Ancient China


Ancient China- Medical Doctors

Authentic Chinese medical practices have been around for more than two thousand five hundred years. It has been said that the actual medical practices evolved thanks to the publication of Canon of Medicine. This book is the most ancient medical text book known in China. It is a greatly respected medical book that is considered to be a Chinese literary classic.

Medical books were very difficult to understand in ancient China. They were difficult to understand because the actual text was written in a language that was only understood by people of educated backgrounds. To become a medical doctor an individual had to read various different books. These books were related to politics, history and ethics. The purpose of these readings was to develop a person’s self-character. Thanks to these readings medical doctors were smart and familiar with a great amount of topics.

Chinese medicine was considered an art form that was only open to people who wanted to help others. To achieve the position of medical doctor in ancient China, people had to have high standards of respect towards patients. Without these skills a doctor was expected to be dishonest with patients, and irresponsible with their appropriate care.

To determine who was cut out for becoming a medical doctor there were important associations between the teacher and student. The teacher being a medical doctor would focus on the student, and see if that individual was acceptable in entering into the art of medicine. If the mentor would find the student negative, and inacceptable then he had the right to forbid the student from practicing medicine. Thanks to this practice the Chinese policy which is still used today was formed. This being: no ethical credentials and no medical practice results in not practicing the field. 

Re-print of the Chinese medical classic Cannon of Medicine

PENG, RICONG. “How Professional Values are Developed and Applied in Medical Practice in China.” The Hastings Center Report July 2000: S23. Gale Opposing Viewpoints in Context. Web. 26 Nov. 2010.



Ancient China- Medical Doctor’s Practice

In ancient China a moral code was set regarding conduct in medicine. There were people who pretended to be medical doctors, and treated patients wrongfully. These individuals would face punishment for their terrible actions. In the Code of Hammurabi medical doctors that committed offenses would face significant punishment.

To make sure that one’s reputation was positive, medical doctors formed rules of behavior. These rules focused on finding cures, and diagnosing the patient before it was too late. These rules of behavior later turned out to be the bases of medicine. These guidelines are what set a part the good doctors from the fake doctors.

Doctors were rewarded, and paid yearly for their efforts in medicine. If the doctors cured one hundred percent of the patients then, they would receive the maximum amount of money from the government. If they cured eighty percent of the patients, then they would receive the second highest amount and so on.  It was seen as degrading to have a patient pay a doctor with money; thus, patients would give awards or something similar to today’s recommendations.

Physicians during this time did not have offices or one exact area where they treated patients. So, these individuals traveled to their patient’s houses, and treated them accordingly. Their job involved them to attend one house call to another. This is very different from today’s society where doctors have their own offices in hospitals or medical facilities. 


Image of an ancient medical doctor in China. His name was Qin and he supported and believed in treating patients with moral standards/respect.

CHENG, ZHIFAN, and DAQING ZHANG. “Medicine Is a Humane Art.” The Hastings Center Report July 2000: S8. Gale Opposing Viewpoints in Context. Web. 26 Nov. 2010.



Ancient China- Treatments Using Plants

Treatments which were used in ancient China included the use of plants and herbs. Doctors would use the appropriate plants, and herbs based on symptoms of patients. Vegetation was not the only item used to treat patients, but so were tonics. Tonics or as the Chinese people would call poison, would help the person get rid of pain, and even as some believed evil spirits.

One traditional plant that was used for the purpose of medicine was called Ma Haung. This plant produces ephedrine, which had been used by the Chinese since the beginning of their medical practices. Ephedrine is a white crystal like substance that is primarily used for the treatment of asthma, hay fever and colds. With this ingredient in their possession they were significantly advanced for their time.

Ephedrine grew low to the ground and resembled somewhat to a dessert bush. This plant was cut, and dried out on the sun. Then, people would take a certain amount of the dried plant as directed by the doctor, and boil it in water. After about twenty minutes the liquid would be consumed. The patient would be advised to drink this liquid every couple hours throughout the day. Today, Ephedrine is used in the pharmaceutical world thanks to ancient China. Its primary use is still for asthma, although it is used to treat low blood pressure now. It is even used today as an ingredient to expand the pupils by eye doctors.

Overall, Chinese medical doctors formed great techniques in how to treat patients. They understood that all patients deserved respect and suitable care. Currently, doctors are taught to have the same relationships with their patients as ancient Chinese physicians had with theirs. In conclusion, the bases of today’s modern medical world could be traced back to ancient China and that is truly remarkable. Without the knowledge and teachings of the past, today’s modern medicine would not be in existence.


Ephedrine Plant

“Western Medicine Re-Discovers the Ancient Chinese Herb Ma Huang.” Science and Its Times. Ed. Neil Schlager and Josh Lauer. Vol. 6. Detroit: Gale, 2001. Gale World History in Context. Web. 26. Nov. 2010.


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