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Table of Contents
Year : 2018  |  Volume : 1  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 71-73

A glimpse into Lu Xun and Chinese medicine

School of Basic Medical Sciences, Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Shanghai, China

Date of Web Publication9-Oct-2018

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Jin Ye
School of Basic Medical Sciences, Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Shanghai
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/CMAC.CMAC_26_18

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The criticism against Chinese medicine by Lu Xun at the early stage is often taken as a sharp weapon to attack Chinese medicine. However, through a horizontal and sequential analysis of the relevant material, it can be seen that Lu has experienced a process of learning, practicing, and objectively assessing Chinese medicine, which is closely related to the social background of the period, personal experience, and changes of thoughts.

Keywords: Assessment, Chinese medicine, Lu Xun (鲁迅)

How to cite this article:
Ye J. A glimpse into Lu Xun and Chinese medicine. Chin Med Cult 2018;1:71-3

How to cite this URL:
Ye J. A glimpse into Lu Xun and Chinese medicine. Chin Med Cult [serial online] 2018 [cited 2022 Jun 29];1:71-3. Available from: https://www.cmaconweb.org/text.asp?2018/1/2/71/242580

People who are against Chinese medicine always bring up Lu Xun to deny Chinese medicine. They often quote sentences from Lu that Chinese medicine doctors are no more than liars. There is no harm looking into Lu's understanding of Chinese medicine.

Lu's attitudes toward Chinese medicine can be divided into two phases.

  Strong Criticism and Research Application Top

Before the year 1926, the characters of Chinese medicine doctors in Lu's work were often depicted with sarcasm and hatred. He once said in the book Hu Ran Xiang Dao (《忽然想到》) that Chinese medicine doctors were no more than intentional or unintentional liars.[1] Looking back to the social background, Lu was a pioneer against the feudalism and determined to criticize old traditions. In 1925, Lu stated in the book Hu Ran Xiang Dao (《忽然想到》 that the urgent issues at the moment were to survive, to be full, and to develop. All the barriers that block the development—regardless of ancient or modern, human or ghosts, San Fen (《三坟》), Wu Dian (《五典》), gold or jade sculptures, and family-inherited pills or secret plaster—should be abandoned.[2] As part of traditional culture, Chinese medicine was no exception. Lu's father died as there were no treatment methods by Chinese medicine. Lu described in the book that he himself was made messy and the economic conditions of the family was slumped all of a sudden. All the miserable memories and heavy burden cannot fade away.[3] Lu also expressed his dissatisfaction to Chinese medicine in the book called Fen·Cong Hu Xu Shuo Dao Ya Chi (《坟 从胡须说到牙齿》, as it worsened his father's diseases and aroused his hatred toward Chinese medicine.[4] It was not unusual to witness the sarcasm in Lu's work.

Despite his criticism against Chinese medicine, Lu was still connected with Chinese medicine and was involved in its use and research. From Lu Xun Ri Ji (《鲁迅日记》 Lu Xun's Diary), Lu was applying the therapies of Chinese medicine to treat diseases. On November 10, 1912, Lu cured his stomach pain with ginger juice.[5] On November 23, Lu used ginger juice to treat his abdominal pain.[5] On January 22, 1961, Lu took Wu Jia Pi wine to treat his shoulder pain.[5]

From 1912 onward, medical records as such can be viewed in the diary, which were closely related with his health conditions. Xu Guangping recalled that Lu in his early 30s was in a poor health condition, and suffered from stomachache, dizziness, toothache, headache and fever, and cough. Take the year 1913, for an example, there were records of his illness in January, February, March, May, August, October, November, and December. It can be seen that Lu still sought for solutions in Chinese medicine and showed that he was not entirely against Chinese medicine.

