A Daoist Work in Verse on Methods of Diagnosing and Treating Diseases through Viscera


Xuan men mai jue nei zhao tu (A Daoist work in verse on methods of diagnosing and treating diseases through viscera), in two juan, was attributed to Hua Tuo (circa 140–208), the late Eastern Han physician. Shown here is a facsimile of a very rare copy. The preface, written in 1668 by Wang Hu, claims that the work was originally held for generations in the imperial court and was rarely discussed or seen. During the Jiajing reign, in the 16th century, it was copied by Zhou Yuguo, an assistant in the Imperial Academy of Medicine; the copy was kept in his family and was not circulated. When Wang Hu acquired it from Zhou’s grandson Daozhou, the book was in bad condition and nearly illegible, so he reissued it. The original version was in four juan; two of them were written by other authors named Guo and Yu, and were excluded from this edition. The reissued work contained six chapters, in two juan, consisting of descriptions of each image of an organ; explanations of abnormal pulses; discussion of symptoms of diseases of the five viscera and other organs; discussion of the interactions of the viscera with each other and with the other organs; discussion of medicines for curing diseases in these yin and yang organs; and lastly a treatment of prognoses of death based on analysis of pulse manifestations and symptoms. The work also referenced two earlier works, one by Tang dynasty physician Yang Xuancao and another by Wu Jian, a Song dynasty judge who commissioned the painter Song Jing to draw illustrations for his work Ou Xifan wu zang tu (Illustrations of the five viscera of Ou Xifan). The latter work was compiled after an event during the Qingli era (1041‒48) of Northern Song when Ou Xifan, the rebel leader in Guangxi, and others were ambushed and killed by the army. Judge Wu Jian had autopsies carried out on 56 of the bodies, including Ou’s, and had the results recorded in drawings. The original drawings have long since scattered and been lost. The illustrations in this work presumably were forged and added later. This is a fragmented copy of the original work. Remaining from juan 1 are 11 illustrations, including those of the 12 meridians, the sea of yin meridians, the sea of yang meridians, the frontal and back views of the organs, the side view of the lung, the heart-energy, and the septum of the Sea of Qi. The position of Ming Men (the vital gate) was particularly emphasized in the drawing of the back view of the organs and that of the heart-energy. There is also a special drawing of the vital gate, another indication that this work was done after the Song and Yuan dynasties. Juan 2 retained chapter 3 on the five viscera and chapter 4 on the interactions between the viscera and other organs, with explanations of the interrelationships and effects among the meridians in each organ, and necessary acupuncture treatments for them. Chapter 5 on medicines contained 25 formulas for treating cold, fever, and weakness of the five viscera. It emphasized that the herbs must come from the right soil and be picked at the right time, that new and old herbs should be combined, and that herbs should be compounded in the correct way. The author concluded that a practitioner who followed these rules would be a good physician. One who also understood the yin and yang in a body and the Five Elements and was able to treat a patient based on the seriousness of the disease would be a good physician, both in diagnosis and in the use of medical herbs.


Author of Introduction, etc.

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Subject Date

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Wang Hu


Title in Original Language


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Physical Description

2 juan in 3 volumes

Last updated: May 31, 2017