The way doctors practiced their medicine back in ancient China was a complete dedication to the healing arts. Medicine became a part of a doctors existence and way of life. It was not just a mere representation of facts and figures and waiting for scientific evidence for it to progress. Nature was the doctors greatest teacher and understanding its laws was considered the greatest virtue.
There is a passage in a classical herbalist text book by the author Zhang Ji I would like to share with you in relation to his thoughts on preserving life, modern doctors and what medicine truly entails to become a competent practitioner.
"Everytime time I read the records related to Qin Yue-Ren visiting the kingdom of Guo, and treating patients and inspecting the complexion of the king in the kingdom of Qi, I am always deeply touched and highly praise his skill and talent. I do not understand why scholars of our age have not paid attention to medicine and proficiently studied the remedial arts to treat illness of emperors and parents above, then relieve the sufferings of the poor and the lowly below, and finally take care of one's health at the centre for preserving life.
They rather only vie for glory and power, eagerly seek help from influential officials, the rich and powerful families, and only crave fame and wealth diligently and anxiously. They revere and refine the non-essentials while neglecting the basics, which make the external splendid and the internal impoverished. If the skin is absent, where can the hair attach? When they are suddenly attacked by evil wind and suffer extraordinary illness, which means arrival of disaster, they are just terrified and shake. Under this circumstance, abandoning their aspiration and forfeiting their honor, they respectfully place hope on sorcerers. After being informed that all methods have been exhausted, they have to attribute their misfortune to fate, feel helpless and wait for death.
They leave their lifespan, which might be a hundred years, and their precious body with mediocre doctors, letting them do as they like. Oh, woe!! Their body has already died out and their spirits have been destroyed. They transmute into weird beings, which hide deep in the netherworld, weep and sob without avail. Oh, what pain! The whole society is stuporous and does not realise this. They do not cherish life. If they belittle life in this way, how can they love and understand others when they are promoted nor do they take good care of and get to know their body when they retire. Encountering illness and disaster, which puts their body in a distressed condition, they are still bewildered like wandering souls. What sorrows!
Scholars, who hurry off to common custom, pursue worthless glory and wealth and fail to secure the root i.e. the body! They scarify their life for power, fame and wealth. The consequences of such practice is actually so serious that the situation is very dangerous as if they are walking on thin ice and facing a deep valley."1
The body is the root and it is imperative that we take care of it. The somatic intelligence of the body is profound and it is not even taught to us at all. The great men who have taught us this, their work has been suppressed, they have been professionally assassinated or had smear campaigns written about them. Clearly they were onto something profound!
1. Liu G 2016 Discussion on cold damage (Shang Han Lun) Commentaries and Clinical Applications. Singing Dragon London and Philadelphia