006, provides an in-depth look into these Dunhuang manuscripts and their concepts and topics in Traditional Indian medicine (Ayurveda阿育吠陀). He provides translations and annotations of the manuscripts and also identifies a number of Sanskrit medical terms translated into Chinese including one plant name, Anmole (庵摩勒 Mangifera indica L.). The collection of terms and ideas demonstrates how Indian medical and herbal terms were translated and understood in Chinese.[11]
Figure 3: Indian medical doctrines

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Religious works have long served as conduits for cultural knowledge, and medical information is one of the most potent examples. As more scholars engage in multidisciplinary studies and archeological discoveries help fill in the gaps, the impact of medical exchange through these sources will be explored more thoroughly and be better understood.


  Conclusion Top


Information and products spread along the Silk Road for thousands of years from the Mediterranean and Northern Africa to Southeast Asia and China. As medical information journeyed along these routes, medicines and medical knowledge made its way into China from a variety of sources. From materia medica and formularies to histories and miscellaneous texts, there is quite a diverse milieu of works that have influenced Chinese medicine. Medical works and histories provide a general understanding of foreign influence on Chinese medicine, but the various miscellaneous texts, trade manuals, notes on foreign interactions, archeological discoveries, and religious texts give a deeper understanding of the finer points of this interaction. These works fill in important details regarding the vast information that came into China and helped shape Chinese medicine into what it is today.

Financial support and sponsorship

Nil.

Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.



 
  References Top

1.
Duan CS. You Yang Za Zu. Beijing: Chung Hwa Book Co.; 1981. p. 172-92.  Back to cited text no. 1
    
2.
Reed C. A Tang Miscellany: An Introduction to Youyang Zazu. New York: Peter Lang Publishing Inc.; 2003. p. 1-24.  Back to cited text no. 2
    
3.
Schottenhammer A. Transfer of Xiangyao from Iran and Arabia toChina-A Reinvestigation of Entries in the Youyang Zazu, Aspects of the Maritime Silk Road: From the Persian Gulf to the East China Sea, ed. Ralph Kauz. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag: 2010. p. 117-8.  Back to cited text no. 3
    
4.
Bernhard L. Sino-Iranica: Chinese Contributions to the History of Civilization in Ancient Iran. Chicago: Field Museum of Natural History; 1919. p. 361.  Back to cited text no. 4
    
5.
Duan CS. You Yang Za Zu. Beijing: Chung Hwa Book Co.; 1981. p. 178.  Back to cited text no. 5
    
6.
Reed C. Motivation and meaning of a “Hodge-podge”: Duan Chengshi's Youyang zazu. J Am Orient Soc2003;123:137.  Back to cited text no. 6
    
7.
Wilkinson E. Chinese History: A New Manual. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press; 2013. p. 651.  Back to cited text no. 7
    
8.
Zheng JS, Kirk N, Buell PD. Dictionary of the Ben Cao Gang Mu: Persons and Literary Sources. Vol. 3. Berkeley: University of California Press; 2018. p. 603-4.  Back to cited text no. 8
    
9.
Buell PD, Anderson EN. A Soup for the Qan: Chinese Dietary Medicine of the Mongol Era as Seen in Hu Sihui's Yinshan Zhengyao – Introduction, Translation, Commentary, and Chinese Text. Leiden: Brill; 2010.  Back to cited text no. 9
    
10.
Salguero P. Translating Buddhist Medicine in Medieval China. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press; 2014. p. 33.  Back to cited text no. 10
    
11.
Chen M. The Transmission of Indian Ayurvedic Doctrines in Medieaval China: A Case Study of Aṣṭāṅga and Tridoṣa Fragments from the Silk Road. Annual Report of the International Research Institute for Advanced Buddhology at Soka University; Vol. 9. 2006. p. 201-30.  Back to cited text no. 11
    


    Figures

  [Figure 1], [Figure 2], [Figure 3]



 

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