Authoritative Manual of Surgery


The compiler of Wai ke zheng zong (Authoritative manual of surgery) was Chen Shigong (1555−1636) of the Ming dynasty. The original edition was in four juan; some later editions were in 12 juan. One of the inscriptions on the cover page reads: “The work of ‘Authoritative Manual of Surgery,’ handed down in the family of Chen Ruoxu.” The other inscription reads: “Woodblocks of the Jinshengju.” The owner of the Jinshengju printing house was the Ming publisher Yu Yingqiu of Jianyang, Fujian. The preliminary juan has prefaces by Bai Zhengmeng, written in 1615, by Gu Maoxian and Fan Fengyi, written in 1617, and by the compiler. In his preface, Bai Zhengmeng explains the meaning of zheng zong (authoritative) used in the title. Gu Maoxian, who was sickly in childhood, was a patient of Chen, and thus had personal experience with the effectiveness of Chen’s treatments, which he mentions in his preface. Fan Fengyi praises Chen’s “magical touch, with mind and hand in accord.” Chen Shigong, courtesy name Yuren, style name Ruoxu, was a native of Chongchuan (part of present-day Nantong, Jiangsu). As with Gu Maoxian, his childhood illnesses inspired him to study medicine. As he notes in his preface, he was skilled in treating external ailments from his youth, explaining that “internal medicine makes one’s heart alive, while surgery is about the methods in the use of a knife.” Based on his experience of some 40 years of clinical practice, he emphasizes the combination of internal and external medicine needed to treat patients, and the importance of not relying solely on the use of knives and needles. He states: “I am only one of those who possess the techniques. Though I have been pursuing this profession for my entire life, my ability is still limited. Those who are doing good deeds are all better than I. So why should I not pass on widely what I have learned and not hide it?” On this basis, Chen Shigong gathered material on various external ailments, classified them into groups, linked them to his theories, added verse, and laid out methods in the work. Even fairly minor ailments, such as ringworm, are covered. Juan 1 describes a wide variety of sores, with general discussion of the causes, diagnoses, and treatments of external diseases. Juan 2 includes more than 100 common external ailments, beginning with the cause and pathology of the disease and its clinical symptoms, continuing with detailed treatments, and describing typical cases. In all, it lists 16 types of sores relating to the brain and 24 relating to the lung. Juan 3 begins with 25 types of abscess and ends with 38 types of sores relating to the bones. Juan 4 begins with 39 types of vaginal sores and ends with the ten essentials for a physician in 142 entries. The work contains more than 30 illustrations, depicting various locations and shapes of major sores. Lastly, it introduces the manufacture of various medicines. This traditional Chinese medical work on surgery is of significant value for study and research on theories of Chinese surgery, clinical practice, and traditional Chinese medicine. The prefaces, table of contents, and Juan 1 are shown here.

Last updated: April 14, 2016