Despite the sarcasm and criticism against Chinese medicine, Lu also read Chinese medical classics and conducted relevant research. Lu Xun's diary described that on September 12, 1914, Lu bought two volumes of the books Bei Ji Jiu Fang Fu Zhen Jiu Ze Ri (《备急灸方附针灸择日》 Acupuncture Therapies for Emergencies), which was used to treat acute diseases with acupuncture. On February 21, 1951, Lu bought eight volumes of Mao Shi Ji Gu Bian (《毛诗稽古编》), and four volumes of Mai Jing (《脉经》 Pulse Classics), which was the earliest monograph on pulses. On February 2, 1923, Lu bought two volumes of Ben Cao Yan Yi (《本草衍义》) by Jing Yuan, which was of the highest academic value of herbal medicine.[5] On February 26, 1923, Lu bought ten volumes of Chao Shi Zhu Bing Yuan Hou Lun (《巢氏诸病源候论》 Chao styled General Treatise on the Cause and Symptoms of Diseases), which was the earliest monograph describing pathogenesis and symptoms. On April 27, 1923, on the way to teaching, he bought two volumes of Tong Ren Shu Xue Zhen Jiu Tu Jing (《铜人腧穴针灸图经》 Illustrations of Acupuncture Chart of Bronze Figure), which was a precious reference of acupuncture. On August 2, 1927, he bought 22 volumes of medical monograph Liu Li Zhai Yi Shu (《六醴斋医书》). Besides going to the bookstore for many times, Lu also tried to fix his own medical books. As it was written in the diary on August 12, 1927, that Lu was fixing his Liu Li Zhai Yi Shu (《六醴斋医书》), and he finished fixing the book on August 17. Lu also shared his Chinese medical classics with his younger brother,[5] as it was written on July 19, 1915, that the four volumes of Mai Jing (《脉经》 Pulse Classics) were sent to his younger brother together with his supportive money for the family.[5]

As stated above, Lu has been involved in etiology, pulse studies, acupuncture, Chinese Compendium of Materia Medica, and it might worth a second thought that his purchase for the Chinese classics was not for criticism.

  Gradual Changes and Objective Assessment Top

After 1930, Lu's attitude toward Chinese medicine was objective rather than mere criticism. He even used Chinese medicine to treat his family and recommended the effective methods to his relatives.

During the 8 days between August 30 and September 6, 1930, Lu described in his diary that he went to the pharmacy called Ren Ji Tang to buy medicine for his son for 4 times.[5] Zhou Haiying mentioned the stories how Lu treated his diseases in the book Lu Xun Yu Wo Qi Shi Nian (《鲁迅与我七十年》 The 70 Years with Lu Xun). Lu used mint-flavored Anfu anti-inflammatory cream and mustard plaster to apply to the back to treat asthma. The mustard plaster was his flagship formula that helped him to breathe with an excellent efficacy.[6]

The article named Zhui Yi Xiao Hong (《追忆萧红》 The Memory of Xiao Hong) written by Xu Guangping once recorded how Xu used valpromide tablets to cure the leukorrheal diseases torturing her for months without telling Lu. It was said in the book that Lu's bias against the empirical Chinese medicine had disappeared, and the experience had been shared with his friends and proved to be effective, which had been told to Xiao.[7] Xu also recalled in the book Lue Tan Lu Xun Dui Zu Guo Wen Hua Yi Chan De Yi Er Shi (《略谈鲁迅对祖国文化遗产的一、二事》 Lu Xun's viewpoints on China's cultural heritage) that the herbal medicine prescriptions and the efficacies of Ben Cao Gang Mu (《本草纲目》 The Compendium of Materia Medica) were often referred to during the conversations between Lu and his brothers. Lu thought highly of the herbal prescriptions of the book Yan Fang Xin Bian (《验方新编》 Newly Revised Empirical Herbal Formula) and introduced the effective therapies to treat hernia to his friend's children. Lu once suffered from Herpes Zoster and was treated by a simple herb in the countryside. He also summarized the effective therapies and published them in the medical journal.[3] He often introduced the therapies of the local doctors of using some simple herbal medicine but with great efficacies, which has not been attached great importance to. He thought that it was a great pity that no one has conducted systematic research on the formula.[3]

