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Table of Contents
REVIEW ARTICLE
Year : 2021  |  Volume : 4  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 114-123

Research on Unearthed Traditional Chinese Medicine Documents


Ancient Chinese Medicine Literature Research Office, Institute of Science, Technology and Humanities, Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Shanghai 201203, China

Date of Submission17-Mar-2021
Date of Acceptance16-Apr-2021
Date of Web Publication30-Jun-2021

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Yuan Ding
Ancient Chinese Medicine Literature Research Office, Institute of Science, Technology and Humanities, Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Shanghai 201203
China
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


DOI: 10.4103/CMAC.CMAC_15_21

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How to cite this article:
Zhang BR, Yu YL, Zhang RQ, Ding Y. Research on Unearthed Traditional Chinese Medicine Documents. Chin Med Cult 2021;4:114-23

How to cite this URL:
Zhang BR, Yu YL, Zhang RQ, Ding Y. Research on Unearthed Traditional Chinese Medicine Documents. Chin Med Cult [serial online] 2021 [cited 2021 Jul 27];4:114-23. Available from: https://www.cmaconweb.org/text.asp?2021/4/2/114/320168




  Introduction Top


The study of history is often developed through new archaeological discoveries. Batches of unearthed documents have constantly renewed our knowledge and changed our view of ancient history. The study of unearthed medical documents is highly praised, not only because these materials fill in the gaps in the study of traditional Chinese medical documents, but also because the ways they are written and bound provide important authentic historical medical information and so play an irreplaceable role in reviewing the stages in the development of ancient Chinese medicine, in clarifying the course of its development, and in studying the medical conditions of ancient Chinese society.


  Progress in the Research on Unearthed Medical Documents Top


In reviewing the development of the research on unearthed medical documents over the past 100 years, it can be found that it experienced some ups and downs, with the continuous discovery of newly unearthed materials and the changing and developing of mainstream academic history. This research development can be divided into three stages according to excavation and research results.

Initial stage: Before the 1970s

The specialized study of unearthed medical documents emerged at the beginning of the 20th century. In 1914, Luo Zhenyu (罗振玉), a famous scholar, used the pictures sent by French Sinologist Edouard Chavannes for reference to record and check 11 wooden medical slips unearthed at the ruins of the Great Wall Beacon Tower at Dunhuang and 1 residual piece of medical paper unearthed at Puchanghai (i.e. Loulan), which were included in the Liu Sha Zhui Jian “Xiao Xue Shu Shu Fang Ji Shu Kao Shi” (《流沙坠简·小学术数方技书考释》Wood Slips Scattered in the Desert “Textual Research and Annotations of Chinese Dictionaries, Calendars, Divinations, Recipes, and Techniques Books”).[1] The next year, Mr. Luo used pictures provided by Takuji Ogawa for reference to compile fragments and photoprints of the Ben Cao Jing Ji Zhu (《本草经集注》Collective Commentaries on Classics of Materia Medica) unearthed at Dunhuang stone chamber into Ji Shi An Cong Shu: Di Yi Ji (《吉石盦丛书:第1集》A Series of Books Compiled and Printed by Luo Zhenyu: One).[2] These two events can be regarded as the starting point of the specialized study of unearthed medical documents.

Later, Japanese scholars such as Genji Kuroda (黑田源次), Kozo Watanabe (渡边幸三) and Nakao Manzo (中尾万三) yielded fruitful results in the study of Dunhuang Turpan medical literature, mainly focusing on the study of prescriptions and herbal literature. Most of the unearthed documents were excavated by foreign explorers and brought abroad at the beginning of the 20th century. Chinese scholars of the same period, due to the lack of research materials (most of the unearthed documents were excavated by foreign explorers and brought abroad at the beginning of the 20th century), were more likely to translate and introduce the research results of Japanese and other foreign scholars or make supplementary studies based on the results. It was not until the 1950s that Luo Fuyi (罗福颐) completed the Xi Chui Gu Fang Ji Shu Can Juan Hui Bian (《西陲古方技书残卷汇编》Compilation of the Fragments of Ancient Recipes and Techniques Books Unearthed at the Western Border) to make a centralized collection of wooden medical slips and paper manuscripts unearthed from Turpan Dunhuang and other places,[3] which motivated Chinese scholars to carry out specialized research on the unearthed medical documents. As for Japan, Sakae Miki (三木荣) did not make a comprehensive arrangement of unearthed medical documents until 1965.

The research on medical documents inscribed on oracle bones was first carried out by Chinese scholars. In 1943, Hu Houxuan (胡厚宣) completed the Yin Ren Ji Bing Kao (《殷人疾病考》Textual Research on Disease of Yin People),[4] which was the first academic paper on medical documents inscribed on oracle bones. Later, Yang Shuda (杨树达) and Chen Shihui (陈世辉) made supplements based on Mr. Hu's research. In 1951, Yan Yiping (严一萍) completed Yin Qi Zheng Yi (《殷契征毉》Medical Materials in Oracle Bone Inscriptions),[5] which was the first book on the research of medical documents inscribed on oracle bones.

Development stage: From the 1970s to the early 21st century

Beginning in the 1970s, research on unearthed medical documents developed rapidly and gradually blossomed.

