Imperial physicians serving the emperor and his families were selected from all parts of China. They had excellent medical skills, representing the highest level of medicine in their hometowns. Some of them were full-time imperial physicians, and only served the emperor and his family. They were under the management of the Imperial Medical Institution or related organs. Some were folk physicians, but they were often called in because of their high skills. Since the imperial patients were not common people, sometimes the imperial physicians dared not to tell the truth of a disease, and they were cautious to an extreme when they gave prescriptions. Nevertheless, they represented the highest medical level at that time.
Before the Qin and Han Dynasties (before 220 B.C.)
There was an imperial physician named He, who lived in the Spring and Autumn Period (770-476B.C.), once when he treated an emperor of the Jin State, he pointed that the climatic conditions in excess, improper diet and life style all may cause diseases. According to his examination, the emperor`s disease was triggered by excessive sexual activities, leading to extreme consumption of qi and essence. His advice for the emperor was to have moderate sexual life. This is the very early case record about sexual activity in Chinese medical history.
Bian Que (in the 5th century B.C.), a celebrated folk practitioner in the Spring and Autumn Period (770-476 B.C.), was called many times by the imperial family. He saved and cured numerous patients and earned respect and good reputation, for which other physicians were jealous of him. Accompanied by his pupils he went to practice medicine in the Qin State when he was 90 years old. It happened that Emperor Wu of the Qin State suffered from head problem with dizziness, headache and tinnitus, which made him have no peace of mind day and night. The emperor would like to have Bian Que for help. He told his imperial physician Li to call in Bian Que. Unfortunately Li was not a good physician as Bian Que, so he set up obstacles in every possible way to stand in the way of the meeting. Finally Bian Que was assassinated by him. A great physician died in the hands of his colleague.