Anatomy of the Shang Han Lun: Part 1

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This is the first part of a two-part article on the Shang Han Lun (Discussion of Cold Damage). The title of this article, Anatomy of Shang Han Lun, has a dual meaning. On one hand, it implies the article is an effort to dissect the Shang Han Lun in order to look at its details; on the other, the author focuses on the six diseases of the Shang Han Lun (tai yang, shao yang, yang ming, tai yin, shao yin and jue yin) from an anatomical perspective, including the circulatory aspects of qi, blood and fluids. A central tenet of the article is that Zhang Zhong Jing’s six diseases can be understood from an empirical perspective according to their location and signature characteristics. Defining their location using anatomical references facilitates understanding of each disease in practical terms. Zhang Zhong Jing’s consistent descriptions of sweating, vomiting, draining and harmonising as treatment principles are a testament that the Shang Han Lun is a document based on ancient empirical medical observation and experience. Simply put, this approach involves medical intervention to relieve pathologic pressure built up in certain locations of the body due to impaired circulation of qi, blood and/or fluids. The Shang Han Lun reveals how the body’s reactions to cold and medical mistreatment contribute to such pathologic pressure and how to resolve it using herbal formulas. This first part of the article gives an overview of the Shang Han Lun terminology and concepts, while the second part presents a detailed analysis of the six diseases.

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Author Joon Hee Lee
JCM Issue JCM134
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