Treatise on Spleen and Stomach


Bi wei lun (Treatise on spleen and stomach) is a work by Li Gao of the Jin dynasty (1115‒1234). Li Gao (1180‒1251), courtesy name Mingzhi, style name Dongyuan, later also known as Dongyuan Laoren, was born in Zhending. He was one of the four great masters of clinical medicine of the Jin and Yuan dynasties and the founder of the school of medicine known as “Invigorating the Earth.” He was a student of Zhang Yuansu (1151‒1234), one of the most influential traditional Chinese physicians. From 1232, during the Mongols’ first siege of Kaifeng, until his return home in 1244, he lived in Dongping to avoid the turmoil caused by the war between the Mongols and the Jurchens. He noted that during that time many people fell ill and died, mostly because of irregular eating and drinking, or anxieties and exhaustion, as their stomachs and spleens became deficient and weak. So he wrote Nei wai shang bian huo lun (Treatise on clarifying the confusions between internal and external damages), in three juan, as well as this work, also in three juan, completed in the ninth year (1249) of the Chunyou era of the Southern Song dynasty. It follows the principles of Nei jing (The inner canon of the Yellow Emperor), an ancient Chinese medical text. Juan 1 introduces the main points of Li Gao’s medical principles for treating stomach and spleen diseases, such as the transformations of depletion and repletion of the stomach and spleen and regulating the overabundant yin and deficient yang in these organs. Included in juan 1 are a number of prescriptions, such as decoction (boiling down medicines to concentrate them) for activating qi (vital energy) and raising yang, and explanations of various treatments. Juan 2 contains clinical cases of treatments of spleen and stomach diseases, with further explanations of the decline and rise of qi, and the internal damage symptoms of heat syndrome caused by improper diet, overexertion, and fatigue. It explains the main treatments and application of the decoction for invigorating spleen and replenishing qi and the decoction for regulating and nourishing qi and other supplements for the stomach and spleen, as well as their applications and compatibility. Juan 3 discusses the close relationship between the stomach and spleen, heaven and earth, yin and yang, and the herbal medicine of meridian tropism of stomach and spleen, and proposes treatment methods in response to the symptoms. The author emphasizes that the deficiency of the stomach is related to other organs and orifices, proposes formulas for curing spleen damage caused by eating and drinking, and discusses related treatments. In each of his essays he first makes references to the original text of Nei jing, and follows with his own views. Luo Tianyi (1220‒90), who studied with Li Gao, wrote the postscript, dated 1276, according to which, although there had been various works on internal damage of spleen and stomach, none had been very detailed. It was his master Li Dongyuan who filled the gap with his two works. This copy is a Ming edition printed in Jianyang, and is a much-treasured work in the National Central Library. The table of contents, juan 1, and one illustration are presented here.

Last updated: May 31, 2017