An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History, Literature and Art

Bian Que 扁鵲

Sep 17, 2011 © Ulrich Theobald

Bian Que 扁鵲, personal name Qin Yueren 秦越人, was a famous physician during the Warring States period 戰國 (5th cent.-221 BCE). Bian Que was actually the name of a mythical physician who lived during the age of the mythical Yellow Emperor 黃帝.

Qin Yueren was often compared to him and was called "the Bian Que of our times". Qin Yueren hailed from Bohai 渤海 (modern Renqiu 任丘, Hebei) and is said to have been a disciple of a Lord Changsang 長桑君 from whom he learned secred prescriptions and methods (jinfang 禁方). Because he lived in the statelet of Lu 盧, he is also known as "the Doctor from Lu" (Lu yi 盧醫).

Qin Yueren once healed Viscount Jian of Zhao 趙簡子 and was able to bring back to life the deceased crown prince of the statelet of Guo 虢. He warned Duke Huan 齊桓公 (r. 685-643) of the state of Qi 齊 to take care for his health, but the Duke did not listen to his advice and died.

The book Heguanzi 鶡冠子 says that Bian Que's brothers were physicians too, but no one knew of their abilities. Bian Que was especially good at acupuncture and moxibustion, but he was good in all fields of medicine. In the city of Handan 邯鄲 he was a gynaecologist, in Luoyang 洛陽 a internist, in Xianyang 咸陽 a peaediatrician.

The book Liezi 列子 attributes to him the art to "change the mind" (yi xin 易心) to balance the physical energy with the spirit. For this procedure, he empoisend two patients, took out their heart, treated it with medicine and revived the seemingly death.

There is a popular story in Shaanxi of his encountering a woodcutter who cured himself from all sickness by drinking the poison of a black snake. Bian Que used this venome to heal a whole village that was afflicted with a pestilence. There is still a temple for him in Nanchencun 南陳村 near Lingtong 臨潼, Shaanxi, today. There was another temple for Bian Que in Mozhou 鄚州. Bian Que was so famous that the physician Li Xi 李醯 from the state of Qin 秦 was envious of him and sent an assassin to kill Bian Que.

According to the imperial bibliography Yiwenzhi 藝文志 in the official dynastic history Hanshu 漢書, there was a book called Bian Que neijing 扁鵲內經 "Outer classic of Bian Que" with a length of 9 juan, and a Waipian "Outer classic" 外經, with a length of 12 juan. Both books are lost. The medical treatise Nanjing 難經 is sometimes falsely attributed to him.

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