AUTHOR AND BACKGROUND OF SHANG HAN LUN
Updated: Feb 12
The Shang Han Lun was written at the beginning of the third century (200 AD - 210 AD). This era marks the collapse of the Han Dynasty. Another important event that this period marks is the expansion of the medical technology of China. It was so advanced that Zhang Zhong Jing and Hua Tuo's contemporaries could perform open skull surgery. Some scholars believe that Hua Tuo was Persian or Indian, and he migrated to China and brought along the art of surgery. But the authenticity of that claim is dubious. During Zhang Zhong Jing's era, the Han dynasty was approaching its end, and China entered into civil war. The constant conflict led to the spread of contagious diseases, and the strike of famine made things worse. The consequences were deadly!
The preface of Shang Han Lun says that within ten years of this chaos, 70% family clan of Zhang Zhong Jing (over 200 people) perished. This catastrophe inspired Zhang Zhong Jing to take up the art of medicine. All his life, he had only one goal; to fight against the pandemic and defeat these harmful diseases. He learned medicine from his teacher Zhan Bo Zu. He read many books related to medical science and did a rigorous study on real-time medical conditions. He poured all his knowledge into his famous Six Section Theory. This theory is the backbone of Chinese Medicine. This theory is the father of our Hexagenous Reflexology in Ganotherapy.
Zhang Zhong Jing's main focus was on understanding herbs. Unlike Hua Tuo, his works are less inclined toward surgery and acupuncture. Zhang Zhong Jing was the first doctor to classify diseases and herbs (herbal formulas) systematically by the Six Section Theory. He also applied the Six Section Theory on pulse observation.
Many methods of treatment in Zhang Zhong Jing's Six Section Theory are similar to ancient Ayurveda. Over the centuries, doctors have been using the herbal formula in Shang Han Lun to treat chronic disease, fever, and injuries. In modern medicine, flu is considered untreatable. But the very first chapter of the Shang Han Lun is about dealing with different types of flu. I am a living example that proves this claim. I have been traveling for thirty years now, and I haven't caught the flu even once. Even in case of any other medical conditions, thanks to the SHL, I can read those symptoms and manage myself.
Zhang Zhong Jing's teachings are a compilation of sixteen chapters; ten chapters are about the Six Section Theory, and the remaining six are diverse theories. The full name of his book is Shang Han Za Bing Lun. Shang Han about the Six Section Theory, and it has ten chapters. The remaining six various theories are compiled in the Za Bing.
Unfortunately, shortly after Zhang Zhong Jing completed his book, wars broke again. That was a phase of complete chaos in China. Due to this war, the work of Zhang Zhong Jing was lost and forgotten. Finally, the Jin Empire took over the Han Empire. The Jins' palace doctor, Wand Shu He, was believed to be Zhang Zhong Jing's student. Justifying these beliefs, he managed to find the works of Zhang Zhong Jing. He could manage to fetch only the Six Section Theory. Since the book that was found had only the Six Section Theory, Wand Shu He renamed the book Shang Han Lun. Many herbalists of that period didn't perform the Shang Han Lun due to a lack of circulation. And when the circulation began, new problems surfaced. During that period, printing was not widely available. All and any texts were copied by hand, and hence there was always some human error. In 1065 AD, the Song Dynasty government instructed Gao Bao, Sun Qi, and Lin Yi to proofread them. Song Dynasty possessed advanced technology; papermaking and printing were already well established. The Song Government printed thousands of books and distributed them. Due to this initiative of the Song Government, Shang Han Lun was widely studied by many Herbology students and doctors; and so, it became one of the pillars in the study of TCM.
Well, with the passage of time comes new problems. There was a gap of almost a thousand years between the Han dynasty and the Song dynasty. There were some lapses in language and literature. According to the modern Chinese language, Han means cold. Many scholars spread the word that this Six Section Theory stands good only for cold diseases and is not ineffective for warm diseases. It is a fallacy.
Shang Han Lun used 90 types of herbs and formulated 113 formulas. This is one of the reasons why we choose Shang Han Lun as the primary teaching text. Herbs' usage is not too broad; the procedures are simple and effective, and most importantly, the theory used in Shang Han Lun is rudimental and easy to understand. The greater contribution of Shang Han Lun is in two areas; the first is the systematic classification of diseases into Six Sections, and the second is on the diagnosis techniques.