Classical Medicine

  • Nathan Sivin
Part of the Archimedes book series (ARIM, volume 43)


The medicine of the classical physician was based on a integral understanding of the universe, society, and the human body. The long eleventh century marked an important transition in medical care. In certain reigns, the imperial government, responding to a series of epidemics and other needs, deeply involved itself in medicine. It collected ancient classics, edited, and printed them, to furnish a corpus on which education could be uniformly based. It founded a medical school to prepare the sons of elite families for therapeutic careers. It opened pharmacies to minimize inflation in the prices of drugs. It attempted to sponsor medical education and medical care in the provinces. The political infighting of the time limited the success of these initiatives. Classical therapy saw health as a dynamic balance of metabolic and circulatory processes adjusted to the body’s physical environment, and disease as the result of either inner imbalance or invasion by pathogens. The eleventh century was the first time in a millennium that doctors and other scholars were able to synthesize disparate earlier approaches to diagnosis and therapy. They enriched these methods with others adapted from popular, Buddhist, and Daoist health care. This chapter explains basic concepts and their application, and provides some examples of doctor-patient relationships and of the applications of doctrine in medical care.


Classical Physician Song Dynasty General Record Eleventh Century Cold Damage 
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  1. DZ = Volume number in Daozang Google Scholar
  2. ES = Ersishi shi 二十四史 of Zhonghua Shuju, 1959–1977.Google Scholar
  3. HY = text in Harvard-Yenching Concordance seriesGoogle Scholar
  4. j. = juan 卷 (chapter)Google Scholar
  5. RW = published by Renmin Weisheng Chubanshe 人民衛生出版社, BeijingGoogle Scholar
  6. S = Title number in Schipper 1975Google Scholar
  7. SQ = Siku quanshu 四庫全書Google Scholar
  8. SV = Schipper & Verellen 2004Google Scholar
  9. T = Taishō shinshū Daizōkyō 大正新修大藏經Google Scholar
  10. UP = University PressGoogle Scholar
  11. YZ = Yi tong zheng mai quan shu 醫統正脈全書Google Scholar
  12. ZD = Volume, item, juan, and page numbers in Zhonghua daozang 中华道藏Google Scholar
  13. ZS = published by Zhonghua shuju 中華書局, BeijingGoogle Scholar
  14. ZZ = Zhongyi zhenben congshu 中醫珍本叢書 ed.Google Scholar

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© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nathan Sivin
    • 1
  1. 1.University of PennsylvaniaPhiladelphiaUSA

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