The Maishu and the Yinshu

[More 100 Days of Arts and Sciences, featuring “Manuscripts as sources in the history of Chinese Medicine,” by Unschuld and Zheng, in Medieval Chinese Medicine.]

Two medical manuscripts dating from the Han Dynasty were found in Zhangjiashan grave number 247, in Jiangling, Hubei province, i, n 1983. These are the Maishu (脈書, Book of the Mai [vessels/channels]) and the Yinshu (引書, Pulling Book).

The Maishu was composed no later than the middle of the 2nd century BCE (there was a surge in medical development at the end of the 3rd century BCE). The Maishu consists of 6 texts, which were named by Donald Harper as follows:

  1. Ailment List
  2. Eleven Vessels
  3. Five Signs of Death
  4. Care of the Body
  5. Six Constituents
  6. Vessels and Vapour

The content is a mix of pre-medical healing techniques and the foundations for medical practice. The same connection between human physiology and natural structures is present here, especially in the Six Constituents.

The Yinshu contains a three-part text regarding macrobiotic techniques intended to pull qi (vapor) in and through the body. This is accomplished via gymnastic exercises, seasonal regimens, daily hygiene, and sexual practices.

The Maishu and the Yinshu was originally published on The Eastern Gate

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