2. Sun Simiao's medical ethics and further contributions to medicine
Sun Simiao expressed his belief that medicine is an art of kindness. In his book Da Yi Jing Chen
(Sincerity and Devotion of Great Doctors), he wrote, "When a great doctor treats a patient, he must focus, calm down, and be free of desires and pursuits. He first needs to have a compassionate heart to devote himself to freeing the patients from the suffering of illnesses. If patients come for treatment, whether they are of high or low social status, rich or poor, elderly or young, beautiful or ugly, enemies or relatives, the Han race or other ethnic groups, intelligent or unintelligent, the doctor should treat them the same as if they were all dear..."
This short paragraph is a clear representation of Sun Simiao's noble character as a doctor.
He adopted a holistic approach to treating illnesses. He believed that by skillful nursing and recuperating successfully, one could be free of illnesses. As long as "a good doctor treats the illnesses with prescriptions and acupuncture, the patient's illness will be curable and disasters on the earth will be avoidable." He stressed medical ethics and treated all patients the same. As already stated above, he declared, "a human life is precious, and more valuable than one thousand liang of gold."
Sun Simiao also paid great attention to gynecology and pediatrics. He authored three volumes of Fu Ren Fang
(Gynecology) and two volumes of Shao Xiao Ying Ru Fang
(Pediatrics), which were placed as the starting volumes of Qian Jin Yao Fang
Qian Jin Yao Fang
is the earliest medical encyclopedia in China. It covers a broad range of categories – from basic medical theories to different clinical subjects, and from theories and methodologies to prescription formulas and drugs. The book covers materials from the classics in one segment, while another category includes the empirical formulas and prescriptions that were circulated among the populace. This book included the merits of different schools and was suitable for people of different educational backgrounds. It is popular even today. Much of the book's content still plays a guiding role, making it of great academic value. It is indeed a monumental asset for traditional Chinese medicine.
As already stated, Qian Jin Yao Fang
has made great contributions to the development of prescription formulas. By summarizing the clinical experiences from the era of Zhang Zhongjing (150 – 209 AD, a famous doctor in the Han Dynasty) to that of Sun Simiao and the achievements in prescription formulas over the previous several hundred years, it demonstrated Sun Simiao's profound medical knowledge and extraordinary medical skills. Future generations called Qian Jin Fang
(the two books of Qian Jin Yao Fang
and Qian Jin Yi Fang)
the ancestor of prescription formulas.
3. Sun Simiao’s academic achievements
Sun Simiao poured lots of effort into the research of pharmacology. From collection of medicinal ingredients to processing to understanding their capabilities, compatibility and clinical trials, Sun Simiao studied medical texts of past doctors, plus his own decades of experience, to compile the authoritative Qian Jin Yao Fang
and Qian Jin Yi Fang
Qian Jin Yao Fang
documented over 5000 prescriptions, diagnosis methods, symptoms and other medical theories. It covered numerous divisions of medical science including general medicine, general surgery, gynecology, pediatrics and others, as well as treatments such as detoxification, emergency aid, health, diet, acupuncture, massage, guidance and breathing. It was an excellent summary of the Chinese medical science up to the Tang Dynasty. Qian Jin Yi Fang
documented over 3000 prescriptions. It served as a necessary and beneficial supplement to the original book, with subjects including herbal medicine, gynecology, typhoid, pediatrics, nourishment, tonification, stroke, miscellaneous diseases, sores, pulse and acupuncture.
Sun Simiao valued preserving health and actively practiced it. Because he understood the art of cultivating health, he lived to over 100 and still enjoyed good vision and hearing when he was old. He combined ideas on the preservation of health from Confucianism and Taoism, as well as Buddhism from ancient India, with those of traditional Chinese medicine. He proposed many practical and effective ways to cultivate good health, which, even now, guide people's daily lives. For example: "One should keep a balanced mindset and not solely pursue recognition and self-interest; be constrained in food intake, and do not eat or drink too much; pay attention to the circulation of Qi and blood and do not be lazy and motionless; live a daily life with standard routines and do not violate the law of nature..."
Sun Simiao was also the first to invent a urethral catheter. According to historical records, one of his patients could not pass urine. Seeing that the patient was in extreme pain, Sun thought, "It is already too late to treat him with medicine. If there was a way to insert a tube into his urethra, the urine could perhaps flow out naturally." He saw a neighbor's child at play blowing on a scallion stem. The scallion stem was very thin, long, and soft. Sun decided to try such a tube. Having chosen a suitable scallion stem, he charred it gently, cut the sharp end off, and then carefully inserted it into the patient's urethra. He then blew into the tube once. As expected, the urine flowed out of the tube. The patient's bloated abdomen gradually became smaller, and the patient's illness was cured.
By cultivating mind and body with virtue, and by having both virtue and talent, Sun Simiao became a great figure whom common people and medical professionals in future generations highly respected.