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Table of Contents
Year : 2020  |  Volume : 3  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 105-110

The Li lineage of traditional Chinese medicine

International Education College, Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Shanghai, China

Date of Submission26-Dec-2019
Date of Acceptance26-Apr-2020
Date of Web Publication29-Jun-2020

Correspondence Address:
Prof. Heng Li
International Education College, Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Shanghai
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/CMAC.CMAC_17_20

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Chinese medicine cannot be separated from Chinese culture and history. Professor Li Ding's path floridly embodies that, and so is worthy not just of admiration, but also of studious exploration. Aside from still, after well over half a century there, serving as a doctoral supervisor professor at the Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine (SHUTCM), and being one of the university's founders, he continues to contribute long after having been formally declared “A representative inheritor for China intangible cultural heritage – Acupuncture and Moxibustion.” This is the second article in a three-part series on Professor. Li Ding. The first part focuses on ”The Lineage of Gu Yi Tang,” and that storied our family history we will continue discussing now, with this second installment: ”The Lineage of Chinese Studies,” which introduces professor Li's Chinese cultural studies. The forthcoming third part: ”The Lineage of Dao Sheng Tang” will discuss professor Li's inheritance of Chinese medicine specifically. These three articles will bring our readers a rich and colorful Chinese scroll painting, which not only focus on acupuncture and general Chinese medicine, but also touch ancient Chinese history, culture, Taoism, and even more.

Keywords: Acupuncture and moxibustion, Chinese studies, intangible cultural heritage, Li Ding, lineage, traditional Chinese medicine

How to cite this article:
Li H. The Li lineage of traditional Chinese medicine. Chin Med Cult 2020;3:105-10

How to cite this URL:
Li H. The Li lineage of traditional Chinese medicine. Chin Med Cult [serial online] 2020 [cited 2022 Jan 24];3:105-10. Available from: https://www.cmaconweb.org/text.asp?2020/3/2/105/288534

  Brief Introduction to Prof. Li Ding Top

Li Ding [Figure 1] was born in 1929, on December 18th, in Gu Yi Tang, Houren village, Yongkang County, Zhejiang Province. Prof. Li's style name (also known as courtesy name [Chinese: 字 ; Pinyin: Zi]) is Yang Yuan (Chinese: 养元 , literally means to nourish the Yuan-primordial qi) and his pseudonym (Pseudonym: Chinese: 号 ; Pinyin: Hao.) is Yang Yuan (Chinese: 养园 , literally means to cultivate a garden). He is the founder and tenured professor, doctoral supervisor at Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine (SHUTCM), a Representative inheritor for China intangible cultural heritage—acupuncture and moxibustion. Prof. Li also serves the Expert committee of Shanghai academy of Chinese medicine. In addition, he is a distinct Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) Physician in Shanghai and also in China, a consultant of the World Federation of Acupuncture - Moxibustion Societies, a well-known TCM and acupuncture educator across the country and a State council expert for special allowance since 1992.
Figure 1: Professor Li Ding (李鼎)

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  Part 2. the Lineage of Chinese Studies Top

Traditional Chinese culture and TCM are rooted in each other and inseparable. The study of Chinese culture, language, literature, philosophy, and history is known as Guo Xue, literally “national studies” or Chinese studies. Prof. Li Ding is regarded as a great master of Guo Xue in the field of TCM. There were two streams feeding into his lineage of Chinese studies as follows:

  The Li Family Lineage of Chinese Studies Top

As the first part of this article[1] mentioned that Prof. Li Ding came from a TCM family, he spent his childhood learning traditional Chinese culture and medicine from his father, my grandfather, a Taoism scholar, and Confucian TCM doctor Li Chengzhi [Figure 2].
Figure 2: Prof. Li's Father Li Chengzhi (李成之 1909–1987)

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Li Chengzhi is a student of Mr. Xu Lifu (徐理夫), who was a famous scholar in ancient Chinese culture. In the 1940s, Mr. Li Chengzhi organized workshops for young students to learn Chinese culture in the Li's family temple [Figure 3] and [Figure 4].
Figure 3: The Guo Xue workshop at the Li's family temple (built in 1506)

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Figure 4: Chengzhi's teaching material: Kang Xi Zi Dian (《康熙字典》 Kangxi Dictionary)