Research on medical documents inscribed on oracle bones

In 1984, Hu Houxuan published the Lun Yin Ren Zhi Liao Ji Bing Zhi Fang Fa (《论殷人治疗疾病之方法》Discussion on the Treatments of Diseases by Yin People), which was a summary of newly discovered medical materials found in the process of editing the Jia Gu Wen He Ji (《甲骨文合集》Collection of Oracle Bone Inscriptions), and a supplement to the article the Textual Research on Disease of Yin People published in 1943.[6] Since that time, the research on medical documents inscribed on oracle bones has become systematic, paving the way for increasingly related research. Their research foci can be summarized as follows. First, following the research direction of Hu Houxuan et al., some collect and study the medical documents inscribed on oracle bones and do textual research. This research extends far beyond the names of diseases, to the traditional treatments and drugs. Second, some review the oracle bone inscriptions and classify them according to modern clinical subdivisions. Third, from the perspectives of diseases, treatments, and social history, some take the medical documents inscribed on oracle bones as the research material to study the physiological knowledge of the human body and treatment during the Yin-Shang period, generating significant research results in recent years.

Research on medical documents on bamboo (or wooden) slips and silk

A large number of medical documents on bamboo (or wooden) slips and silk were unearthed during this period, including wooden slips from Wuwei dating from the Han dynasty (1972), bamboo slips and silk from Mawangdui dating from the Han dynasty (1973) and bamboo slips from Zhangjiashan dating from the Han dynasty (1983-1984). In addition, there are also many medical documents on bamboo slips from Shuihudi dating from the Qin dynasty (1975), bamboo slips from Fuyang dating from the Han dynasty (1977), and bamboo slips from Zhoujiatai dating from the Qin dynasty (1993). Photos and annotations of unearthed medical documents have been published constantly, arousing great attention from academic circles at home and abroad. Various studies have been conducted on these medical documents, which have produced abundant results. Zhou Zuliang (周祖亮)'s appendix Bibliography of Medical Documents on Bamboo Slips and Silk in the book Jian Bo Yi Yao Wen Xian Jiao Shi (《简帛医药文献校释》Annotation of Medical Documents on Bamboo Slips and Silk) contains nearly 40 kinds of books and more than 760 kinds of academic papers and dissertations published before 2011.[7]

In 1975, the book Wu Wei Han Dai Yi Jian (《武威汉代医简》Medical Documents on Wooden Slips of the Han Dynasty in Wuwei) first published the photos, copies and annotations of 92 medical wooden slips.[8] In 1985, the book Ma Wang Dui Han Mu Bo Shu: Si (《马王堆汉墓帛书:肆》Silk Book of Han Dynasty Tombs in Mawangdui: Four) published photos and annotations of 14 kinds of medical books and one other kind of book.[9] Later, many scholars from China and abroad actively participated in the investigation, interpretation, reorganization, collation, and translation of medical books from Mawangdui. Their monographs include Zhou Yimou (周一谋) and Xiao Zuotao (萧佐桃)'s Ma Wang Dui Yi Shu Kao Zhu (《马王堆医书考注》Textual Research and Annotations of Mawangdui Medical Books) published in 1988,[10] Ma Jixing (马继兴)'s Ma Wang Dui Gu Yi Shu Kao Shi (《马王堆古医书考释》Textual Research and Annotations of Mawangdui Ancient Medical Books) published in 1992,[11] Wei Qipeng (魏启鹏) and Hu Xianghua (胡翔骅)'s Ma Wang Dui Han Mu Yi Shu Jiao Shi (《马王堆汉墓医书校释》Collation and Annotations of Mawangdui Medical Books on Han Tombs) published in 1992,[12] and Donnald J. Harper's Early Chinese Medical Literature: The Mawangdui Medical Manuscripts published in 1997.[13] In Japan, the Toho Shoten published a series of books on the translation and annotation of unearthed Mawangdui documents, including four medical books (three published in 2007–2015 and one unpublished). In 2001, the book Zhang Jia Shan Han Mu Zhu Jian: Er Si Qi Hao Mu (《张家山汉墓竹简:二四七号墓》Bamboo Slips of the Han Dynasty in Zhangjiashan: Tomb No. 247) first published the complete photos and annotations of the bamboo slips from Zhangjiashan dating from the Han dynasty, including 66 bamboo slips for the Mai Shu (《脉书》Book of Vesselas) and 112 bamboo slips for the Yin Shu (《引书》Book of Pulling).[14] Due to the technological limitations at that time, the photos taken were of poor quality and were often published later than the annotations. Furthermore, the documents were mainly on paper, so only a few researchers could obtain photos. For this reason, comparison studies utilizing the photos were relatively weak in this period. Also in this period, many medical researchers engaged in the study of annotations and focused on medical interpretation. However, due to the poor quality of the documents and the scholars' lack of knowledge of the ancient characters and their lack of awareness of the need for critical interpretation of the ancient texts, they made some mistakes, such as wrongly correcting interchangeable characters, misinterpreting, overinterpreting.

In addition, medical researchers started to study the medical documents on bamboo slips and silk from the medical point of view, exploring the unearthed documents independently and comparing these unearthed documents with the medical books handed down throughout ancient times. There were five main foci of their research. First, to make a detailed comparison between the two unearthed documents on ancient meridians and Ling Shu “Jing Mai” (《灵枢·经脉》Miraculous Pivot “The Conduit Vessels”), based on the name, number, order, direction, branch, related viscera, diseases, and treatment of the meridians, to find the relationship between these documents, to discuss the formation, development and evolution of the ancient meridian and collateral theory. Second, to study the name, function, indications, processing of medicinals, dosage, preparation forms, combinations, decoction method, and types of medicine and summarize their characteristics and values, to further discuss when different bamboo (or wooden) slips and silk books were written and to explore the origins of the recipes in the medical books handed down from ancient times. Third, to illustrate and summarize the theories, thoughts, and achievements of each branch of medicine in the bamboo (or wooden) slips and silk documents according to the clinical branches of modern medicine. Fourth, to explore the external treatment, acupuncture, massage, exorcistic incantation (祝由), and other unique treatment methods. Fifth, to study the contents, thoughts, and culture of life nurturing (养生) and sexual cultivation (房中) in the Mawangdui medical books.

