Ge Hong-Ancestor of First Aid

BY CchattyArticleMedical Chinese
Release time:2018-01-03
Tag: Traditional Chinese Medicine
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Ge Hong ( AD 284 - 364) was born in a prestigious family of the Eastern Jin Dynasty (AD 317-420). He is the originator of First Aid in TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) and influenced the later generations.
part 1

Who is Ge Hong 葛 洪

Ge Hong - Ancestor of First Aid - who is Ge Hong

Ge Hong ( AD 284 - 364) was born in a prestigious family of the Eastern Jin Dynasty (AD 317-420). He is the originator of First Aid in TCM (Traditional  Chinese Medicine) and influenced the later generations.

His grandpa served as Minister of Personnel and his father a governor. By Ge Hong’s generation, although the family was declining, he was once made Marquis of the area within the past relying on his meritorious military service.

part 2

Moving to Mount Luofu as a medical

Ge Hong - Ancestor of First Aid - Moving to Mount Luofu as a medical 1

One day in AD 330, Ge Hong suddenly received the conscription of the court and was appointed Cavalier Attendant-in-ordinary. This official position was like the Private Consultant of the emperor. It was an enviable position. However, it turned out that Ge Hong realized that the officialdom of the capital was even more corruptible where honest officials often suppressed. So he had the idea of staying away from the power center.Thus, Ge Hong didn’t take office after receiving the order. Instead, he told the emperor that he wanted to make position in Guangxi which was remote.

Nevertheless, when Ge Hong passed by Mount Luofu (in Guangdong), the quiet and peaceful vibe as well as the thriving vitality on the mountains greatly attracted Ge Hong and made him settle down from his impetuous mindset.

Ge Hong - Ancestor of First Aid - Moving to Mount Luofu as a medical 2

Another, Mount Luofu possesses abundant animal and plant resources. There are more than 3,000 varieties of plants, among which there are Chinese medicinal herbs. It can be considered the treasure of Chinese medicinal herbs. Ge Hong who excelled in medical skills decided to move to Mount Luofu. So, Ge Hong didn’t head to Guangxi; he stayed in Mout Luofu that he passed by in the middle.

Ge Hong and his wife, his two children, and some servants held the chicken coops and hauled the cattle and sheep, taking the necessities to Mount Luofu with beautiful scenery. Ge Hong chose an elegant place to start living a secluded life. He collected and distinguished herbs in the mountain and had a more thorough understanding of the effects of many herbs.

part 3

Writing “Handbook of Prescriptions for First Aid”《肘后备急方》

Ge Hong - Ancestor of First Aid - Handbook of Prescriptions for First Aid

While living a secluded life, Ge Hong came up with some methods for curing disease. And with the prescriptions, he had collected for many years; he wrote a medicine book. Due to its short length, the book could be put behind one’s elbows in the sleeve, so that it could carry conveniently. So it has been called “Handbook of Prescriptions for Aid First.” 

The book has recorded the symptoms and rescuing methods of more than 70 acute disease that are simple, understandable and easy to handle. The descriptions about smallpox, scrub typhus, beriberi, Trombiculidae, and others that are unprecedented. This book can be considered the first clinical First Aid handbook in the history of Chinese medicine. Descendants have commented “Handbook of Prescriptions for First Aid” like this “With this handbook at home, one needs no doctor.”

Luofu is remote with the phenomenon of having few trained doctors and little medicine prevailing. Many ordinary people couldn’t find a doctor when they fell ill. With the book “Handbook of Prescriptions for First Aid”, patients could save themselves when there were no doctors.

To solve the problem of expensive and adequate medical care for ordinary people. Ge Hong put up a thatched cottage at the foot of Mount Luofu to treat disease for ordinary people for free. Whenever someone came to seek medical care, he would patiently treat him whether he was sick or wealthy, shabby or noble. Therefore, Ge Hong enjoyed increasingly greater fame in Guangdong area.

In the process of practicing medicine, Ge Hong paid particular attention to collecting and selecting Chinese medicinal herbs which were easy to obtain at low prices.

Therefore, his prescriptions are simple on the one hand and efficient on the other side. They have several characteristics including easiness, convenience, inexpensiveness, and effectiveness.

part 4

the Scallion Soya Bean Soup 葱豉汤

Ge Hong - Ancestor of First Aid - Scallion Soya Bean Soup

It said that Ge Hong once lodged at a villager’s home and heard waves of coughs from the neighbouring house at night. After asking about it, he learned that someone had caught an Anemofrigid Cold in the villager’s family. Since they couldn’t afford to see a doctor, the patient’s disease got more severe and had to stay in bed.

After diagnosing for the patient, Ge Hong asked to use the villager’s kitchen to cook a bowl of soup. After drinking the soup, the patient started to sweat and recovered quite a lot on the next day.

