An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

Yuan-Heng liaoma ji 元亨療馬集

Feb 9, 2022 © Ulrich Theobald

Yuan-Heng liaoma ji 元亨療馬集, or Liaomaji 療馬集 for short, is a book on equine medicine compiled by the brothers Yu 喻. It was finished in 1547, but first printed as late as 1608. The book includes theory, methods of diagnosis and therapy, prescriptions, materia medica and acupuncture, and thus the whole range of medical knowledge for horses and bovines – and in later editions, camels, too.

Yu Ren 喻仁, courtesy name Benyuan 本元, style Quchuan 曲川, and his brother Yu Jie 喻傑, courtesy name Benheng 本亨, style Yuechuan 月川, hailed from Lu'an 六安 (a special reading), Anhui (at the time province of Nanzhili 南直隸). The name of the book is derived from the last characters of the brothers' courtesy names. Their dates of life are not known.

The whole text consists of three parts, the first of which is dedicated to the cure of horse diseases (Yuan-Heng liaoma ji proper), the second to bovines (Yuan-Heng liaoniu ji 元亨療牛集), and the third part is the "camel classic" (Tuojing 駝經). The first two were compiled by the brothers Yu, but the Camel Classic was added later. Its author is unknown.

The Liaomaji part is in the original shape arranged according to the four seasons. The spring section presents twelve "straight theories" (Zhijiang shi'er lun 直講十二論). The first two are about diagnosis and acupuncture treatment; the third to ninth chapters are about the differential diagnosis, pathogenesis and treatment methods of seven common types of diseases; the latter three concern the inspection of the outer appearance of beasts as well as basic knowledge of herding, breeding, and nourishment. The summer section discusses seventy-two major diseases (Qishi'er da bing 七十二大病), for each of which it presents a clear discussion on etiology, pathology, symptoms, therapy and health maintenance. It focuses on diagnosis and treatment methods of horse diseases in the Yangtze River region.

The autumn section includes comments on the "Eight Evidences" (Pingjiang bazheng lun 評講八證論) and "Forty-seven simple, but valuable questions of Dongxi" (Dongxi suwen suijin sishiqi lun 東溪素問碎金四十七論). The "eight-syndrome theory" was a kind of diagnosis of traditional Chinese veterinary medicine first seen in the book Mashu 馬書 of Yan Shiqiao 楊時喬 (1531-1609), and elucidated by the brothers Yu. The "simple questions" are laid into the mouth of Master Dongxi 東溪 (i.e. Yuan Xilian 袁希廉), while the answers were provided by Yu Ren.

The winter section includes instructions for feeding and watering (Wei yin xuzhi 喂飲須知), instructions for the treatment of and medicines for the Five Meridians (Wujing zhiliao yaoxing xuzhi 五經治療藥性須知), "Instructions on materia medica yielding [in combination] negative or lethal results" (Chen fan-wei jijin yao xuzhi 陳反畏忌禁藥須知), instructions for the use of the meridians to repel fire and treating diseases (Yin jing xie huo liaobing xuzhi 引經瀉火療病須知), instructions for the use of materia medica of the types "lords, ministers, assistants, and commissioners" (Jun-chen-zuo-shi yongyao xuzhi 君臣佐使用藥須知) and well-proven prescriptions (Jingyan liangfang 經驗良方).

Illustration to the phenomenon of salivation caused by presence of pathogenic cold in the lungs (fei han tu mo 肺寒吐沫). 1848 reprint of the Jinyun Hall 錦雲閣.

The book includes 113 illustrations, 3 rhapsodies (fu 賦), 150 mnemonic songs, and 300 prescriptions. The Liaomaji is thus one of the most important traditional books on veterinary medicine.

Methodology and therapy as described in the Liaomaji are still used today. Yet many aspects were no novelties in the late Ming period 明 (1368-1644), but go back to earlier texts on veterinary medicine like Simu anji ji 司牧安驥集. The brothers Yu made use of more than 40 different sources.

