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 >> Culture and History >> The History of TCM
Remote Antiquity, Xia, Shang, and Zhou Dynasties (1.7 million years ago~771 B.C.)

Human Life and Medicine

Medical knowledge is an understanding of disease and the process of treatment.  It is closely related to people’s social practice and struggle against diseases.  To seek survival, ancient people searched for clothing and shelter, and all of these are considered part of basic health care.

Shelter and Clothing
People did not know how to build houses in the early stage of the primitive society.  Caves or trees were their only shelters, where they could keep away from cold and wind, and attacks of wild beasts.  Along with the development of human society, people began to build sheds and huts, which had great impact on human health care.
On the other hand, with life experience people had learned how to use natural materials such as bark, animal skins and feathers to keep warm.  On the basis of that, spinning and weaving crafts were created.  According to research, man began to use primitive looms about 7000 years ago.  Our ancestors first did not have a stitch on, and then learned how to make clothes with different materials for them.  This is another significant progress of health care.  The fact of wearing clothes improved people’s living condition and they could adapt themselves to changes in weather.
Use of Fire
The discovery of fire ought to be mentioned in any medical history.  At first our ancestors only made use of wild fire, which were brought to caves where the cinders were preserved.  Then they learned how to make fire by friction, which is verified by the traces of ape-man's activities about 200,000~500,000 years ago, found in Zhoukoudian, Beijing and other places in China.  Primitive man's use of fire played an important role in protecting his health.  Fire changed people's eating habit, introducing cooked food to their diet.  The number and kinds of food consumed increased.  Food was also disinfected and the time needed for the digestive progress was shortened.  As a result, incidents of diseases decreased, health was promoted, and people lived a longer life.
Use of Fire
Daoyin is an exercise that combines body movement and natural breathing.  When ancient people set out on a hunting expedition or returned from a rewarding trip, they would spontaneously jump about at celebration ceremonies.  In the course of time, they gradually noticed that such activities could subside swellings, relieve pains, relax the muscles, and strengthen the bones.  From these activities grew the ancient Chinese health care method known as Daoyin.  Daoyin has close relationships with later therapeutic methods such as moxibustion, massage, and physical exercise therapy.  The appearance of Daoyin appended the contents of medical health care.
Discovery of Medicinal Substances
Use of Animal and Mineral Medication
Use of Herbal Medicine
The origin of Chinese medicinal substances could date back to early human life.  In the primitive societies, people, while seeking food, inevitably would ingest poisonous substances causing toxic reactions (such as vomiting, coma or even death).  But some foods helped relieve disorders, or cure diseases.  A legend goes that "Shen Nong tasted one hundred herbs … experienced 70 kinds of poisonous herbs in one day", which vividly summarizes the early appearance of medicinal substances.  Early pharmacotherapy appeared after repeated practice and constant summarization.  For example, some plants caused diarrhea, some relieved pain, fever, and some induced sweating.  These plants turned into remedies when used purposefully to treat diseases.
Paeoniae Radix (Sháo Yào)
The discovery of animal and mineral medication was similar to the herbal substances.  After the rise of animal husbandry, primitive people ate more and more meat and offal, and thus gradually came to know medicines derived from animals.  They eventually discovered the therapeutic effects of animal fat, blood, bone marrow and offal in treating diseases.  On the other hand, the development of metallurgical skills in the metallurgical age made it possible for man to learn about mineral drugs.


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