As time and experience grew, Lu's understanding of Chinese medicine became more comprehensive and objective. He translated the book Yao Yong Zhi Wu (《药用植物》 The Medicinal Plant) in 1930 and had no bias against Chinese medicine and the local herbal formula. What worth mentioning was that the book Medicinal Plant was among Zhong Xue Sheng Zi Ran Yan Jiu Cong Shu (《中学生自然研究丛书》 The Series Book of Natural Sciences Research for High School) and targeted at teenagers for high school students. The translation of the book was a precious gift for the teenagers, which was directly related to the shift in attitude of Chinese medicine.[8] In 1933, Lu once said in Jing Yan (《经验》 Experience) that it occurred to him by reading The Compendium of Materia Medica that the experience inherited from the ancestors were extremely precious and would benefit the later generations. Simple as it is, it contained abundant treasure that accumulated through the experience of the use of medicine over long term. People should be aware of the fact that all the cultural relics were all made by the anonymous, including architecture, cooking, fishing, planting, and medicine.[9]

At the early stage, Lu did criticize Chinese medicine, but with a main focus on the shortcomings of Chinese medicine, and unethical behaviors of Chinese medicine doctors. There were two reasons for that, one was under the historical background of the new culture revolution, as a part of the Chinese culture, Chinese medicine was the main subject to blame. The other reason was that it cost Lu a great deal of fortune to save his father by Chinese medicine with no efficacy, which resulted in a very poor condition. It can be seen that Lu only criticized the wrongdoings of Chinese medicine. Lu's son Zhou Hai Ying also pointed out that Lu's comments on Chinese medicine was only based on his own personal experience instead of the general situation. What Lu resented were the incapable Chinese medicine doctors that he went through. It was unreasonable to quote Lu's words against Chinese medicine. Zhou also mentioned that his family has never turned down Chinese medicine and was always believed in Chinese medicine.[10] Lu gradually understood the true value and contribution of Chinese medicine as time and experience grew.

Translator: Kun Long (龙堃)

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Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

  References Top

Lu X. Selected Essays by Lu Xun Novels. Hu Bei: Hua Zhong University of Science and Technology Publisher; 2014. p. 2-30.  Back to cited text no. 1
Lu X. Selected Essays by Lu Xun Hua Gai. Beijing: Bei Xin Book Store; 1926. p. 43.  Back to cited text no. 2
Xu GP. The Memories of Lu Xun by Xu Guangping. Guangdong: Guangdong People's Publisher; 1979. p. 375-614.  Back to cited text no. 3
Lu X. Tomb·from Beard to Teeth. Beijing: People Literature Publisher; 1973. p. 205-7.  Back to cited text no. 4
Lu X. Selections of Lu Xun.·2nd ed., Vol. 11. Beijing: China Literature Publisher; 2005. p. 19-522.  Back to cited text no. 5
Zhou HY. The 70 Years Spent with Lu Xun. Hainan: South Sea Publisher; 2001. p. 24.  Back to cited text no. 6
Xu GP. Selected Essays by Xu Guangping.·Vol. 1. Jiangsu: Jiangsu Arts Publisher; 1998. p. 191.  Back to cited text no. 7
Li J. Lu Xun and the Translation of Medicinal Plant. Shanghai: China Modern Literature Research Publisher; 2011. p. 192-3.  Back to cited text no. 8
Lu X. Nan Qiang Bei Diao·Experience. Beijing: People Arts Publisher; 1973. p. 104.  Back to cited text no. 9
Chai Y, Ju F, Zhou HY. Unreasonable to quote from Lu Xun to go against Chinese medicine. China Chinese Medicine Paper; 2008.  Back to cited text no. 10


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