Chinese Medicine and Culture

: 2020  |  Volume : 3  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 99--104

Analysis of the application of “Jing (精)” in Ben Cao Gang Mu (《本草纲目》 Compendium of Materia Medica)

Yiwen Yang, Xiaobei Jiang, Baican Yang 
 School of Pharmacy, Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Shanghai, China

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Baican Yang
Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Shanghai


Taking the Ben Cao Gang Mu (《本草纲目》 Compendium of Materia Medica) (Jinling edition金陵本) as the research object and “Jing” as the search term, this article summarizes the quantity of medicinals containing “Jing” in Ben Cao Gang Mu, analyzes the connotation and application of “Jing” in traditional Chinese medicine, and finds that the application of “Jing” in medicine does not deviate from the original meaning of “Jing,” but endows it with the concepts of medicine and pharmacy, and expands the application scope of “Jing.” This study is helpful to understand and use spermicide more reasonably.

How to cite this article:
Yang Y, Jiang X, Yang B. Analysis of the application of “Jing (精)” in Ben Cao Gang Mu (《本草纲目》 Compendium of Materia Medica).Chin Med Cult 2020;3:99-104

How to cite this URL:
Yang Y, Jiang X, Yang B. Analysis of the application of “Jing (精)” in Ben Cao Gang Mu (《本草纲目》 Compendium of Materia Medica). Chin Med Cult [serial online] 2020 [cited 2022 May 25 ];3:99-104
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Full Text

”Jing (精)” is a phonogram. Its left part is “Mi” and the right part is “Qing.” “Shuo Wen Jie Zi” explains that “Jing” refers to “selection” with the similar definition of “Mi(Rice in Chinese)” and similar pronunciation of “Qing.”[1] In the text, it can be used as a noun, a verb, an adjective, an adverb, and literally, it means precious and rare. “Jing” also appears in traditional Chinese medicine. This paper analyzes the connotation and application of “Jing” by searching for the medicinals containing “Jing” in the Ben Cao Gang Mu (《本草纲目》 Compendium of Materia Medica).

 Date and Methods

Date sources

This article searched specific medicinals from the fifth volume of the category of waters of Compendium of Materia Medica through taking the electronic version of Compendium of Materia Medica, which is included in the TCM resource website,[2] and adopting computer retrieval with search term of “Jing.”

Date screening

To avoid overinclusion of the relevant terms, the screening is conducted independently and in parallel by three evaluators. A term may be included or screened only if two or more of the three evaluators agree.

Research objects and scope

The 5th volume of Category of Waters to the 52nd volume of Category of Humans of Compendium of Materia Medica (Jinling edition) published by Shanghai Scientific and Technical Publishers has been taken as the research object.[3] Medicines from each category of the Compendium of Materia Medica were divided into the following 3 categories.

Plants: Five categories of traditional Chinese medicine from category of herbs, category of grain, category of vegetable, category of fruits, category of woods, etc.Ores: Come from category of metals and stonesAnimals: six categories of traditional Chinese medicine from category of worms, category of scales, category of testacea, category of fowls, category of wild animals, category of humans, etc.

Medicine inclusion, classification and exclusion criteria

Medicine inclusion criteria

Medicines commonly used in clinic at present.The understanding of medicine function is basically the same in ancient times and today.A medicine that clearly contains “Jing” and has a clear orientation.

Medicine definition and classification criteria

Depending on the presence of “Jing” in the medicine, the application of “Jing” in the medicine is divided into the following 5 categories:

The “Jing” of the medicine source: reflects the source of the medicine.The “Jing” of medicine name: a medicine name contains “Jing,” including alias.The “Jing” of medicine properties: reflects the nature, character, and performance of the medicine.The “Jing” of medicine efficacy: reflects the efficacy and function of the medicine.The “Jing” of medicine using: reflects the use of the medicine, including the main medical certificate, symptoms, and other applications. For some medicines containing “Jing” with unclear boundry between efficacy and application, they are classified as medicine using.

