Sabine Wilms has given us a masterful translation of Sun Simiao's treatise on pediatrics. As a pediatrician of these past 30 years who has been immersed in Chinese medicine, I had previously only read bits and pieces of this work and have been yearning for a solid translation. Well now we have one! What’s more, by providing the Chinese text alongside the translation as well as superb footnotes that clarify some of the more multilayered Chinese terms, Sabine have given us a treasure that greatly expands the experience of studying the text.
In Part 1, we are given Master Sun’s appreciation for the subtle developmental changes month by month that are taking place in the infant along with the management of the newborn. Throughout, he demonstrates the importance of balanced digestion and elimination in the maintenance of health and prevention of disease during childhood. We also see Sun Simiao’s unique view of how possessions manifest in children. In part 2 we are given Master Sun’s particular understanding of the importance of the Shanghanlun Cold School’s influence during the Tang dynasty. Here we are given detailed instructions on preparing a wealth of herbal formulas for various conditions of cold damage and febrile illness from acute tidal heat to deep-lying chronic heat in children that contrasts dramatically with the one-size-fits-all approach of Tylenol that Western medicine subscribes to. While many formulas may seem antiquated, there is much to learn from how a master like Sun Simiao tweaks his formulas to respect the subtlety and tenderness of children.
At each turning of the page, we get a glimpse of the kind of medical problems Sun Simiao was called on to treat. As a seasoned pediatrician, I recognize all the common conditions we see in our practice, from caring for the newborn, to managing infantile vomiting, seizures, seasonal diarrhea, and fever. It is clear to me that Master Sun’s observations could only have come from extensive clinical experience working with children. So many medical texts (both western and eastern) are steeped in heavenly theory but lack the earthy pragmatics that clinicians need in everyday practice. Unless one has been in a delivery room with a blue gasping newborn or in an emergency room with a seizing child, one may not fully appreciate the power of Master Sun’s perceptions. His "pearls" of pediatrics will be of value to anyone practicing Chinese medicine who is interested in working with children. This book gives me great solace in the holistic work I am doing with children and shows me that the path I have taken over these many years venerates the root of a long and noble tradition.
Stephen Scott Cowan MD
(happy goat year!)