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Li Shizhen

March 3, 2005

Walking by the Fuhua Lu gate of the Shenzhen Hospital of Traditional Chinese Medicine, one sees this stately figure out front.

My informants tell me he is Li Shizhen, famous for writing a pharmacopoeia during the Ming Dynasty.  Here is a brief bio from purifymind.com:

Li Shizhen, (1518-1593 CE) was one of the greatest physician and pharmacologist of the Ming dynasty.  His major contribution to medicine was his forty-year work, which is found in his epic book Ben Cao Gang-mu (The Compendium of Materia Medica).  The text contains 1,900,000 Chinese characters and details more than 1,800 drugs, including 1,100 illustrations and 11,000 prescriptions, as well as record of 1,094 herbs, detailing their type, form, flavor, nature and application in treatment.  This book was one of the greatest contributions to the development of pharmacology both in China and throughout the world.  Materia Medica has been translated into many different languages and remains as the premier reference work for herbal medicine.

A longer article, entitled LI SHIZHEN: Scholar Worthy of Emulation, tells us:

Li Shizhen was a highly influential figure in Chinese medicine and the author of the revered text Bencao Gangmu (Great Compendium of Herbs).  The Bencao Gangmu is one of the most frequently mentioned books in the Chinese herbal tradition, rivaled only by the Shanghan Lun. Li Shizhen’s image is to be found at every traditional medical college in China and in any illustrated book about the history of Chinese medicine.  Li Shizhen was the subject of a 1956 Chinese movie about his life and accomplishments.  The modern kung-fu actor Jet Li described Li Shizhen as the person he most looks up to.  There is a Li Shizhen award given to doctors and researchers who make valuable contributions to traditional Chinese Medicine.  He is further given recognition in the labeling of herb products and there is even a Li Shizhen brand of herbs.  One can say that in the pantheon of the greatest scholars of traditional China, Li Shizhen is the last towering figure to be recognized and, by virtue of that position, the main scholar who has been worthy of emulation ever since.

The article continues with a detailed biography.

The statue of Li in front of my local hospital shows him holding a book (presumably the Bencao Gangmu) in his left hand, and a flower--perhaps something with healing power--in his right.  Next to him stands a crane, a standard symbol of longevity in China.  (I found nothing to tie Li Shizhen to any specific story of a crane.)

The statue can be seen on the south side of Fuhua Lu, in the block just west of Huaqiang Lu in the Futian District.

 

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