Sun Simiao

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Life of Sun Simiao

Sun Simiao (AD 581-682), born in Huayuan, Jingzhao, was a celebrated Daoist priest and medical expert of the Tang dynasty. He was intelligent and fond of learning from his childhood. He said that he saw doctors repeatedly due to the suffering from chills in his childhood, and that the costs of decoctions reduced his family to poverty. Getting older, he had a good knowledge of the theories of Laozi, Zhuangzi and the various schools of thought, and also liked Buddhist scriptures. At the age of eighteen, Sun Simiao was determined to study medicine and felt greatly enlightened, and many of his relatives and neighbors who were ill got much benefit from him. He initially led a secluded life on Mt. Taibai, studying Dao, Refining the Vital Breath ( 煉氣 Lianqi ), Nourishing his Body ( 養形 Yangxing ), and investigating the arts of Nourishing Life ( 太一神精丹 Taiyi Shenjing Dan ) and Longevity ( 長壽 Changshou ). Then he became a hermit on Zhongnan Mountain, where he was on friendly terms with Master Daoxuan, a famous Buddhist monk. Also, he once entered Mt. Emei to refine the Divine Essential Elixir of Supreme Oneness ( 太一神精丹 Taiyi Shenjing Dan ). Sun Simiao never sought an official position, but lived in seclusion in mountains and forests, and when some emperors such as emperor Taizong and emperor Gaozong of the Tang dynasty repeatedly appointed him to official positions, he always politely declined to assume office. In the second year of Chongning of the Northern Song dynasty (AD 1103), he was posthumously conferred the title "Perfect Man of Subtle Correspondences" ( 妙應真人 Miaoying Zhenren ).

Sun Simiao and medical science

  1. Sun Simiao was skilled in the arts of Yin-Yang, and well versed in the magic arts of divination. He gathered medicinal herbs and made medicine in person and cured people. Sun Simiao collected folk and secret recipes, summed up clinical experience, and broadly collected broadly a great many medical theories, prescriptions, remedies and acupuncture therapies of the past, as well as Nourishing Life techniques such as ingesting drugs, dietotherapy, gymnastics and massotherapy. Sun Simiao was addressed respectfully as ; 'the King of Drugs' ( 藥王 Yaowang ) in later ages, owing to his significant contribution to medical science and pharmacognosy.
  2. He wrote the Essential Prescriptions Worth a Thousand Pieces of Gold ( 千金要 Qianjin Yaofang ) and Additions to the Prescriptions Worth a Thousand Pieces of Gold ( 千金翼方 Qianjian Yifang ) in thirty volumes each, and several works such as On Nourishing Life ( 攝養論 Sheyang Lun ), Explanations of the Alchemical Scriptures of the Highest Clarity ( 太清丹經要訣 Taiqing Danjing Yaojie ), and Precious and Secret Prescriptions ( 枕中方 Zhenzhong Fang ). His medical works contain a wide collection of prescriptions and have substantial content, which distinctly influenced and contributed to the development of medical science, especially on the study of prescriptions in later ages, and also played a positive role in the development of medical science in Japan and Korea.
  3. He combined Daoist theories on Inner Cultivation with medical science and hygiene, and regarded the science of Nourishing Life as medical treatment. He held that one could secure health and longevity and live his full life-span only by paying attention to diet and daily life, controlling one's emotions and Nourishing one's Spiritual Nature ( 養性 Yangxing ), preventing evil-doings and doing good deeds, and accumulating merit extensively, while practising Gymnastics ( 導引 Daoyin ) and Breath Dirigation ( 行氣 Xingqi ), and taking nourishing food and tonics. He attached great importance to medical ethics. He treated all patients alike, rescuing those at death's door no matter whether they were powerful or humble, rich or poor, old or young, beautiful or ugly, resentful relatives or kind friends, Chinese nationals or foreigners, fools or wise men. He declared that life was of the utmost importance and even one thousand pieces of gold couldn't suffice to buy it.
  4. He paid great attention to women's and child care and wrote the Prescriptions for Women ( 婦人方 Furen Fang ) in three volumes and the Prescriptions for Children ( 少小嬰孺方 Shaoxiao Yingru Fang ) and Infants in two volumes, which were taken to be the beginning of the Essential Prescriptions Worth a Thousand Pieces of Gold.