The Study of Medical Formulas


Presented here is a six juan Wanli edition of Yi fang kao (The study of medical formulas) by Wu Kun (1552‒1620). The inscription on juan 1 reads: “Written by Wu Kun of Shexian and read by his friend Huang Ji.” Wu Kun, also known as Shanfu and Hegao Shanren, a native of Shexian, Anhui, was a famous Ming physician, medical author, and theorist, and an avid bibliophile. His four main works were Su wen Wu zhu (Wu’s annotated translation of Huangdi’s Inner Canon: Basic questions), Mai yu (Study on pulse), Zhen fang liu ji (Six collections of acupuncture prescriptions), and this work. According to his preface, Wu Kun decided on a career in medicine at the age of 15. By the time this work was published he had spent 18 years in his profession. During his medical practice, he was grieved by the deficiency in physicians’ knowledge and by how little was known of current and ancient formulas. He collected and selected formulas on various specialties from ancient works and records, such as internal and external medicine, women’s and children’s health, and emotional ailments. He selected some 780 formulas and grouped them according to 24 categories of diseases. The inscription at the end of his preface reads: “Preface written by Wu Kun of Shexian in the first winter month of the 12th year [1584] of the Wanli reign of the Ming.” On the cover of this copy the inscription reads: “Edited and printed again by Guangqitang” (the publisher), an indication that the woodblocks were acquired and used by Guangqitang for the reprint. The owner of Guangqitang was Wang Fengxiang, who was active during the years of the Wanli and Tianqi reigns (1573‒1627). He arranged the formulas in 72 groups, based on the illnesses they were to treat: seven in juan 1; ten each in juan 2 and 3; 17 in juan 4; 20 in juan 5; and eight in juan 6. Each formula is followed by discussion of diagnosis, cause, onset, and process of an illness; various treatments of different schools; and famous formulas. Each formula is given a name, with information on its composition, functions, compatibility of medicines, methods of taking medicines, increasing or decreasing dosage, and so forth. These are detailed explanations and analyses. Only Juan 1 has the name of Huang Ji, who read the text. Juan 2‒6 list the names of the printers: Jiang Zhonggu, Fang Yuanzhen, Wang Yuede, Wang Shi, and Wu Zizhan. The text is clear and the writing is well arranged. This is a comprehensive and systematic compilation of prescriptions, which has had far-reaching influence. There were a number of different editions. The Library of Congress also has two other editions, one in eight juan and the other in 12 juan.

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醫方考 : 六卷

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6 juan, 6 volumes

Last updated: January 16, 2018