Medicine exclusion criteria

Medicines that do not meet the above standards.Medicines that are no longer used or have rare sources in modern society.Medicines contain “Jing,” but the “Jing” is not related to the source, performance, character, and function of the medicine.Each class contains less than 5 kinds of medicines.

Medicine extraction

From the 5th volume of category of waters to category of human of the Compendium of Materia Medica in the TCM Resource website, 601 provisions have been searched. According to the inclusion and exclusion criteria of medicines, there are 152 medicines that finally meet the criteria.

Data normalization processing

Data specification filling

Considering the error of electronic books, all the original texts were handed over to three Chinese medicine professionals. They took the Compendium of Materia Medica (Jinling edition) published by Shanghai Scientific and Technical Publishers as a reference, checked the original text. The contents that are obviously different from the paper books shall be subject to the paper books.

Standardization of traditional Chinese medicine names

According to the contents of Chinese Pharmacopoeia (2015 edition),[4] Chinese Materia Medica,[5] and The Dictionary of Medicinal Plant,[6] the name, property, and using parts of traditional Chinese medicine were standardized. For example, “Wei Rui” was changed into “Yu Shi” (Polygonatum odoratum), “Ci Shi (慈石)” was changed to another name with different words of the same voice “Ci Shi (磁石).” When the content is inconsistent, the Chinese Pharmacopoeia shall prevail. When the contents that are not included in the Chinese Pharmacopoeia, the Chinese Materia Medica shall prevail. The contents not included in the above two are subject to The Dictionary of Medicinal Plant.

 Research Results

Application of medicines containing “Jing” in the Compendium of Materia Medica

According to research statistics, 468 kinds of medicines were selected from 1892 traditional Chinese medicine in the Compendium of Materia Medica, accounting for 24.7%. Among them, there are 152 medicines contain “Jing,” accounting for 8.03% of the total medicines in the Compendium of Materia Medica, and 32.5% of the shortlisted medicines. 152 kinds of medicines are distributed in the aspects of medicine source, medicine name, medicine property, medicine efficacy and medicine using. There are not only medicines containing “Jing” on one aspect but also medicines containing “Jing” in more than two aspects. Among them, the number of medicine source, medicine name and medicine property are similar, which is related to the common use of the three. And the most concentrated distributions are in the medicine efficacy and medicine using [Figure 1].{Figure 1}

Distribution scope of medicines containing “Jing” in the Compendium of Materia Medica

Medicines containing “Jing” are distributed in many columns of compendium of Materia Medica, including explanation of names, previous explanations, explication, indication, and prescriptions: there are 119 kinds in single distribution and 33 kinds in compound distribution. Most of single distribution are under the indications [Figure 2].{Figure 2}

Kind and category distribution of medicines containing “Jing” in the Compendium of Materia Medica

In the Compendium of Materia Medica, 152 kinds of medicines containing “Jing” include plant medicine, animal medicine, and ore medicine, which are distributed in all categories except the category of waters, the category of fire, the category of earth, the category of humans, and the category of utensils. Among them, plant medicine accounts for the vast majority, followed by ore medicine, animal medicine accounts for less [Figure 3]. Combined with the analysis of the proportion of the shortlisted medicines, the highest proportion of the medicines containing “Jing” was the category of metals and stones, accounting for 51.22%, followed by the category of vegetable, accounting for 44.44%, and the category of scales, accounting for 42.68%, [Figure 4].{Figure 3}{Figure 4}

 Analysis and Discussion

Distribution of medicines containing “Jing” in the Compendium of Materia Medica

In the Compendium of Materia Medica, there are Explanation of Names, Previous Explanations, Quality and Taste, Corrections, Preparation, Indications, Explication and Prescriptions of each medicine. The results of this study showed that the medicines containing “Jing” in the Compendium of Materia Medica are mainly distributed in Explanation of names, previous explanations, indications, explication and prescriptions, of which the indications is the most. This is related to the expression of “Jing” in medicine, and the prescription is another manifestation of the medicine function. In addition, explanation of names, previous explanations, and explication also contained some contents of medicines which reflect the medicine functions. It can be seen that the application of “Jing” in medicine is mainly focused on function.