With respect to theory, some fields are related to traditional Chinese thinking which was influenced by the theories of the eight trigrams (bagua 八卦, see Yijing 易經), Yin and Yang theory 陰陽, the Five Agents (wuxing 五行), the belief in the unison of Heaven and man (tian-ren heyi 天人合一) and the influence of soil, water, fire, and wind on the body and health.

The oldest printed edition of the book dates from 1608, published by the Ruxian Hall 汝顯堂 of Tang Shaoqiao 唐少橋 in Jinling 金陵 (i.e. Nanjing, Jiangsu). This edition still lacks the part on camels. The preface was written by Ding Bin 丁賓, and is therefore called the Ding xu ben 丁序本 edition. The 1736 edition of Li Shuyu 李玉書, called Niu-ma-tuojing daquan ji 牛馬駝經大全集, altered and abbreviated the text and rearranged the 4 juan of the Yuan-Heng liaoma ji to a text of 6 juan of length called Majing daquan 馬經大全. The part on bovines was renamed Tuxiang shuihuan niujing daquan 圖像水黃牛經大全, and the "camel classic" was added to the original text. This edition is called the Xu xu ben 許序本 edition because its preface was written by Xu Qiang 許鏘.

Treatment of water buffaloes by feeling the temperature of the horns (right) and observation behaviour, like rubbing the head at the soil in relation to blooding (left).

Apart from the additional part on camel treatment, the greatest difference between the two editions consist in the parts on the determination of age by inspecting the teeth (chisui tu 齒歲圖) and on signs of sickness by inspecting the coat (xuanmao tu 旋毛圖). The chapter Dongxi suwen suijin sishiqi lun is incomplete in the Xu edition, and the chapters Zhao Zezhong jiang Qi Bo liaohuang lun 趙澤中講岐伯療黃論 "Zhao Zezhong's account on how the Lord of Qi cured jaundice" and Sanyin sanwei chusui lun 三飲三喂芻水論 "On watering and feeding with hay and water" are entirely missing. On the other hand, the Xu edition adds a chapter on the breeding of stallions, Tengjun muyang fa 騰駒牧養法.

These two editions served as the basis from which various new editions were produced, with differing titles for the whole collection as well as for the three parts of it. Such titles are Yuan-Heng liao ma-niu-tuo jing daquan 元亨療馬牛駝經全集, Yuan-Heng liaoma ji fu niujing tuojing 元亨療馬集附牛經駝經 or Yuanheng liao niu-ma-tuo ji 元亨療牛馬駝集. The bovine part also bears the title Yuan-Heng liuniu ji 元亨療牛集 or Niujing daquan 牛經大全.

In 1957, the Zhonghua Shuju Press 中華書局 published a modern version annotated by Xie Chengxia 謝成俠. The Nonge Press 農業出版社 published a critical version in 1963, titled Yuan-Heng liaoma-jiu-tuo jing quanji 元亨療馬牛駝經全集. The abbreviated 1984 edition is called Yuan-Heng liaoma ji xuanshi 元亨療馬集選釋. In 1983, a modern edition of Guo Huaixi's 郭懷西 commented version of 1785 was published with the title Xinke zhushi Ma-niu-tuojing daquan ji 新刻注釋馬牛駝經大全集. In 2015, the Zhongguo Nongye Press 中國農業出版社 published a bilingual edition of selected chapters, Ying-Han duizhao Yuan-Heng liaomaji xuanshi 英漢對照元亨療馬集選釋.

Another book with the title Liaomaji was written by Zhou Haipeng 周海蓬 (fl. 1788). An important premodern edition of this book was published by Zhou Weishan 周維善 in 1908. The short text was finished in 1788 and consists of three parts, namely the "Thirty-four obstructions of the bowels" (Sanshisi zheng 三十四癥), the "Acupuncture song" (Zhenfa ge 針法歌), and "Hundred-and-one prescriptions to heal horses" (Liaoma baiyi fang 療馬百一方). The latter are to a great part Zhou's own contributions. A modern edition of this text was published in 1959 by the Nongye Press 農業出版社, with annotations by Yu Chuan 于船.

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