Research on Dunhuang Turpan medical documents

The dispersed distribution of Dunhuang Turpan documents in China, Britain, France, Russia, Japan, and other countries has brought many difficulties for research. With the increasing exchanges between China and foreign countries, the photos of these documents have been progressively published, improving the research conditions. During this period, the teams engaged in medical research on Dunhuang Turpan documents have been gradually growing, and the research has entered a rapidly developing stage of systematic arrangement and comprehensive study, with more than 10 books and hundreds of academic papers published. The monographs are mostly collations and interpretations of Dunhuang Turpan medical documents. For example, the Dun Huang Gu Yi Ji Kao Shi (《敦煌古医籍考释》Textual Research and Annotations of Dunhuang Ancient Medical Books) published in 1988 and the Dun Huang Yi Yao Wen Xian Ji Jiao (《敦煌医药文献辑校》Collation of Dunhuang Medical Documents) published in 1998 by Ma Jixing are necessary reference books for Dunhuang medical document research.[15],[16] And Zhao Jianxiong (赵建雄)'s Dun Huang Yi Cui (《敦煌医粹》Dunhuang Medical Essence) published in 1988,[17] Cong Chunyu (丛春雨)'s Dun Huang Zhong Yi Yao Quan Shu (《敦煌中医药全书》Encyclopedia of Dunhuang Traditional Chinese Medicine) published in 1994 and the Dun Huang Zhong Yi Yao Jing Cui Fa Wei (《敦煌中医药精粹发微》Elucidation of Dunhuang Traditional Chinese Medicine) published in 2004 are other representative academic works.[18],[19] In addition, individual documents or a certain kind of documents are also used as a unit to sort out and annotate, such as Zhang Nong (张侬)'s Dun Huang Shi Ku Mi Fang Yu Jiu Jing Tu (《敦煌石窟秘方与灸经图》Secret Prescriptions and Moxibustion Sutra of the Dunhuang Caves) published in 1995,[20] Wang Shumin (王淑民)'s Dun Huang Shi Ku Mi Cang Yi Fang (《敦煌石窟秘藏医方》Secret Prescriptions of Dunhuang Cave) published in 1999,[21] and Chen Ming (陈明)'s Yin Du Fan Wen Yi Dian Yi Li Jing Hua Yan Jiu (《印度梵文医典医理精华研究》Research on Indian Sanskrit Medical Canon Siddhasāra) published in 2002.[22]

The large number of academic papers which emerged during this period can be roughly categorized into five types: first, research on an individual document's completion time, content attributes, patchwork, and explanation of difficult words; second, research analyzing, verifying or even carrying out experimental or clinical research on prescriptions, moxibustion, food therapy and other therapeutic methods; third, comparative research between unearthed materials and handed-down documents, and research on exchanges between and integration of different medical systems, such as traditional Chinese medicine and Indian medicine, Buddhist medicine, Tibetan medicine and Khotan; fourth, research on the cultural origins, philosophical bases and ideological connotations of the documents; fifth, research on other researchers' achievements and values in philology, medical history, traditional Chinese medicine and so on.

Research on Tangut medical documents

Tangut medical documents were excavated at the beginning of the last century, but research began to enter the scholars' field of vision during this period, for example, in 1972, a batch of Tangut documents was unearthed on Xiaxigou Mountain, in Wuwei County, Gansu Province, including a fragment of a medical prescription. According to the language, Tangut medical documents can be roughly divided into Tangut and Chinese. Due to the language barrier, the research on the Chinese part is better than the research on the Tangut part. The eighteenth “Medical and Mathematical Class” in Volume II of Li Yiyou (李逸友)'s Hei Cheng Chu Tu Wen Shu (《黑城出土文书》Unearthed Documents from Khara-Khoto) which included a total of 7 Tangut medical documents in Chinese was published in 1991.[23] Ma Jixing's article Reference for Ancient Medical Documents Unearthed in China and Currently Stored All over the World), published in 2002, edited a total of 6 documents from Khara-Khoto stored in the UK and 9 documents from Khara-Khoto stored in Russia.[24] Among the Tangut medical documents, the most influential were the three volumes of Qian Jin Fang (《千金方》 Prescriptions Worth a Thousand Gold), studied by Japanese scholar Kosoto Hiroshi (小曾户洋) and Chinese scholars Ma Jixing, Mao Yongjuan (毛永娟), Qiu Zhicheng (邱志诚), Wang Yaping (王雅平), and so forth. Research on Tangut medical documents in the Tangut language has not been fully carried out yet, although they are mentioned in some articles and works by Tangut experts, such as Shi Jinbo (史金波) and Nie Hongyin (聂鸿音).