Types and distribution of medicines containing “Jing”

In terms of medicine varieties, medicines containing “Jing” are involved in ore medicines, plant medicines and animal medicines, and plant medicines are the majority. However, in the Compendium of Materia Medica, there are 125 kinds of medicines except for the appendix of ore medicines, of which the proportion of medicines containing “Jing” is 16.8%, which is higher than that of other categories of medicines containing “Jing.” This kind of medicine has a long period of formation. The ancients believed that it was formed by the essence of the universe, which is the most consistent with the meaning of “Jing. Therefore, in the Qin and Han Dynasties, Wei and Jin Dynasties and Northern and Southern Dynasties, there was a popular fashion of taking stone medicine and doing alchemy health preservation. From the development of metal and stone medicines, it can be found that the cognition of this kind of medicines, since the beginning of Sheng Nong's Materia Medica, has been more thorough and comprehensive. There is no great development in the later works of Materia Medica, from which we can also understand the connotation of “Jing” in medicine. The plant medicines containing “Jing” are mainly concentrated in roots and fruits, 72 kinds of 114 medicines, accounting for 63.16%. Rhizomes can fully absorb the essence of nutrition in the growing environment, and seeds and fruits are the essence of plants, which also reflects the application of “Jing” in medicine. In addition, in animal medicines, the medicines containing “Jing” mainly concentrated in Lu Rong(鹿茸cornu parvum cervi), Huang Ming Jiao (黄明胶oxhide gelatin), Ge Jie (蛤蚧gecko), Zi He Che (紫河车placenta hominis), etc., These medicines usually have the efficacy of replenishing essence.

The application and distribution of medicines containing “Jing”

The meaning of “Jing” can be fully reflected in the application of traditional Chinese medicine, including its source, name, property, efficacy, and application in medicine.

”Jing” of medicine source, “Jing” of medicine name, “Jing” of medicine property

The application of “Jing” in these three aspects, the connotation of “Jing” is consistent or interlinked, which is reflected in the following four points:

Explain medicine sources with “Jing”

”Jing” is often used to reflect the source and formation of medicines. For example, the explanation of calcitum (凝水石) points out that it is “the essence of salt,” also known as the salt essence. It clearly explains that Calcitum is formed by the condensation of salt in nature. For some medicines from precious sources, the ancients did not know about the formation process or it was difficult for them to cultivate these medicines, so they thought that these medicines might come from the “essence” of animals and plants. For example, Fu Ling (茯苓Poria) is parasitic on the pine root after the tree is felled. The ancients believed that Poria was formed by the essence Qi of pines(松树). Rou Cong Rong (肉苁蓉Cistanches Herba) is parasitic on the Suo Suo (梭梭Haloxylon) tree in the desert. Tao Hongjing(陶弘景)is quoted in the book as saying that it was born from the essence of wild horses. In addition, for the formation of Hu Po (琥珀amber), the ancients believed that it was formed by the tiger spirit after death, which highlighted the value of it.

In addition, some herbs with strong vitality, such as Hua Jiao (花椒Zanthoxylum bungeanum Maxim), Wu Jia Pi (五加皮Radix Acanthopanacis Senticos), Sang (桑Morus alba L.), etc., are considered to have vitality and are symbols of vitality. The ancients used the essence of vast stars to explain their sources. For example, Zanthoxylum bungeanum Maxim is the essence of Alioth(玉衡星), Radix Acanthopanacis Senticos is the essence of Wu Che Star(五车星), Morus alba L. is the essence of Ji Star(箕星). This can highlight their value and status.

