Nurturing life through the body, heart, and spirit with the wisdom of Chinese medicine


A collection of notes on the topics of classical Chinese, medicine, and traditional culture.

Julian Scott's Review of "Venerating the Root, Part One"

Review of:

Venerating the Root, part 1

Volume 5 of Bèi Jí Qiân Jin Yào Fãng (Often referred to as ‘Prescriptions for Emergencies Worth a Thousand Gold’) by Sun Simiao

Translated by Sabine Wilms, Published by Happy Goat Productions, Corbett OR, USA


I am thrilled to have this work made accessible for the first time. It is a pleasure to read. What makes the book very special is that although it is a treatise on a wide range of conditions, including many gynaecological ones (in the earlier volumes), it describes illnesses that occur right at the beginning of life. I feel so at home with this approach. In the courses that I give, I always emphasise the importance of the early years: and how problems that occur in the early years may have an effect on health all the way through life. The specific symptoms may go away, but the underlying imbalance may remain, and reappear in another guise later on. Only by studying the first months and years can you understand the appearance of disease later on.

I am most impressed by his starting with ‘Transformations and Steamings’. They are so clear to be seen in clinical practice. Every time a child makes a developmental leap, there is a corresponding ‘illness’. When I first started practising, these illnesses were always fevers, corresponding to his description of ‘steamings’. but now that children are so much colder in energy, and weaker, the ‘steamings’ often come out as mucus discharges and cough.

There is a most interesting discussion of the character shan, usually translated as hernia. Sun Simiao says that shan can be caused by nursing when the mother is angry. In clinical practice, it is most unlikely to see a hernia from such a cause. However, shan as it described here would seem to refer to colic, and not hernia as we understand it. Babies who nurse when their mother is angry certainly do get the most dreadful colicky pains; moreover, there are protrusions from the abdomen caused by pockets of wind, which do look very similar to hernia, and are terribly painful. Unlucky the baby that has an angry mother to nurse from. In my practice I tentatively advise bottle feeding in such cases. I say tentatively, as I rather fear the blast of anger being turned on me.

What a keen observer he must have been. No wonder he was venerated as the Medicine Buddha or the ‘Medicine King’.

My personal sadness is that the book, and particularly further volumes (of which I have had a sneak preview) are heavily weighted towards herbs rather than acupuncture, so I cannot use the many prescriptions which he gives.

The book is laid out very clearly, with the Chinese on one side and the English translation on the other side, interpolated with many commentaries and discussions. This is not for a beginner in paediatrics, but is an absolute must for anyone who takes paediatrics seriously.

Sabine WilmsComment