Research on medical documents carved on stones

Research on unearthed medical documents carved on stones also started during this period, but only a few results were achieved, mainly on the prescriptions of some cliff carvings. Among them, the “Prescription Cave” in Longmen Grottoes in Luoyang, Henan Province, with more than 100 prescriptions engraved on the stone walls is a research hotspot. One of the representative monographs is Zhang Ruixian (张瑞贤)'s Long Men Yao Fang Shi Yi (《龙门药方释疑》Longmen Prescriptions for Clearing up Doubts) published in 1999.[25] The article Textual Research on Stone Carved Qi-tonifying Decoction in Guilin written by Shi Changyong (史常永) and published in 1996 discussed two kinds of medicine missing from the inscriptions of the stone carved qi-tonifying decoction on Nanxi Mountain in Guilin, Guangxi.[26]

Maturity stage: since the beginning of the 21st century

The wave of research on unearthed medical documents ebbed after its first upsurge in the 1990s, and rose again recently, as it is recently that scholars have learned important lessons from their predecessors and improved their research approaches. Some now focus on the comprehensive collection of documents and the deep and detailed study of characters, and some research is even completed by character experts. For example, in the study of medical documents inscribed on oracle bones, Peng Bangjiong (彭邦炯) wrote the book Jia Gu Wen Yi Xue Zi Liao Shi Wen Kao Bian Yu Yan Jiu (《甲骨文医学资料释文考辨与研究》Textual Research on Medical Materials in Oracle Bone Inscriptions) in 2008. Containing 864 rubbings of oracle bone inscriptions, it is by far the largest work on medical documents inscribed on oracle bones.[27] Despite its wide scope, some explanations need to be expanded upon and deserve further study. In terms of research on medical documents written on bamboo (or wooden) slips and silk, the research team from Fudan University led by Qiu Xigui (裘锡圭) reorganized the unearthed documents from Mawangdui. The book Chang Sha Ma Wang Dui Han Mu Jian Bo Ji Cheng (《长沙马王堆汉墓简帛集成》Collection of Bamboo Slips and Silk from Han Tombs in Mawangdui, Changsha) was published in 2014,[28] pushing the research a big step forward. In terms of research on Dunhuang Turpan medical documents, Chen Zengyue (陈增岳) completed hundreds of corrections in his Dun Huang Gu Yi Ji Jiao Zheng (《敦煌古医籍校正》Correction of Dunhuang Ancient Medical Books) in 2008 based on Ma Jixing's research results.[29]

The discovery of new materials, such as the study of medical documents on bamboo and wooden slips, is the main impetus pushing the research forward. In 2009, Peking University received a large number of bamboo slips dating from the Han dynasty from overseas, including 711 medical bamboo slips. In 2010, Peking University obtained a batch of bamboo and wooden slips dating from the Qin dynasty from overseas, including more than 80 bamboo slips of prescriptions. From 2012 to 2013, more than 920 medical bamboo slips were unearthed from Han Tomb No. 3 in Laoguanshan, Tianhui Town, Chengdu City, Sichuan Province. In 2015, more than 5000 bamboo slips and nearly 100 wooden tablets from the Western Han dynasty were unearthed from Liuhe Tomb, Haihun Hou in Nanchang, Jiangxi Province, including about 60 bamboo slips of sexual cultivation. From 2018 to 2019, Four hundred and fifty bamboo slips and 4 wooden tablets of prescriptions were unearthed from Tomb No. 12 at the cemetery of Hujia Caochang in Jingzhou City, Hubei Province. There are also many unearthed medical documents that are scattered. For example, in 2002, more than 38,000 wooden slips from the Qin dynasty were unearthed from Well No. 1, Liye Ancient City, Hunan Province, including a number of prescriptions. For another example, in 2008, Tsinghua University collected a batch of bamboo slips dating from the Warring States Period, including three prescriptions, which are the oldest medical bamboo slips in existence. The increasing number of unearthed medical documents on bamboo (or wooden) slips has attracted the attention of growing numbers of research teams, with more and more fruitful research results, and progressively more diversified research directions, and greater importance will be attached to the research value of these documents.

The new conditions and technical support were of vital importance in the breakthrough in the research on bamboo (or wooden) slips and silk documents in this period. For example, digital HD photography and infrared photography produce much clearer photos of bamboo (or wooden) slips and silk, enabling the identification of more characters, including mirror-inverted imprints, imprints that seeped from one side of the silk to another and imprints that could not be recognized before. Moreover, computer image processing software can reverse the mirror-inverted imprints, making it easier to interpret than before. In addition, for many medical documents (such as unearthed prescriptions) from the same source, the old and new documents can be collated with reference to each other. As a result, much has been achieved during this period.

The research results can be roughly classified into four types: first, the reorganization and review of previously published bamboo (or wooden) slips and silk based on the rephotographing of the photos (such as bamboo slips and silk in Mawangdui dating from the Han dynasty, wooden slips from Wuwei dating from the Han dynasty, wooden slips from Juyan dating from the Han dynasty, etc.); second, the republishing of photos and annotations of the bamboo and wooden slips that had been previously reported but not yet fully published (such as bamboo slips from Zhoujiatai dating from the Qin dynasty and new wooden slips from Juyan); third, the continuous publication of photos and annotations of the newly unearthed bamboo and wooden slips (such as wooden slips from Liye dating from the Qin dynasty, bamboo slips from Laoguan Mountain dating from the Han dynasty, etc.); fourth, the collection of various kinds of medical documents on bamboo (or wooden) slips and silk, such as the Jian Bo Yi Yao Wen Xian Jiao Shi (《简帛医药文献校释》Annotations of Medical Documents on Bamboo Slips and Silk) written by Zhou Zuliang (周祖亮) and Fang Yilin (方懿林) and published in 2014 and the Qin Han Jian Du Yi Fang Ji Zhu (《秦汉简牍医方集注》Variorum of Prescriptions on Bamboo Slips and Wooden Tablets of Qin and Han Dynasties) written by Zhang Lei (张雷) and published in 2018.[7],[30]

