Sun Simiao on Qualifications

Sun Simiao defines the ideal physician in his Qianjin Yaofang (Prescriptions worth One Thousand Pieces of Gold) as follows:


The one who desires to be an accomplished physician must necessarily have an in-depth knowledge of the Simple Questions (Suwen), the ABC of acupuncture (Zhenjiu jiayi jing), [1] the Canon of acupuncture of the Yellow Emperor (Huangdi zhenjing),[2] the circulation of energy according to the mingtang, [3] the twelve meridians, the three and nine locations of the pulse, the theories of the five viscera and six receptacles, the inner and outer relationship between the organs, the acupuncture points, the medical matters, the adequate combination of the remedies, the prescriptions and the writings of Zhang Zhongjing, [4] Wang Shuhe, [5] Ruan Henan, Fan Dongyang, Zhang Miao Jin Shao, and so forth.[6]  He or she must also understand in a subtle way the yin and the yang, destiny and fortune, the predictive methods of the various schools, the art of heating the turtle shells and to examine in them the five categories of cracks, the book of mutation of the Zhou, the hemorologic system liuren. [7]  Those are what must be well known to become an acceptable physician, and not a blind erring in the night, risking to fall or to encounter multiple dangers.


A good physician must also do an in-depth study of the prescriptions, to seek their marvelously principles, to think about them, and to do a careful analysis of them.  These are the necessary conditions for someone to engage in a dialogue on the medical art with him or her.  He must also seek all kinds of works.  Why?  Because he cannot know the path to equity and the virtue of humanity[8] without a reading of the Five Confucian Classics. [9]  Additionally he cannot known the events of the past and the present if he does not read the Three Histories.[10]


Likewise, he would not be able to have discernment if he does not read the various thinkers and does not analyze the events.  If he does not study the Neijing, he will not know the virtue of compassion, joy and gift.  If he does not study Laozi and Zhuangzi, he will not be able to follow the spontaneity of the true body, he will not be able to distinguish between good and bad, and the five phases will end up being in control.  he will also have to study in detail astronomy and the steps of the seven luminaries.  The one who can seriously study all this will apply the medical art without obstacle, with skills and excellence.[11]


[1] The Zhenjiu jiayi jing of Huangfu Mi (215-282) is the first writing focusing solely on acupuncture and moxibustion.  It draws heavely on the Spiritual Pivot (Lingshu) considered as the second part of the Inner Canon of the Yellow Emperor (Huandi Neijing).  His author was a high offer who wrote in addition several books on history and biographies.  The Jiayi Jing is the Manuel used to teach acupuncture under the Tang.  Starting in the 7th century, it was the basic medical textbook in Japan and Korea.

[2] Another title for the Lingshu.

[3] The mingtang was a ritual room where the emperor placed himself according to the calendrical divisions.

[4] Zhang Zhongjing (150-219) is the author of the Treatise of diseases caused by cold (Shang Han Lun), the most ancient treatise of medical prescriptions known to us.  It became one of the fundamental medical textbooks and has been commented hundreds of times.

[5] Wang Shuhe (3rd century) is the classical author on pulse diagnosis (Maijing).

[6] A Fan Dongyang fang in one hundred and five juan is cited in teh bibliographical catalogue of the history of the Sui ; it was already cited in the catalogue of the Liang in seventy-six juan, and the catalogue of the Jiu Tangshu cites it in one hundred seventy juan.  The author, whose biography remains in the Jinshu lived under the Western Jin (265-316).

Ruan Henan is also cited as the author of the Ruan Henan Yaofang in sixteen juan in the catalogue of the History of the Sui and was also cited in the catalogue of the Liang (302-557).  It is said in the Weizhi that “the Emperor Wu called Bing had for social name Shuwen and originated from Hunan.  He excelled in the medical art and wrote a compendium of prescriptions.”

There are no information on Zhang Miao et Jin Shao.

[7] The Liuren system is a mantic procedure consisting in coinciding the twelve monthly spirits on the Heaven plate.  For a given month, the same monthly spirits comes and the choice of the double hour depends on the time of the day during which the divination occurs.  See also M. Kalinowsld “Les instruments astro-calendériques des Han et la méthode Liu Ren” in BEFEO 1983, Volume LXXII p. 309-416.

[8] Equity (yi) and humanity virtue (ren) are two fundamental principles of the main Confucian virtues.

[9] The five Confucian canons are, the Book of Mutations (Yijing), the Canon of History (Shujing), the Book of Odes (Shijing), the Book of Rites (Liji), and the Spring and Autumn Annals (Chunqiu).

[10] The three Histories are the Historical Memories (Shiji), the History of the Han (Hanshu), and the History of the Posterior Han (Hou Hanshu).

[11] Qianjin fang, j. 1, P. 1.