The patient’s family members were grateful to Ge Hong but were worried that they couldn’t pay the medicine charges. Ge Hong comforted the farmer: “In fact, I didn’t use important and valuable medicines in the soup. I used commonly seen scallion stalk and fermented soya beans. When the two decorated together, they produce the effect of energy and promoting sweat secretion”. Later, the prescription has been passed down until today. It’s the Scallion Soya Bean Soup 葱豉汤which is familiar to people in Guangdong area.

part 5

discovered the Scrub Typhus

Ge Hong - Ancestor of First Aid - Scrub Typhus

After moving to Mount Luofu, Ge Hong also found that there was a strange illness locally. To be specific, a patient got a fever without rhyme or reason. Ge Hong couldn’t figure out the reasons for getting ill. To check out the cause of the disease, he would go to ask him once anyone got such a disease. He found that each of those who got such a disease told that he once went to a depth of mountains.

Ge Hong observed the patients’ bodies and went to the depth of the mountain for investigation in person. Ge Hong found that in the depth of mountains in Guangdong, there was an unusually small insect.The insect was even lower than a little rice grain, and one wouldn’t discover it except by observing. They attached to someone’s skins, infusing virus into his body while stinging him and sucking his blood so that he got ill and had a fever. The results surprised him a lot.

Through careful observations and thinking. Ge Hong not only discovered Scrub Typhus but also learned that it was the medium for infectious disease. In fact, the insect that Ge Hong discovered was named Scrub Typhus. The pathogen of Scrub Typhus's virus is a microorganism which is even smaller than a bacterium. Chigger livers in Guangdong areas in China. Contrarily, modern doctors until more than 1,500 years later.

part 6

recorded the Smallpox

Besides discovering that Scrub Typhus could propagate viruses, Ge Hong was the first doctor to document the acute infectious disease called "smallpox".

In one year, Ge Hong found that a strange disease suddenly became popular and burst out. One who got the disease had pemphigus all over the body. They were small red and swollen dots at first. Shortly after, they turned into white pustules and were broke quickly when touched.

New pustules appeared while old ones festered. Besides, the patient would have a severe fever. So the disease’s mortality rate was rather high. Even if some people managed to survive, their skins would leave with many small scars. The minor injuries were black at first. And one year later, they would have the same colour as that of the skin.

Ge Hong recorded the disease he discovered in “Handbook of Prescriptions for First Aid” in details. Although Ge Hong didn’t find out the prescriptions for treating smallpox, his description of the disease signs played a decisive role in helping people to study into and preventing smallpox afterwards.

part 7

Malaria and Artemisia Annua

With a moist and hot climate and lots of mephitis in Luofu area, many people often suffered from the sudden disease. 

One time, when Ge Hong collected Chinese medicinal herbs on the mountain, he saw an elderly who fell to the ground. The older had a painful expression with heating all over his body. He went forward to diagnose him and found that the more former had got an infectious disease called malignant malaria. It’s the so-called malaria today.

The disease mainly caused by being stung by mosquitoes that being Plasmodium. It can cause anaemia and splenomegaly in the patient and can endanger the patient’s life in a severe case. In ancient times, it was a terrible infectious disease. After diagnosing for the elderly, Ge Hong ran roadsides to pick a Chinese medicinal herb. He washed it with spring water, directly wrung it into the fluid and asked the older to drink it. Shortly after that, the older woke up.

It turned out that the Chinese medicinal herb that Ge Hong picked had the scientific name Artemisia Annua 青蒿 and was a commonly seen Chinese medicinal herb on Mount Luofu.

More than 1,000 years later, Ge Hong’s prescription enlightened a person named Tu Youyou. The team led by Tu Youyou managed to extract Artemisinin from Artemisia Annua and made it into medicine, curing tens of thousands of malaria patients. Tu Youyou also became the first one to win the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in China.

part 8

All in All

Ge Hong - Ancestor of First Aid - All in All

The contributions that Ge Hong made in clinical First Aid medicine has left treasurable medicinal wealth for the descendants. In Guangdong which is thousands of kilometre away, people have built a museum named Ge Hong Museum on Mount Luofu in honour of Ge Hong. Many pieces of cultural relics displayed in the gallery are telling visitors how Ge Hong benefited people by treating disease and saving people more than 1,000 years ago. And many legends about Ge Hong have been handed down until today. 

part 9

key persons in the history of tranditional Chinese medicine

Bian Que                 BC 407 - 310      Ancestor of traditional Chinese medicine

Hua Tuo                  AD 145 - 208      Ancestor of Surgery

Zhang Zhongjing   AD 150 - 215      Sage of traditional Chinese medicine

Ge Hong                 AD 284 - 364      Ancestor of first-aid

Sun Simiao             AD 541 - 682       King of the traditional Chinese medicine

Li Shizhen               AD 1518 - 1593   Sage of Medicine and Herbal