As for the research on Dunhuang Turpan medical documents, the cohesive international cooperation makes it possible to carry out document collation based on the collection site. The book E Luo Si Cang Dun Huang Yi Yao Wen Xian Shi Yao (《俄罗斯藏敦煌医药文献释要》Interpretation of the Dunhuang Medical Documents Stored in Russia) written by Li Yingcun (李应存), Li Jintian (李金田) and Shi Zhenggang (史正刚) and published in 2008 and the Ying Cang Dun Huang Yi Xue Wen Xian Tu Ying Yu Zhu Shu (《英藏敦煌医学文献图影与注疏》Images and Annotations of Dunhuang Medical Documents Stored in the UK) written by Wang Shumin and published in 2012 are the representatives in this field.[31],[32] The constantly improving construction of the International Dunhuang Project also provides convenience for scholars' research. For example, based on research of the latest color images, Yuan Renzhi (袁仁智) and Pan Wen (潘文)'s Dun Huang Yi Yao Wen Xian Zhen Ji Shi Lu (《敦煌医药文献真迹释录》Interpretation of the Authentic Dunhuang Medical Documents) published in 2015,[33] Wang Xingyi (王兴伊) and Duan Yishan (段逸山)'s Xin Jiang Chu Tu She Yi Wen Shu Zheng Li Yan Jiu (《新疆出土涉医文书整理研究》Collation of Medical Documents Unearthed in Xinjiang) published in 2016 and Shen Shunong (沈澍农)'s Dun Huang Tu Lu Fan Yi Yao Wen Xian Xin Ji Jiao (《敦煌吐鲁番医药文献新辑校》New Collation of Dunhuang Turpan Medical Documents) published in 2017 pushed the study of Dunhuang Turpan medical documents great steps forward.[34],[35] As for stone carved medical documents, the book Zhong Guo Shi Ke Yi Fang Jing Yao (《中国石刻医方精要》Essence of Chinese Stone Carving Prescriptions) compiled by Kang Xingjun (康兴军) and Wang Ni (王妮) and published in 2015 contains 24 pieces of stone carved inscriptions,[36] which is the first compilation of such inscriptions.

With the deepening of interdisciplinary research, the establishment of new academic directions has become the main research focus of unearthed medical documents. For example, in regards to the research on Tangut medical documents, Tangut expert Liang Songtao (梁松涛) selected medical documents as the research object, published the book Hei Shui Cheng Chu Tu Xi Xia Yi Yao Wen Xian Zheng Li Yu Yan Jiu (《黑水城出土西夏医药文献整理与研究》A Collating Research on Khara-Khoto Medical Literatures Collected) in 2015,[37] and became a leader in this field. There are also scholars who have studied unearthed medical documents from the perspective of history and culture and have achieved much, such as Liao Yuqun (廖育群)'s Chong Gou Qin Han Yi Xue Tu Xiang (《重构秦汉医学图像》Reconstruction of Medical Images of the Qin and Han Dynasties) published in 2012,[38] and Li Liangsong (李良松) and Liu Xuechun (刘学春)'s Jia Gu Wen Hua Yu Zhong Yi Xue (《甲骨文化与中医学》Oracle Bone Culture and Traditional Chinese Medicine) and Li Jintian and Dai Enlai (戴恩来)'s Dun Huang Wen Hua Yu Zhong Yi Xue (《敦煌文化与中医学》Dunhuang Culture and Traditional Chinese Medicine) published in 2017.[39],[40]


  Main Contents of Unearthed Medical Documents Top


Over the past 100 years, many scholars have devoted many years, even their lifetime, to this research on the unearthed medical documents summarized above. What is the “magic” of the unearthed medical documents and what are their main contents? What is the difference between them and the medical documents handed down throughout ancient times?

Unearthed medical documents are related to traditional Chinese medicine. They can be divided into six categories: inscriptions on oracle bones, medical documents on bamboo (or wooden) slips and silk, Dunhuang Turpan medical documents, Tangut medical documents, medical documents inscribed on stone and unearthed TCM relics. The main contents of each type are as follows.

Main contents of medical documents inscribed on oracle bones

Research on medical documents inscribed on oracle bones is mainly focused on medical terminology and vocabulary. Peng Bangjiong's Textual Research on Medical Materials in Oracle Bone Inscriptions classifies them into two categories: Fertility materials and disease materials.[27] Fertility materials include prayers for birth, the ability to give birth, no birth, birth, pregnancy, breast, etc., Disease materials include head and neck diseases, torso diseases, limb diseases and plague, as well as the diseases of kings, officials, scholars and women, praying and offering sacrifices to gods or ancestors for prevention or cure of diseases, etc..

