Huang Di Nei Jing Su Wen by Unschuld
Nearly two decades ago Prof. Unschuld produced Medicine in China, A History of Ideas, giving us not only the first thorough intellectual history of Chinese medicine based on primary sources but also the conceptual foundation by which we understand Chinese medicine. His insight, the "medicine systematic correspondences," remains the most powerful construct by which the field is understood, historically, philosophically, and clinically.
Through his Nan Jing and his many other papers and texts he has continuously researched the most significant Chinese sources to draw an ever-clearer picture of how the Chinese have worked toward the univeral existential goal of a long, happy and healthy life. In his Huang Di Nei Jing Su Wen, Nature, Knowledge and Imagery in an Ancient Chinese Medical Text, Dr. Unschuld expands our view of traditional Chinese medical thinking further by providing an historically accurate and in-depth view of Chinese medical thought at one of its most seminal stages of devlopment.
By beginning from the extant fragments and literary references from the first century forward, Dr. Unschuld and his colleagues have been able to establish the best possible estimation of the Nei Jing contents, period by period, author by author. This foundation research shows us the Nei Jing in a light that has until now illuminated the text only for those few scholars who have had access to these ancient sources. By describing the earliest sources, the meaning of the title, and the history of the early Su Wen texts, Dr. Unschuld provides readers a with a clear view of the Nei Jing's place in the ongoing adaptation of traditional Chinese medical thought to the changing needs and understandings of Chinese thinkers. It is an exciting and detailed view of notions about life and health in critical transition from a world-view rooted in the numinous to the idea that there were observable and knowable natural laws to which humankind could conform, thus achieving health and longevity. We see the Nei Jing not as the static wisdom of an ancient sage, but as the foundation of a dynamic intellectual that has continuously evolved through the adaptations and insights of generations.
The main body of the text is a survey of the field's conceptual foundations: The Yin-Yang Doctrine, The Five-Agents Doctrine, The Body and Its Organs, Blood and Qi, The Vessels, Pathogenic Agents, Diseases, Examinations, Invasive Therapies, Subtance Therapies, and Heat Treatments. In each of these chapters the associated core concept is examined in relation to earlier texts such as the Mawangdui manuscripts, as well as to the Su Wen literature of various periods.
By organizing the text core concept by core concept, different veiws of the same idea within the known text emerge, attesting not only to likely multiplicities of authorship but also to the maleability of the concepts in their formative stages. For example, in the chapter on Qi and Blood, we see a three stage -- Spring, Summer, Winter -- seasonal progression of qi through the core organs in Su Wen 2. In Su Wen 16 there is a six-step progression over the course of a year, and in Su Wen 61 it is a five-fold division in line with the Five Agents Doctrine.
The text concludes with an Epilogue, Notes, and an extensive appendix on the Five Periods and Six Qi. In the Eiplogue Dr. Unschuld discusses the ground work for a comparitive anthropology of medical thinking. The book-length Appendix provides an explanation of the relationships between climate, natural phenomena, and human health and illness that are codified in the doctrine of five periods and six qi. This is the single most-detailed examination of a Chinese clinical concept yet in print. Like Nature, Knowledge and Imagry in an Ancient Chinese Medical Text itself, it provides a firm foundation for understanding the deepest roots of the living medicine.