Huang Di Nei Jing Su Wen: Nature, Knowledge, Imagery in an Ancient Chinese Medical Text

By Paul U. Unschuld | Go to book overview

I
Bibliographic History of the Su wen

1. SOME SCHOLARLY VIEWS ON THE ORIGIN OF THE SU WEN

The Huang Di nei jing su wen and the Huang Di nei jing ling shu form a textual corpus generally known as the Huang Di nei jing.1 Popular accounts of the history of Chinese medicine tend to locate the origin of this text in a distant past, several millennia B.C. Voices refuting authorship by the legendary Huang Di in prehistoric times have been heard in China for centuries, and to this day there is a discrepancy between views held by historians of Chinese medicine in and outside China, on the one hand, and by authors writing for the general public, on the other.

Zu Xi (1130–1200) and Cheng Hao {V (1032–1085), the two eminent philosophers of the Song era, identified the Su wen as a product of the Warring States period, the fifth through third centuries B.C. 2 The latter's contemporary, Sima Guang q(1019–1086), author of the important historical work Zi zhi tong jian $, stated: “If someone were to say that the Su wen were indeed a work written by Huang Di, this, I presume, would be inaccurate. … His name was adopted by medical people during the Zhou and Han eras to lend [his] weight [to their field].” 3

Lü Fu the fourteenth-century Yuan-era literary critic, noted, first, that the Su wen was compiled by several authors over a long period, and, second, that its contents were brought together, like those of the Li ji $, the “Book of Rites, ” by Han-era Confucian scholars who then transmitted the text together with the teachings of Confucius. 4

During the Ming dynasty, the famous literatus Hu Yinglin (1551– 1602) concluded: “The Su wen is also called Nei jing today. However, the [bibliographic] section in the [history of the] Sui [dynasty] (i.e., 581–618) only mentions a Su wen. The fact is, the fifty-five juan of Huang Di's Nei [jing] and Wai jing [recorded in the bibliographic section of the dynastic history of the

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