• Lim SJ

INTRODUCTION TO SHANG HAN LUN

Updated: Jan 28

This is an introduction to the series on Shang Han Lun. It is a discussion on harmful diseases, which is formal teaching in the field of herbology. I shall introduce you to the background of this book. Like the socio-economy at the time it was written, the author, and so much more.


This book was written at the beginning of the third century, around 200 to 210 CE. For those of you who are not Chinese, it might come to you as a shock that we have been using a book for almost two thousand years. This is a clear attestation that the Chinese civilization is very different compared to other civilizations. According to archaeological findings, some writings have been found on the Pillar of Ashoka. But a modern-day Indian would not be able to read it unless they were a specialist in ancient texts. The same goes for the Egyptian pyramids. A modern Egyptian citizen would not read what is written on the pyramids without undergoing necessary training. But the Chinese system is different because the writing has not changed over the years. Therefore, many ancient Chinese texts can be read and understood by Chinese students, including me.


Though the book was written around two thousand years ago, I can still read it like it was written just yesterday! This is a fascinating fact about the Chinese language. The herbs and herbal formulas used in this book are still germane and widely used even in this present day and age. This might make you think that the Chinese are very orthodox, but I suppose you might be wrong. Chinese civilization is the only civilization used to adopt different cultures from other civilizations and make it a part of their own. The Chinese used to send convoys to invite foreign scholars to their land. If the scholar refused, they would send military troops to bring in the scholar. The capture of Kumarajiva is the perfect example of this.


When the modern western civilization bid goodbye to their old culture, the Chinese did the same and made an effort to adopt the western culture. They noticed that they were behind science and technology, politics, education, and medicine. They started a mega modernization that had never been witnessed in history. They changed their clothing and lifestyle and got rid of their emperor to become the first republic in Asia. The Chinese went all out in adopting new techniques and mediums of science and technology, western fashion, and much more. They turned Shanghai-like any other European city. The sweet potato was introduced and promoted throughout the country. Due to this, almost 80% of the sweet potato in the whole world is produced in China. From potatoes to rockets, china adopted many things from the outside world to ameliorate itself.


Language is the vehicle of knowledge, and the Chinese will never let go of their language. When language and ancient records survive, a civilization survives. This is the reason why the only ancient civilization that has survived until today is the Chinese civilization.


With the help of Shang Han Lun, you will have the opportunity to learn about medical teachings that you may have never heard before. Like the Chinese, you should use western medicinal practices and adopt this beautiful system that has withstood the test of time. Opening up your mind and accepting good teaching is the first step towards learning. Many principles of Ganotherapy have been derived from Shang Han Lun, and therefore we can term Shang Han Lun as the Father of Ganotherapy.



The ancient writings have the same words but a slightly different meaning. For example, the word “Han” means coldness in the modern language, but it means harmfulness in the ancient text. Therefore, an understanding of the history of the language is important to avoid wrong translations. Similarly, “Shang” can mean damage in the modern language but diseases in the ancient one. The correct translation is “The Discussion on Harmful Diseases” and not“The Discussion of Cold Damage.”


This book brings us back to the distant past. It’s like having a conversation with the ancient doctors and authors of that era and time period. We get to experience their thinking, logic, and seriousness with the help of this book. I am lucky enough to understand both English as well as ancient Chinese. So, I decided to translate this book on my own. For this series, you can use the translation that I have come up with. It is free of cost after all! But if this book has helped you a lot and you feel the need to pay money for it, you can head over to SIF and donate money to uplift the social economy of those who are disadvantaged. You can also donate to the “ONE DOLLAR ONE CHILD” program to fight malnutrition amongst the poor.



So, fasten your seatbelts and brace yourself for a long journey in herbal training!

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