Highlight the value of medicines named after “Jing”

The meaning of “Jing” in medicines is also reflected in the name of medicines, such as Xuan Jing Shi(玄精石 Gypsum), Huang Jing (黄精 Rhizoma Polygonati), Tian Ming Jing (天名精 Carpesium Abrotanoides). This also includes the aliases of some medicines, such as “Tu Jing(The essence of earth)” of Ren Shen (人参Radix Panacis Ginsen), “Di Jing(The essence of earth)” of He Shou Wu (何首乌Raidx Polygoni Multiflori), “Tian Jing(The essence of sky)” of Gou Qi (枸杞 Fructus Lycii Chinesis), “Shan Jing(The essence of mountain)” of Cang Zhu (苍术Rhizoma Atractylodis), etc., These medicines with the word “Jing” generally have a long growth cycle, at least a few years, or even decades, hundreds of years. They can fully absorb the essence of the sky, earth and mountains in the natural environment, so they get such names.

Highlight the characteristics of medicines with “Jing”

”Jing” can also be matched with medicinal properties. For example, Calcitum is condensed by the Yin essence of alkali, so it is also called Yin Jing Stone, emphasizing its Yin nature. For Liu Huang (硫磺Sulphur) and Lu Sha (硵砂Sal Ammoniacu), there is a saying that “Sulphur is the essence of Yang, which is formed by the essence of pure Yang flint. Bei Ting Sha(Another name of Sal Ammoniacu)is formed by the essence of pure Yin stone. They contain the essence of Yang toxin, can melt metals and stones, purify the body, nourish the Yang, and combine the strength with the sulfur.” All of these highlight the Yang nature of Sulphur and Sal Ammoniacu. Therefore, the combination of “Jing” and “cold and heat properties of medicines” can highlight the nature of it.

”Jing” of medicine efficacy

The “Jing” of medicine efficacy mainly reflects the efficacy of the medicine. The main indication and application of medicines in ancient herbal literature were mixed together. The application of “Jing” in medicine efficacy can be summarized as the following four points.

Effect on spirit

The spirit in Chinese medicine is exactly the reflection of the essence of function and the essence of substance in the look. There are two main characteristics of the effect of medicines on the spirit. The first is some plant medicinal materials, which can make people full of spirit by nourishing, such as Ren Shen(人参 Panax ginseng C. A. Mey.), Nv Zhen Zi (女贞子Fructus Ligustri Lucidi), Ling Zhi (灵芝Ganodorma lucidum), etc., The second is mainly part of the Metal and Stone medicine which has a heavy texture and can calm people's mind, such as Kong Qing(空青), Zhu Sha (朱砂Cinnabaris), etc., In addition, it is suggested that Bu Gu Zhi (补骨脂Psoralea corylifolia Linn.) has the function of astringent spirit, which may be related to warming the kidney, stopping diarrhea and preventing the loss of essence Qi.

Effect on essence

The nature of essence Qi is more inclined to the essence of human body function. In the Compendium of Materia Medica, the definition of “Yi Jing Qi” is relatively wide, which can be understood as the meaning of “benefiting essence Qi.” Therefore, the medicines in the book for “benefiting essence Qi” are mainly embodied in three aspects. The first one is a kind of medicine with direct tonifying of essence Qi, such as Qian Shi (芡实Euryale ferox), Zi Zhi (紫芝Ganoderma sinense), Yang Qi Shi (阳起石Actinolitum), Yuan Can (原蚕Silkworms), Di Gu Pi(地骨皮Cortex Lycii), etc., This part is close to modern medical knowledge. The second is that although some medicines do not have a direct tonic effect, they can indirectly achieve the effect of benefiting essence Qi by eliminating pathogenic factors, such as Li Shui (alleviate water retention) of Hua Shi (滑石Talcum) and Shi Wei (石韦Pyrrosia lingua), Qu Feng (relieve rheumatic pains, colds, etc.) of Di Fu (地肤Kochia scoparia (L.) Schrad.) and Jing Jie (荆芥Nepeta cataria L.), Tong Bian (free movement of the bowels) of Jue Ming (决明Cassia tora Linn.) and Xuan Ming Fen (玄明粉Thenardite), etc., In addition, some medicines have neither the effect of nourishing essence Qi nor the ability of expelling pathogenic factors and protecting essence Qi, but they can firmly absorb and astringe essence Qi and prevent the loss of essence Qi, which is another embodiment of essence Qi, such as Mu Li (牡蛎ostrea gigas thunberg) and Jin Ying Zi (金樱子Rosa laevigata Michx.).