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During the later years of anti-Japanese war, thanks to Lifu's recommendation, my grandfather Li Chengzhi worked as an editor in Shanghai Mingshan Publishing House, which was sponsored by Zhang Zaiyang (1873–1945), the former governor of Zhejiang Province [Figure 5].
Figure 5: The Governor of Zhejiang Province and Li Chengzhi's Mentor: Zhang Zaiyang (张载阳 1873–1945)

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After retirement from his political career, Zhang Zaiyang turned to charity and the study of Taoism. In addition to devoting himself to the publishing work, Chengzhi learned Taoism and qi-gong from Zaiyang [Figure 6].[2]
Figure 6: Li Chengzhi's Taoist Collection: Wu Xing Qiong Yuan (《悟性穷原》)

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As an editor, Chengzhi published some Confucian, Buddhist, and Taoist classics and related prints, such as the famous Nei Jing Tu (《内经图》 Inner Landscape).” It is a surreal bucolic landscape painting that alludes to the organ-systems and represents the physiology of human metabolism. When TCM is at its best, culture, literature, and health care are not divorced, imagination and analysis are not estranged, and human achievements are holistic and wholesome [Figure 7].
Figure 7: The Nei Jing Tu (《内经图》Inner Landscape) published by Ming Shan Publishing House[3]

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Li Ding studied under his father Chengzhi from a very young age, and this strict homeschooling laid a solid foundation in Chinese studies. Li Ding quickly became like Chengzhi, especially proficient in ancient Chinese poetry and calligraphy [Figure 8] and [Figure 9].
Figure 8: A classical Chinese poem composition: Li Chengzhi Calligraphy: Li Ding

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Figure 9: The Lineage chart of Li family's Chinese studies

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  Li Ding's Lineage of Chinese Studies Beyond the Family Top

Dr. Liu Minshu (1897–1960) and Dr. Yang Shaoyi (1888–1948)

Just before the end of the Anti-Japanese War, Li Ding and his father Chengzhi moved to Shanghai. In 1945, Li Ding started to learn Chinese medicine from two great Sichuanese TCM doctors: Liu Minshu (1897–1960) and Yang Shaoyi (1888–1948) [Figure 10] and [Figure 11].
Figure 10: The Teacher of Li Ding: Dr. Liu Minshu (刘民叔 1897–1960)

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Figure 11: The Teacher of Li Ding: Dr. Yang Shaoyi (杨绍伊 1888–1948)

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Both physicians were students of a great master of ancient Chinese studies: Liao Ping (1852–1932) [Figure 12].
Figure 12: The teacher of Drs. Liu and Yang: Liao Ping (廖平 1852–1932)

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Liao Ping (1852–1932)

After being born in Sichuan province in 1852, Liao Ping studied Chinese classics throughout his life, made academic contributions that surpassed his predecessors, and built up a theoretical system of classics that integrated ancient and modern theories of Chinese studies with their Western counterparts. He played an important role in shaping several modern Chinese academic fields.

Zhang Zhidong (1837–1909) and Wang Kaiyun (1833–1916)

Liao Ping's teachers were Zhang Zhidong [Figure 13] and Wang Kaiyun [Figure 14], both of them were great masters of the Confucian classics.
Figure 13: Master Liao's teacher Zhang Zhidong (张之洞 1837–1909)

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Figure 14: Master Liao's teacher Wang Kaiyun (王闿运 1833–1916)

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Zhang Zhidong (1837–1909)

Along with Zeng Guofan (曾国藩 1811–1872), Li Hongzhang (李鸿章 1823–1901), and Zuo Zongtang (左宗棠 1812–1885), Minister Zhang Zhidong (张之洞) was one of the “Four Famous Reformist Ministers in the Late Qing Dynasty (1636–1912).” He was a leader of the Westernization Movement, advocating a national policy of “Traditional Chinese values aided with modern Western management and technology.”

Zhang Zhidong sang high praises of Liao Ping's knowledge in Confucian classics and accepted him as his apprentice, and, in 1876, enrolled him in the famous academy of classics (尊经书院), which Zhang Zhidong had founded 2 years earlier [[Figure 15].[4]
Figure 15: Academy of classics (尊经书院)

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Wang Kaiyun (1833–1916)

Three years after Liao Ping's arrival, Zhang Zhidong recruited Wang Kaiyun came to preside over the academy of classics (from 1879 to 1887). Their perspectives on the Confucian classics played an important role in guiding the formation of Ping's worldview.