Main contents of medical documents on bamboo (or wooden) slips and silk

Medical documents on bamboo (or wooden) slips and silk were mostly written in the Warring States Period and during the Qin and Han dynasties. These can be divided into five categories according to their content: medical classics, classical prescriptions, sexual cultivation, macrobiotic hygiene (神仙), and documents related to medicine. Medical classics can be divided into the following types: (1) meridian, such as the Zu Bi Shi Yi Mai Jiu Jing (《足臂十一脉灸经》Cauterization Canon of the Eleven Vessels of the Foot and Forearm) and the Yin Yang Shi Yi Mai Jiu Jing (《阴阳十一脉灸经》Cauterization Canon of the Eleven Yin and Yang Vessels) in Mawangdui silk books, the Book of Vesselas on bamboo slips from Zhangjiashan dating from the Han dynasty, the Shi Er Mai (《十二脉》Twelve Vessels) and the Bie Mai (《别脉》Other Vessels) on bamboo slips from Laoguanshan dating from the Han dynasty, etc.; (2) diagnostic method, such as the Mai Fa (《脉法》Methods of Pulse Diagnosis) in Mawangdui books, the Bi Xi Zhen Fa (《敝昔诊法》Bianque's Methods of Diagnosis), the Zhen Zhi Lun (《诊治论》Treatise on Diagnosis and Treatment), and the Ni Shun Wu Se Mai Cang Yan Jing Shen (《逆顺五色脉藏验精神》Normality and Abnormality of the Five Complexions and the Pulse and Viscera to Examine the Spirit) on bamboo slips from Laoguanshan dating from the Han dynasty, etc.; (3) symptoms of illness and death, such as the Yin Yang Mai Si Hou (《阴阳脉死候》Death Signs of the Yin and Yang Vessels) in Mawangdui silk books, the Zhu Bing Yi (《诸病一》All Diseases I) and Zhu Bing Er (《诸病二》All Diseases II) on bamboo slips from Laoguanshan dating from the Han dynasty, etc.; (4) treatment, such as the Ci Shu (《刺数》Acupuncture Principles) on bamboo slips from Laoguanshan dating from the Han dynasty.

Classical prescriptions include prescriptions and herbals. Complete classical prescriptions include the Wu Shi Er Bing Fang (《五十二病方》Prescriptions for Fifty-two Diseases) in Mawangdui silk books, the Zhi Bing Bai Fang (《治百病方》Prescriptions on Various Illnesses) on wooden slips from Wuwei dating from the Han dynasty, the Liu Shi Bing Fang (《六十病方》Sixty Prescriptions) on bamboo slips from Laoguanshan dating from the Han dynasty, the Yi Fang Jia (《医方甲》Medical Prescriptions A) and Yi Fang Yi (《医方乙》Medical Prescriptions B) on bamboo slips dating from the Han dynasty collected by Peking University. The scattered medical bamboo slips include bamboo slips dating from the Warring States Period collected by Tsinghua University, bamboo slips from Zhoujiatai dating from the Qin dynasty, wooden slips in Liye dating from the Qin dynasty, bamboo and wooden slips dating from the Qin dynasty collected by Peking University, wooden slips from Dunhuang dating from the Han dynasty, wooden slips from Juyan dating from the Han dynasty, etc.. Herbals only include the Wan Wu (《万物》Myriad Things) bamboo slips from Fuyang dating from the Han dynasty.

Sexual cultivation includes health maintenance, and birth and sexual healthcare, such as the Yang Sheng Fang (《养生方》Recipes for Life Nurturing), the Tai Chan Shu (《胎产书》Book of the Generation of the Fetus) and the Jia Yue Fang (《加约方》Recipes for Augmentation and Contraction) in Mawangdui silk books, the Shi Wen (《十问》Ten Questions), the He Yin Yang (《合阴阳》Conjoining Yin and Yang) and the Tian Xia Zhi Dao Tan (《天下至道谈》Discussion of Health and Sex) on bamboo slips from Mawangdui dating from the Han dynasty, as well as the sexual cultivation documents on bamboo slips from Haihun Hou's tomb dating from the Han dynasty (they have not been given a name yet).

There are mainly two kinds of texts on macrobiotic hygiene (Shenxian, 神仙): Guidance and abrosia. The former includes the Book of Pulling on bamboo slips from Zhangjiashan dating from the Han dynasty, the Dao Yin Tu (《导引图》Drawings of Guiding) in Mawangdui silk painting and the Xing Qi (《行气》Promoting Circulation of Qi) bamboo slips from Fuyang dating from the Han dynasty, while the latter includes the Qu Gu Shi Qi (《去谷食气》Eliminating Grain and Eating Vapor) in Mawangdui silk books.

Medicine related documents can be divided into bamboo slips that recorded divinations and sacrificial offerings dating from the Warring States Period, Ri Shu (《日书》Day Books), and administrative and legal documents.

Main contents of Dunhuang Turpan medical documents

Dunhuang Turpan medical documents can be divided into Dunhuang medical documents and Turpan medical documents. Dunhuang medical documents, unearthed from the cave for preserving Buddhist sutra, have been well preserved, with quite a few complete medical works from middle ancient times, such as the Zhang Zhong Jing Wu Zang Lun (《张仲景五藏论》Treatise on the Five Viscera by Zhang Zhongjing) and Ping Mai Lue Li (《平脉略例》Examples of Identifying Pulse Condition). Turpan medical documents have been mostly unearthed from beacon towers, cemeteries, and ruins of the old cities; they are usually found in small pieces due to the erosion of sand and wind. In addition, compared with Dunhuang medical documents, Turpan medical documents include more official and legal documents related to the medical system.