Effect on blood essence and marrow essence

The blood essence and marrow essence belong to the essence of the human body, which is related to human growth and development, aging, life span. In the Compendium of Materia Medica, the understanding of replenishing blood essence and marrow essence is basically consistent with the current understanding and application of these medicines, mainly reflected in some medicines with strong smell of flesh and blood, such as cornu cervi pantotrichum, Hai Piao Xiao (海螵蛸Sepiae Endoconcha), Gekko gecko, etc., some plant medicines with greasy texture, such as Shu Di (熟地Rehmanniae Radix), Fallopia multiflora, etc., and some medicines with Yin and Yang supplement, such as Ba Ji Tian(巴戟天Morinda officinalis How), Suo Yang(锁阳Cynomorium songaricum Rupr), Rou Cong Rong(肉苁蓉Cistanche deserticola Ma), Shan Zhu Yu(山茱萸Cornus officinalis Sieb. et Zucc), etc.

In addition, some drugs achieve other effects by tonifying essence, such as essence benefiting and will strengthening of Yuan Zhi (远志Polygala tenuifolia Willd), essence benefiting and eyes brightening of Chong Wei(茺蔚Leonurus japonicus Houtt), essence benefiting and bones strengthening of Gou Ji (狗脊Cibotium barometz (L.) J. Sm), etc., Some drugs also put forward the concept of tonifying essence from the perspective of Yin and Yang, such as Yin strengthening and essence benefiting of Juan Bai(卷柏Selaginella tamariscina), Shi Hu (石斛Dendrobium nobile Lindl), Mai Dong(麦冬Ophiopogon japonicus), Xuan Shen(玄参Scrophulariae Radix), Che Qian (车前Plantago asiatica L.), and Yang strengthening of Chen Xiang(沉香Aquilaria agallocha), Xue Jie(血竭Daemonorops draco Bl), etc.

Side effects on “Jing”

Among the 152 drugs containing “Jing,” four drugs have the effect of damaging essence and consuming essence. For example, Hu Huang Lian (胡黄连Radix picrorrhizae) is “cold, pork, which makes people leak essence.” Mu Er(木耳Edible Fungus) is “born of rotten wood with Yin Qi, so it can damage essence and kidney.” Mustard(芥), “damage people's eyes, get people angry, and hurt people's essence if eat more.” Taking Yu Xing Cao(鱼腥草Heartleaf Houttuynia Herb) for a long time will weaken people, damage Yang Qi and eliminate marrow essence. All of them point out their side effects on the damage of essence and the consumption of essence, which can also reflect the value of essence and the importance of protecting essence and nourishing essence.

”Jing” of medicine using

It is difficult to separate the “Jing” of medicine efficacy and the “Jing” of medicine using, which mainly reflects the main treatment and other applications of medicine. It is mainly applied in the following three aspects.