Also, due to his Confucian erudition, Kaiyun also served as an advisor to Zeng Guofan, who was another one of the “Four Famous Reformist Ministers of the Late Qing Dynasty,” alongside Zhidong. Zeng Guofan was a shaper of late-19th-century Chinese public policy, advancing the Tongzhi Restoration (1862–1874) period of the self-strengthening movement (1861–1895), which set China onto the path of modernization.

From this overview of his lineage tree of Chinese studies [Figure 9] and [Figure 16], we can see that Li Ding has never been just a high-level Chinese medical practitioner, his Chinese medical education is entwined with a broad cultural education. Going back a few generations, we see a lively mix of TCM physicians and Confucian scholars, each of whom contributed to advancing the modernizing march of China, whether by improving the health of individuals, or by improving public health and civic vitality via politically and socially engaged application of the evolving Confucian tradition to the problems of their days. This also vividly reflects a saying from Fan Zhongyan (范仲淹 989–1052) [Figure 17] in the Song Dynasty (960–1279): “Nor to be a good prime minister, then to be a good doctor”. His another well-known saying: “Be the first to bear the world's hardship, and the last to enjoy its comfort” inspired Chinese people for a thousand years.
Figure 16: Li Ding's Lineage chart of Chinese studies beyond the family

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Figure 17: Fan Zhongyan (范仲淹 989–1052)

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In summary, Professor Li Ding's inheritance of Chinese studies originated from the Li family, sublimated from apprentice studies, and eventually reflected Chinese Confucian tradition.

  Prof. Li's Poetry and Calligraphy Top

Just as, in the collective past of his father and masters, we see a mix of medicine, classics, and civic engagement. Deeply rooted in Chinese culture, TCM draws synergistically from both the natural sciences and the humanities. Practically, all of the ancient renowned Chinese physicians were polymaths, commanding a mastery of Guo Xue as well as of clinical practice. Professor Li Ding is no exception. Drawing from both his father and the lineage of Chinese studies beyond the family, Li Ding was immersed in traditional Chinese culture from infancy, and so he is quite well-read and excels in calligraphy and writing. Over the last 50 years, he has composed more than a hundred poems and myriad calligraphic writings, some of which now grace the campus of the SHUTCM [Figure 18] and [Figure 19].
Figure 18: The Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine Motto, composed by Prof. Li Ding: “Diligence, benevolence, realism, innovation”

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Figure 19: Li Ding's Calligraphy, on display at the International Education College of Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine

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A quote from Da Xue (《大学》 The Great Learning): “The way of the great learning involves manifesting virtue, loving the people, and abiding by the highest good [Figure 19].”

Prof. Li Ding's poetry had been collected, and published by the SHUTCM Press in 2009, entitled Xing Yuan Shi Pa (《杏苑诗葩》 The Brightest Flowers in an Apricot Garden) [Figure 20] and [Figure 21].
Figure 20: Li Ding's Poetry Xing Yuan Shi Pa (《杏苑诗葩》 The Brightest Flowers in an Apricot Garden)

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Figure 21: Prof. Li Ding's commemorative calligraphy for the 60th anniversary of Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine

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A quote from (the eminent defender of public health against the opiate crisis that led to the First Opium War) the Qing reformist minister Lin Zexu (林则徐 1785–1850) [Figure 22]: “Just as all rivers run into sea, its greatness contains everything. A thousand all cliffs stand here, it's firm without desire”.
Figure 22: Lin Zexu (林则徐 1785–1850)

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Translator: Chouping Han (韩丑萍)


The author is grateful to Mr. Justin Maher for reviewing the translation.

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

There are no conflict of interest.

  References Top

Li H. The li lineage of traditional Chinese medicine. Chin Med Cult 2019;2:155-8.  Back to cited text no. 1
  [Full text]  
Li H, Li D, Han CP. The Li Lineage of Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine. USA: Scientific Research Publishing; 2016. p. 25.  Back to cited text no. 2
Li H, Li D. The Lineage of Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine. Beijing: China Traditional Chinese Medicine Publishing House; 2018. p. 178.  Back to cited text no. 3
Liao YP. Chronology of Liao Jiping. Chengdu: Ba Shu Publishing House; 1985. p. 17, 12-3.  Back to cited text no. 4


  [Figure 1], [Figure 2], [Figure 3], [Figure 4], [Figure 5], [Figure 6], [Figure 7], [Figure 8], [Figure 9], [Figure 10], [Figure 11], [Figure 12], [Figure 13], [Figure 14], [Figure 15], [Figure 16], [Figure 17], [Figure 18], [Figure 19], [Figure 20], [Figure 21], [Figure 22]


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