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Discussing the Shang Han Lun: An Interview with Stephen Boyanton

Time to share this interview I did with Stephen Boyanton, who recently completed his PhD in the department of East Asian Languages and Cultures at Columbia University. Dr. Boyanton’s research focused on the Shāng Hán Lùn (傷寒論), one of the “classics” of Chinese medicine, which was written by Zhang Zhong-jing during the later part of the Han dynasty. You will find each part of the video below, along with descriptions of their content.

In this first segment of the interview, Dr. Boyanton details the sociopolitical factors that led to the rise of a new class of scholar-physicians in the Song dynasty. Proponents of this new literati medicine were especially fond of the Shang Han Lun, a collection of formulas from the later Han dynasty that developed a model of pattern differentiation based on the six channels.

In this part of the interview, Dr. Boyanton discusses the six stages, the influence of the Tang Ye Jing Fa on the Shang Han Lun, and general ideas about cold damage.

In this part of the interview, Dr. Boyanton discusses the variant editions of the text, issues of authenticity and authorship, and whether the text was part of a separate jing fang (“canonical formula”) tradition.

In this final segment of the interview, Dr. Boyanton discusses the distinction between the Shang Han Lun and other herbal formula texts that were popular prior to the Song dynasty (e.g. Sun Si-miao’s Prescriptions Worth a Thousand Gold Pieces and Ge Hong’s Prescriptions to Keep at Arm’s Length). In addition, he compares the Tang dynasty edition of the Shang Han Lun to the received version.

(c) 2015 Phil Garrison & Stephen Boyanton — All Rights Reserved*

*Please contact us if you would like to use these videos for educational purposes.

Categories: Uncategorized

Early Chinese Medicine: An Interview with Donald Harper


Here is a recent video interview I did with Professor Donald Harper, centennial professor of Chinese studies at the University of Chicago. Dr. Harper is a specialist in early Chinese medical manuscripts and the period of Chinese history from the Warring States to the Han dynasty.

Wu Shi'er Bing Fang

Photo of the Wu Shi’er Bing Fang (Prescriptions for 52 Ailments), found at Mawangdui (1973 CE).

The interview begins with a brief description of the history and context of the Mawangdui medical manuscripts that were unearthed in Hunan province in 1973. Dated to 168BCE, these manuscripts include some of the earliest extant material on 脉 mài (vessel) theory, 导引 dǎoyǐn (guiding and pulling) exercises, sexual cultivation techniques, herbal medicine, and longevity practices.

Using Mawangdui as a starting point, Dr. Harper shares his insights on early Chinese medicine and discusses some of the recent archaeological discoveries, including the tombs at Laoguanshan, which contain a number of texts believed to be the work of the legendary 扁鹊 Biǎn Què or his disciples.

Along the way, Harper describes the “open fluidity” of medical ideas found in these ancient texts, which predate the more ideological 黄帝 Huángdì literature, and defines several terms that appear in the early literature, including 神明 shénmíng (spirit illumination).

f04da2db112214b9641b36The interview concludes with Dr. Harper’s description of a small lacquer figure that was found at the Laoguanshan site. For the first time in English, Harper details how markings on the figure itself provide new clues into 五行 wǔ-xíng (five agent) theory and 脏腑 zàngfǔ (organ) theory!

© Dr. Phil Garrison and Ancient Chinese Medical Theory, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Dr. Phil Garrison and Ancient Chinese Medical Theory with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Categories: Uncategorized
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