Indications of spermatorrhea and oligospermia

There are many reasons for spermatorrhea and oligospermia, but they are mainly related to the weakness of the kidney and the invasion of spermatophore by pathogenic factors. The treatment of this kind of disease mainly focuses on three aspects: astringent, tonifying deficiency and strengthening the body, and eliminating pathogenic factors, especially the former two aspects. The medicines for the treatment of spermatorrhea and oligospermia are mainly some tonic medicines, such as Shi Zhong Ru (石钟乳Stalactite), Poria, Sulphur, Actinolite, Cistanche deserticola Ma, etc., Secondly, there are some astringent medicines, such as Fu Pen Zi (覆盆子Rubus idaeus L.), Shi Liu (石榴Punica granatum L.), ostrea gigas tnunb, Chun Pi (椿皮Cortex Ailanthi), etc., However, there are few medicines to eliminate pathogenic factors, such as Ze Xie (泽泻Alisma plantago-aquatica Linn.), He Ye (荷叶Folium Nelumbinis), Ban Xia (半夏Pinellia ternata), etc., This is basically consistent with the current understanding and application of these medicines.

Kill the “Gui Jing Wu”

At present, it is difficult to research and express the exact meaning of “Gui Jing Wu”. However, it can be determined that the ancients used it to express some difficult diseases, strange diseases and difficult diseases, which cannot be explained by the commonly known etiology. The ancients thought that these diseases were caused by some or some evil spirits, and possessed by ghosts and gods, and the general medicines could not work. Therefore, the medicines that can treat this kind of disease have the effect of dispelling ghosts and spirits and killing Gui Jing Wu. These medicines are mainly used to dispel evils and poison, calm nerves, such as amber, Tian Ma (天麻Cinnabaris, rhizoma gastrodiae), Dai Zhe Shi (代赭石Haematitum), Tao Ren (桃仁Persicae Semen), She Xiang(麝香Moschus), etc., At present, although the function of these medicines does not mention killing Gu Jing Wu, they do have significant functions of removing pathogenic factors and detoxification, and calming nerves.

In addition, some medicines containing “Jing” are not used to treat diseases, but for inedia. For example, Huang Jing (黄精Polygonatum sibiricum), “Shizhen said: it is the most important medicine for taking, so it is listed in the top of the Category of Herbs. According to the immortal, they thought of it as a kind of Ganoderma which contains the essence of earth, so it is called Huang Jing.” Cang Zhu (苍术Atractylodis Rhizoma) is also used for inedia. Shizhen said it was the essence of mountains. People who take it for inedia can live a long life and be immortal. Hence, it is called Shan Jing or Xian Zhu.


”Jing” is widely used in traditional Chinese culture. The original meaning of “Jing” is to select the best rice from rice. In the application of Chinese, no matter what part of speech, commendatory, or derogatory, its connotation is inseparable from its original meaning. Therefore, there are many words containing “Jing,” such as Jing Shen Bao Man(精神饱满), Duan Xiao Jing Han(短小精悍), Jing Pi Li Jie(精疲力竭), Jing Geng Xi Zuo(精耕细作), Jing Yi Qiu Jing (精益求精), Jv Jing Hui Shen(聚精会神), Dan Jing Jie Lv, (殚精竭虑) Gui Ling Jing Guai(鬼灵精怪), Xiu Lian Cheng Jing(修炼成精), etc., In traditional Chinese medicine, “Jing” (essence) is the first of the three treasures of the human body, essence, Qi and spirit, including the essence of reproduction, the essence of water and gran, the essence of viscera, etc., It is widely used in physiological pathology, dialectical treatment, prevention and other aspects of the human body, reflecting and highlighting the value of “Jing.”

The application of “Jing” in traditional Chinese medicine is not separated from its original meaning. The medicines related to “Jing” either have a sinister growth environment, a long growth cycle and a scarce drug source, or have distinctive and irreplaceable characteristics, or have powerful and specific effects, or have critical symptoms. All of them reflect the connotation of “Jing.” Therefore, this study is helpful to understand and use medicines containing “Jing” more reasonably in clinical practice.

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Conflicts of interest

There are no conflict of interest.


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