The traditional Chinese medicine is a great treasure house, in which The Compendium of Materia Medica is an epoch£making, encyclopedic work. Its author, Li Shizhen is now reverenced as the great medicine scientist in China.
In 1518 Li Shizhen was born in Qizhou of Hubei Province. Qizhou was a distributing centre of medicinal herbs. Li Shizhen began to study medicine at the age of 23 from his father, who was also a good doctor. He often visited hunters, fishermen and medicine farmers to learn from them special recipes and new herbs. He did his own experiments on the nature of herbs while he studying ancient medical books. After ten years, he had become a well£learned and famous doctor. He was called into the capital city and employed as a palace physician. But Li Shizhen was not interested in finding elixir for the emperor. Therefore he resigned from all his posts in the court and returned home.
While collecting medicinal materials and practicing medicine, he found that many ancient medical books were not altogether correct. Some medicinal herbs were not correctly categorized, some books had got the effect of certain herbs entirely wrong, and some prescriptions in those books were even purely based on superstition. At the age of 35, Li Shizhen set to write his own medical books.
The Compendium of Materia Medica, which was completed by Li Shizhen through nearly 30 years of painstaking efforts, encapsulated the highest achievement of ancient Chinese medicine. It surpassed medical works of previous times and brought the theory and practice of Chinese pharmacology to a new height.
Li Shizhen"s 410-year-old classic, Bencao Gangmu: Compendium of Materia Medica, with its lore chronicling centuries of Chinese medical achievement, is a treasure trove of information on traditional Chinese medicine and on Chinese folk views of the world, which underlie many of the prescribed treatment regimens.
With the publication of the Compendium of Materia Medica, not only did it improve the classification of how traditional medicine was compiled and formatted, but it was also a great medium in improving the credibility and scientific values of biology classification of both plants and animals.
Compendium of Materia Medica is also more than a pharmaceutical text, for it contains information so vast that it covered topics in biology, chemistry, geography, geology, history, and even mining and astronomy, which would seem to have little to do with herbal medicine. It has been translated into more than 20 languages and spread all over the world. Its influence has reached Asia, Europe and Americas. It has become a treasure house for specialists and researchers in many countries. Even now it is still in print and used as a reference book.