The Medical Wisdom of Sun Simiao


Sun Simiao was a famous traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) doctor of the Sui and Tang dynasty (6th & 7th centuries, C.E.). He was called China's King of Medicine for his significant contributions to Chinese medicine, his insistence on the highest ethical standards in medicine, and his high level of clinical care and compassion to his patients.

Sun was one of the earliest advocates of what we today refer to as preventive care and wellness. Where possible, he advocated dietary modifications before attempting invasive medical procedures or medicines. In a 2013 article in the Journal of Chinese Medicine, Dr. Sabine Wilms noted that Sun emphasized two central concepts about therapeutic dietetics:

Treat Disease Before it Arises
Wilms quotes Sun as follows: “To be skilled at nurturing life is to treat disease before it arises” (zhi wei bing, Essential Prescriptions, Vol. 27). This advice is a thread that runs through much of the canon of traditional Chinese medicine, including the Huang Di Nei Jing (the Yellow Emperor’s Inner Classic of Medicine, generally dated by scholars to between the late Warring States period (475-221 BC) and the Han dynasty (206 BCE–220 CE). Wilms goes on to say that Sun advocated an approach that would, if followed by most of the population, greatly erode the market for supplements, conventional modern medical practice, and the medical loss ratios of large health insurers. Sun states: “...Even if you constantly ingest alchemical preparations but do not know the art of nurturing life, it will still be difficult to extend your lifespan. The way of nurturing life is to constantly strive for minor exertion but never become greatly fatigued and force what you cannot endure!” Essentially, Sun is advocating a life of health awareness, as well as moderation and prudence in one’s daily living.

The Healthy Ecosystem
The second concept that of holism, namely, that the body exists within, is part of, and itself represents an ecosystem. This ecosystem is dynamic – constantly changing. To the ancient Chinese (and, I suspect, other ancient societies), understanding the relationships and changes within the larger natural ecosystem held clues and insights into the workings and changes in our bodies. Dr. Wilms cites an example of this from a conversation between Huang Di (the Yellow Emperor) and his minister of health, Qi Bo, in the aforementioned Huang Di Nei Jing:

“A quote from the Baopuzi: The human body is just like a country. The chest and abdomen are like the imperial palace, the arrangement of the four limbs like the outskirts, the divisions of the bones and joints like the hundred offices.

The shen (spirit/s) is like the gentlemen, the blood like the servants, and the qi like the general population. Knowing how to treat the body, you hence know how to rule the country. By loving your people, you keep the country in peace. By cherishing your qi, you keep the body complete. When the population scatters, the country perishes. When the qi is used up, the body dies.”

It’s a good idea to take Sun’s advice seriously. He lived to be 101 years old! If you need some any help in sorting out the details about health awareness and/or assistance in formulating a plan about diet and lifestyle to “treat disease before it arises,” give HealthPoint a call at 952-767-4910. We can help.

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