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Ge Hong

Ge Hong (284-354),was from Danyang County (now in Jiangsu Province) of the Jin Dynasty (265-420 ). His grandfather Ge Xi used to be a "Dahonglu" (a big official) of the Eastern Wu Kingdom in the period of the Three Kingdoms (220-265). His father Ge Ti used to be the satrap of Shaoling (now in Hunan Province) of the Western Jin Dynasty (265-316). When Ge Hong was 13 years old, his father passed away,and it was just in the period of "the Turmoil of the Eight Princes", so his family declined in a short time. As a child, Ge Hong was fond of reading and studied very hard. His family was so poor that he had no money to buy books, pens and ink, so he had to borrow books from others, and practice writing with a piece of charcoal on the ground.

When he was young, he was invited by Gu Mi, the satrap of Wuxing, to be a commander in his army, to quell the uprising of Shi Bing at that time. After defeating Shi Bing, Ge Hong resigned from office and went to Luoyang alone, to search for fantastic books in order to broaden his knowledge. Later on, at his invitation of his old friend Ji Han, the regional inspector in Guangzhou, he went to Guangzhou, and there he got acquainted with Bao Xuan, the satrap of Nanhai City. Bao Xuan had a good knowledge of medicines of and ways to keep healthy. He appreciated Ge Hong's talent very much, so he not only married her daughter to Ge Hong, but also taught all his knowledge to Ge Hong.

Ge Hong's interest lied in two aspects: alchemy and medicine. When he was old, he heard Jiaozhi (now Vietnam) produced cinnabar, which was the major raw material for alchemy. So he lodged a request to the court to go to Goulou County (now in the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region) neighboring Jiaozhi, to be a county magistrate there. The emperor thought Ge Hong's seniority and prestige were too high for the title of a county magistrate, so he did not agree. But Ge Hong repeatedly argued with him, saying he did not take being a higher official as a glory, but only because there was cinnabar in that place. Finally, the emperor approved. But as he passed the Luofu Mountain located in the east of Guangzhou Province, he saw the scene was so beautiful and charming: flying clouds around the main peak, and plenty of waterfalls and springs,and then decided to stay there. He did alchemy, practiced medicine and wrote books there until he died. Even now, at the "Seventh Paradise of Taoism" of the Luofu Mountain, there is still the relic of the "Place Where Ge Hong Did His Alchemy".

Ge Hong wrote Jinkui Yaofang (Golden Rare Prescriptions) in100 volumes. As it was too thick and heavy to carry, he chose the important ones from it and compiled another book, a 4-volume Zhouhou Beiji Fang (Prescriptions for Emergent Reference). All the medicines mentioned in the book are folk herbal medicines,both inexpensive and convenient,so the book was very popular among common people. Most of the emergencies in Prescriptions for Emergent Reference are acute infectious diseases in our modern term.

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