Achievements of Chinese Pharmacology
Chinese pharmacology is another important contribution made by the Chinese people to the world's medical arsenal. The Shen Nong's Classics of Materia Medica, the earliest pharmacological work now existent, was written in around the second century AD. It recorded 365 kinds of materia medica. Although its classification of drugs is rather primitive and clumsy, it contains many highly effective remedies, among them herba ephedrae for asthmatic coughs, radix dichroae as an anti -malarial drug, rhizoma coptidis for dysentery, radix et rhizoma rhei as a cathartic agent and sargassum as an anti-goiter drug are the famous ones, which have been proven by modern scientific methods to be effective. Perhaps the most prominent and influential work in this field is the Compendium of Materia Medica, written in 1593 by Li Shizhen, which embraces 1892 kinds of herbal drugs divided into 16 categories: water, fire, earth, metal and stone, grass, cereal, vegetable, fruit, wood, utensil, worm, scale, shell, bird, beast and man. The classification applied by this work appears to be fairly advanced when compared with contemporary works in the same field. This naturalist work embraces achievements in biology, chemistry and other natural sciences, in addition to its classification. For example, Shizhen mentioned the phenomena of genetics, correlative variation and the adaptation of animals to their environment. He also mentioned the extraction of mercury from herba portulacae and gallic acid from galla chinensis. For the preparation of certain drugs, he adopted various ways in which distillation, evaporation, sublimation, precipitation, burning and efflorescence were applied. No wonder this work has drawn the attention of many scientists in foreign countries with ever-increasing enthusiasm. Domestically, this voluminous work has been republished and reprinted in some thirty editions so far, and it has been translated, partially or completely, into foreign languages including German, French, English, Latin, and Russian for Europe and Japanese and Korean in the East, the latter two appearing even earlier than the former. The most prominent evolutionist, Charles Darwin, cited some material, either directly or indirectly, from Li Shizhen's work. It is quite natural that Li Shizhen became one of the most prominent and well-known scientists in the history of ancient natural science in the world.