In general, Dunhuang and Turpan medical documents can be sorted into the following types: (1) Medical classics, such as the remaining volumes of the Su Wen “San Bu Jiu Hou Lun” (《素问·三部九候论》Plain Questions “Discourse on the Three sections and nine Indicators”), the Nan Jing (《难经》Classic of Difficult Issues) and the Jin Kui Yu Han Jing (《金匮玉函经》Classic of the Golden Chamber and Jade Sheath); (2) edical books on pulse-taking, such as the remaining volumes of the Mai Jing (《脉经》Pulse Classic), the Xuan Gan Mai Jing (《玄感脉经》Xuangan Pulse Classic) and the Qing Wu Zi Mai Jue (《青乌子脉诀》Qing Wuzi's Rhymes of Pulse); (3) herbal documents, such as the remaining volumes of the Collective Commentaries on Classics of Materia Medica, the Xin Xiu Ben Cao (《新修本草》Newly Revised Materia Medica) and the Shi Liao Ben Cao (《食疗本草》Materia Medica for Dietotherapy); (4) prescriptions, such as the Za Liao Bing Yao Fang (《杂疗病药方》Prescriptions for Various Cures) and Bei Ji Dan Yao Fang (《备急单验方》Experienced Prescriptions for Emergencies); (5) documents on acupuncture, such as the remaining volumes of Huang Di Ming Tang Jing (《黄帝明堂经》Huangdi's Classic of Acupuncture Points) and the Zhen Jiu Jia Yi Jing (《针灸甲乙经》A-B Classic of Acupuncture and Moxibustion); (6) Other documents also have medically related contents, such as Buddhist and Taoist documents, veterinary documents, Dunhuang frescoes, children's teaching books (蒙书), Chinese dictionaries (字书), poetry, Dunhuang popular literature (变文), annotated calendars (具注历), anthroposcopic books (相书), books of disease divination (发病书), and government and legal documents. In addition to the Chinese documents, Dunhuang Turpan medical documents also include a large number of documents in non-Chinese languages. Most of these are medical documents written in Sanskrit and ancient Uighur language, such as the important remaining volumes of the Bao Wei Er Xie Ben (《鲍威尔写本》Bower Manuscript) (Sanskrit), Yi Li Jing Hua (《医理精华》Siddhasāra) (Sanskrit, ancient Uighur language, Khotanese), Za Liao Bing Yi Liao Bai Fang (《杂病医疗百方》Hundreds of Prescriptions on Miscellaneous Diseases) (ancient Uighur language), Bai Yi Fang (《百医方》Hundreds of Prescriptions) (Kuchean). All of these are valuable materials for studying the medical exchanges among and integration of many countries and nationalities along the Silk Road in the middle ancient times.

Main contents of Tangut medical documents

Tangut medical documents include Chinese medical documents and Tangut medical documents. There are about 30 remaining volumes (pieces) of Chinese medical documents according to preliminary statistics. Block-printed medical books began to appear in the late Tangut period, such as the remaining volumes of the block-printed Prescriptions Worth a Thousand Pieces of Gold and Tai Ping Sheng Hui Fang (《太平圣惠方》Peaceful Holy Benevolent Prescriptions). Important manuscripts include the remaining pieces of Shang Han Lun (《伤寒论》Treatise on Cold Damage), Tai Ping Hui Min He Ji Ju Fang (《太平惠民和剂局方》Formulary of the Bureau of Taiping People's Welfare Pharmacy) and Cha Bing Zhi Nan (《察病指南》A Guide to Disease Diagnosis), as well as medical prescriptions such as the Yu Ci Zi Yuan Wan Fang (《御赐紫苑丸方》Aster Tataricus Pill Bestowed by the Emperor), Shen Xian Fang Lun (《神仙方论》Treatise on the Prescriptions of Macrobiotic Hygiene) and Tai Chan Fang (《胎产方》Prescriptions for the Generation of the Fetus).

Tangut medical documents, mostly translated from Chinese, include two types: prescriptions and acupuncture. The latter type includes the first and the fifty-first volumes of the Ming Tang Jiu Jing (《明堂灸经》Classic of Moxibustion), which Liang Songtao et al. believed were translated from Volume 100 of Peaceful Holy Benevolent Prescriptions.[37] In addition, Buddhist sutras, dictionaries, official documents and international market files unearthed in the Tangut period also contain some documents with medical contents and have been included in the research scope of Tangut medical documents by scholars.

Main contents of medical documents inscribed on stone

Stone carved medical documents have the same carrier as medical documents on epigraphic statues, buildings, and coins, and so belong to a single category. Stone carved documents are mostly prescriptions and epitaphs of doctors. The latter includes epitaphs of Xu Zhicai (徐之才) and the Xu family, Yang Shangshan (杨上善), Jiang Xiaozhang (蒋孝璋) and Duan Wenxuan (段文绚). In addition, there are some stone inscriptions, rubbings of stone inscriptions, epitaphs and so on that only exist in the handed-down documents, and some scholars have included them in the study of medical documents inscribed on stone.


  Main Scope of the Research on Unearthed Medical Documents Top


The unearthed medical documents are older and more complex in content than traditional Chinese medical documents handed down from ancient times and are considered unique research resources. Zhang Ruqing (张如青) summarized the characteristics of unearthed medical documents from five aspects: long time span, a large quantity of carriers, wide range of content, great academic value, and difficulty in reading and studying.[41] These characteristics greatly influence the scope of the research on the unearthed medical literature. The main scope of the research on the unearthed medical documents can be summarized as the following:

Research on characters

From the oracle bone inscriptions to the Tangut medical documents, the unearthed medical documents span more than 2000 years and retain the authentic, original appearance of their times. The study of characters is a nearly insurmountable barrier to interpretation for today's readers. The main content of the unearthed medical documents in the study of characters remains consistent proofreading, interpretation, exegesis and collation, as well as the identification and study of common characters, variant Chinese characters, and ancient and modern characters, which is formidable but basic research work.

