New Edition with Supplemental Annotations of The Inner Canon of the Yellow Emperor. Su wen


The ancient medical text Huangdi nei jing (The inner canon of the Yellow Emperor) was already listed in Yi wen zhi (Treatise on literature) of Han shu (Book of Han), the classical Chinese history completed in 111 AD. It had two texts: Su wen (Basic questions) and Ling shu (Spiritual pivot), each in nine juan. Su wen deals with the theoretical foundation of Chinese medicine and its diagnostic methods, while Ling shu discusses acupuncture therapy in great detail. The title Huangdi nei jing often refers only to the more influential Su wen. In the course of centuries, some of the contents were lost, such as the seventh juan of Su wen. The work is structured as a dialogue, chiefly between the Yellow Emperor and Qibo, one of the imperial physicians. The nei jing introduces basic theories of traditional Chinese medicine, expounds on internal organs, and discusses main and collateral channels in the human body, causes of disease, pathology, diagnoses, maintenance of good health, and other topics. It propounds the theory that the universe is composed of various forces and principles, such as yin and yang, Qi, and the five elements (or phases). These forces can be rationally understood, and man can stay in balance or return to balance and health by understanding the laws of these natural forces. The Inner Canon was originally compiled during the Warring States period (475–221 BC). Later Su wen and Ling shu were issued separately. Most editions of Su wen were issued with annotations. One of the earliest editions was from the sixth century during the Six Dynasties period (220–589), which was annotated by Quan Yuanqi. In 762, during the Tang dynasty, Wang Bing rearranged and annotated The Inner Canon, based on Quan Yuanqi’s work, and made it into 24 juan from the original nine juan. By the 11th century, during the Song dynasty, the work was reissued by imperial order, supervised by physician Lin Yi, based on Wang Bing’s work. Later editions mostly used the revised Song version. This copy is a Yuan dynasty edition, in 12 juan, but the contents are mostly the same as the Song version. At the end of the work, there is a handwritten inscription by a Ming scholar, calling himself “the poor scholar of Qinshui.” This copy was previously in the private collection of the famous Qing dynasty bibliophile Zhang Xie (1753–1808) and his grandson Zhang Rongjing (born 1803).

Date Created

Subject Date

Publication Information

Gulin Shutang


Title in Original Language


Additional Subjects

Type of Item

Physical Description

12 juan, 6 volumes ; 20.4 x 12.3 centimeters


  • Only preface and table of contents are included in the WDL presentation.

Last updated: March 8, 2016