Medical culture

| 2018-05-28 | Hits:
(Chinese Social Sciences Today)

The Buddhist teaching of mercy and relieving the distressed, the Taoist teaching of doing good deeds, and, especially, the Confucian teaching of benevolence and virtue were crucial spiritual pillars of ancient doctors’ career of saving the patients.


xuánhú jìshì

Xuan means “to hang” while hu means “gourd” or “bottle.” Together, xuanhu means hanging a gourd [as the sign as of a pharmacy] which symbolizes practicing medicine. Jishi means “helping the people.” This idiom, taken literally, means helping the people by hanging a gourd.

According to the Book of Later Han, Fei Zhangfang was a village administrator. There was an old man selling medicine at the fair who hanged a gourd on the wall. After the fair was closed, he would jump and disappear into the gourd. Nobody but Fei noticed this bizarre phenomenon. Another day, Fei approached the old man respectfully, and the old man brought him into the gourd and showed him the world inside. For years, Fei learned from the old man arts of necromancy, astrology, medicine. Later, he became a well-known doctor who saved people with these skills.

This idiom later is used to compliment someone who chooses a career as pharmacist or doctor. This is also a motto commonly seen in a hospital or a doctor’s office.

xìng lín

Xing refers to apricot trees. Lin means “forest.” This phrase literally means an apricot forest.
There was an apricot forest in Lushan, Jiangxi Province. According to the Biographies of Immortals, Dong Feng was a Taoist doctor in the Three Kingdoms Period. He would not take money from those he cured. When a severely ill patient was cured, the patient was required to plant five apricot trees in the mountain where he lived, and a slightly ill patient, one. After 10 years, about 100,000 apricot trees had been planted. With the grains traded by the apricot fruits, he helped about 25,000 poor people every year.

This idiom now refers to Chinese medical circles. For example, a master of xinglin means an excellent doctor or medical scientist.


(edited by CHEN ALONG)