Research on philology

There are only a few block-printed editions of unearthed medical documents, for most of the unearthed medical documents are manuscripts. As they provide direct evidence of the form and structure of ancient medical documents, the research on them requires more space to work and is faced with more challenges when compared to research on inscriptions on bone or stone. Such constituents as the scratches on the back of bamboo slips and ink dot symbols in medical bamboo documents, the forms of binding, cursive scripts, nonregular scripts and the original text in red and the explanatory notes in black (朱墨间写) in Dunhuang medical documents, are all of possibly great significance to the academic development of traditional Chinese medicine and worthy of further study. At present, research on this aspect is inadequate, requiring more scholars to conduct deeper research with reference to more diversified research methods such as the interdisciplinary approach to the study of manuscripts.

Research on medical theory

An important feature of the unearthed medical documents is the preservation of medical documents that until now have been lost to the world. For example, most medical books on bamboo slips and silk and several books in Dunhuang about pulse were found for the first time. And the medical theories on the documents are both related to and different from some of the contents in the medical documents that were handed down. The research on the unearthed documents not only can deepen the understanding of the handed-down medical documents and even solve some ancient mysteries, and it can also enrich the studies on traditional Chinese medical theory and promote the academic development of traditional Chinese medicine.

Research on medical history

Research on medical history includes the academic history of traditional Chinese medicine and the social history of medical treatment. For academic history research, unearthed medical documents can provide missing content to fill in the gaps in the handed-down documents in the spread of traditional Chinese medicine theories and works, and help to construct the framework and system of academic history. They are valuable reference materials for the research on medical social history, which makes it possible to study some medical systems and medical figures.

Research on medicine and social culture

The unearthed medical documents are an aspect of traditional Chinese medicine culture, and the medical and social cultural value carried by them is immeasurable. It is worthy of exploration and utilization no matter its ideology or materials. It is an area that scholars have focused on more in recent years, and many studies have already proved to be good research examples.

Of course, research on unearthed medical documents should not be limited to the aforementioned aspects, and previous scholars have provided more research possibilities. For example, research on medical documents unearthed in non-Chinese languages is also related to translation and international communication. Some scholars, such as Chen Ming (陈明) from Peking University, have organized the relevant materials from a global historical perspective and achieved fruitful research results, which are very worthy of referencing.

The above aspects of research fully reflect the significance and value of research on unearthed medical documents. Other summaries of the significance and value of research on unearthed medical documents carried out by scholars such as Ma Jixing, Cong Chunyu, Zhang Ruqing and Li Jintian in the past, such as exploring the source of ancient medical books, preserving lost medical documents and medical theories and rewriting the history of traditional Chinese medicine, are already included in the above aspects. Therefore, no other summary will be made here. It is believed that before the completion of the research on unearthed medical documents, it is impossible for any summary to fully summarize the significance and value of the research, and many contents cannot be explored and understood unless scholars make unremitting efforts in the future.


  Summary Top


It is not difficult to see from the above presentation that research on the unearthed medical documents is still a “developing” knowledge compared with other aspects of traditional Chinese medicine. Nevertheless, with the continuous excavation of new materials, the research on unearthed medical documents can be expected to become a bright star in the future. Although the Dunhuang Turpan and Tangut medical documents have recently received much negative attention from academics due to the limitation of materials, this proves the failure of some scholars to fully recognize the value of Dunhuang Turpan and Tangut medical documents, which indicates that the current research, far from having been completed, is not yet deep enough.

At the time of research, it is necessary to recognize the limitations of the unearthed medical documents themselves. For example, some are only representative of a restricted time and place, and cannot be considered representative of the entire history of Chinese medicine. In addition, it is necessary to avoid over-exaggeration of the value of the unearthed medical documents and be cautious about any adaptation of Chinese medicine theory or history.

As summarized above, the scope of the research on unearthed medical documents mainly includes five aspects: Character, philology, medical theory, medical history and medicine, and social culture. However, the previous research is quite uneven in its coverage of these five aspects. More scholars flock to research on medicine and social culture, which easily yield the result, while burdensome branches of study such as character and philology are rarely attempted. This imbalance is definitely not a favorable tendency. There are still many deficiencies or inappropriate research concepts and methods in the research on unearthed medical documents which need to be corrected. The research on unearthed medical documents is difficult and involves a wide range of knowledge, requiring the researchers to be great masters of rich knowledge, with the ability to use multidisciplinary research methods or to be involved in interdisciplinary cooperative research, to push the research forward, productively.

Funding

This study was financed by the grant from the Youth Fund Program of National Philosophy and Social Science Research of China (No. 17CTQ014).

Authors' contributions

Ru-Qing Zhang designed the manuscript frame and architecture. Ye-Li Yu and Yuan Ding were responsible for data collection. Ben-Rui Zhang participated in data analysis. All authors contributed to the discussion of the data and of the manuscript.

Ethical approval

The authors have no ethical conflicts to disclose.

Conflicts of interest

None.



 
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