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Sun Simiao - A Taoist Who Compiled the World's First National Pharmacopoeia

Sun Simiao was one of the greatest medical experts in ancient China and was worshipped as the King of Medicine. At the same time, he was a celebrated Taoist, was even regarded as a God by later generations. There is the Hall for the King of Medicine in many Taoist temples. He had noble medical ethics, valued regimen and tried his best to relieve the afflictions of common people.

Sun Simiao, born in 581, was intelligent and fond of learning from his childhood. He got the name of the Holy Child when he was a little boy. When he became 20 years old, he mastered a good knowledge of the theories of Laozi, Zhuangzi and various schools of thought. When some emperors in the Sui and Tang dynasties (581-907) repeatedly appointed him to official positions, he always politely declined to assume office. He decided to study medicine and to be a doctor due to the suffering from chills in his childhood and the poverty of his family and the reason that he often saw many poor people die of diseases deplorably. He said, "Human life is of paramount importance, more precious than a thousand pieces of gold; to save it with one prescription is to show your great virtue." Therefore, he decided to master leechcraft and be a good doctor to treat diseases especially of those who could not afford to see a doctor.

Sun Simiao began to treat patients when he was young and mastered superb leechcraft, which gradually won fame for him. He served the poor wholeheartedly, did not accept treatment fee of those who could not afford to see a doctor and even delivered medicines to their doors. He also emptied some rooms for patients and decocted herbal medicines for them. No matter who asked him to treat diseases, he never declined and always hurried to relieve their pains.

After the establishment of the Tang Dynasty (618-907), Sun Simiao began to launch various medical activities at the invitation of the court. In 659, he compiled the world's first national pharmacopoeia Xinxiu Bencao (Newly Revised Materia Medica of the Tang Dynasty).

Sun Simiao also valued sanitation, exercise and disease prevention. He had been sickly as a child. However, because he paid much attention to exercise and sanitation, he grew to 101 years old, and therefore completed masterpieces in the history of medicines. He completed his first masterpiece of iatrology Qianjin Yaofang (Essential Prescriptions Worth a Thousand Pieces of Gold) at the age of 70, and his second masterpiece Qianjin Yifang (Additions to the Prescriptions Worth a Thousand Pieces of Gold) at the age of 100. The two books record more than 6,500 prescriptions, which have curative effects, being of great significance to the development of Chinese iatrology.

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