Ishinpō, the Japanese encyclopedia of Chinese medicine, was compiled by Japanese author Tanba Yasunori (912–95) in the Heian period. It is a collected work of quotations from more than 200 works on traditional Chinese medicine dating from the Sui and Tang dynasties (581–907), comprising about 10,000 items. It preserves a large amount of medical lore from books that have since been lost. It is also the earliest medical work existing in Japan. Originally in 30 juan, it was issued in 982 and presented to the Japanese emperor in 984. Tanba gathered material from Chinese medical works that included medical classics; sources on drugs and drug formulas, acupuncture, sex regimens, and dietary therapy; and Buddhist sutras, talisman drawings, and writings. The order and the arrangement of the materials collected differ from those of Chinese works, reflecting the differences between the two medical communities. After completing his work, Tanba presented a handwritten copy to the imperial court and another copy to the highest official, Fujiwara Michimichi. The latter copy was called the Uji edition. In 1154 a Japanese scholar added punctuation to the imperial copy by consulting the Uji edition. Afterwards the book was sequestered in the imperial collection and had very limited circulation. Most of the other copies outside of the imperial court were used by the later generations of the Tanba family, repeatedly copied through generations, or published under other titles. Another manuscript copy with incomplete volumes is held in the Nannaji Temple in Kyoto. In 1573, Shogun Tokugawa Iemitsu gave the 30-juan imperial copy to Nakarai Zuisaku, who made public 22 juan. In 1854, the first year of the Ansei era, the Tokugawa shogun ordered the Nakarai family to forward this treasure to Edo Medical Academy for revision and reproduction, so that the work finally was made known to the world. This is a handwritten draft copy from the Tanba family’s private collection, dated the third year of the Bunsei era (1856). It has 20 juan in nine portfolios. The preface was written by Izawa Nobusada of Fukui-han (also dated 1856). A postscript by Tanba Motozane, dated the third year of the Kansei era (1791), gives a brief description of the publication and its transmission in the country and characterizes Ishinpō as “the first classic of our country.”

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日本東京康氏傳鈔古寫本, Tokyo, Japan


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20 juan in 20 volumes


  • Manuscript copy

Last updated: January 3, 2018