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


On this page, you can purchase printed books and e-publications, as well as retain my hourly services. 

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On this page, you can purchase printed books and e-publications, as well as retain my hourly services. If you have a need for my books or services but cannot afford the price, always get in touch with me. I want this information to be accessible to anybody who has a need for it – trading for firewood or goat milking help is always an option. 

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The Divine Farmer's Classic of Materia Medica - 3rd Edition

The Divine Farmer's Classic of Materia Medica - 3rd Edition

55.00 62.00

This 592-page book is a literal translation of one of the earliest and  most important classics of Chinese medicine and natural science: the Shén Nóng Běncǎo Jīng   神農本草經 or "Divine Farmer's Classic of Materia Medica." Compiled in the third century CE but undoubtedly much older in content, it contains information on 365 substances that were considered to have beneficial effects on the human body.

Publication date: March 1, 2017. Click here for shipping information.

ISBN-13: 9780991342952

See below for detailed information and some page samples.

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Divine Farmer medicinal, gāncǎo, and woodcut illustration.

Sabine's long-awaited English translation and critical edition of The Divine Farmer's Classic of Materia Medica is a product of her triple engagement with the worlds of applied Chinese medicine, academic sinology, and sustainable agriculture. The 365 substances covered are categorized in three books, associated with Heaven, Humanity, and Earth respectively. Coming from the perspective of alchemy and the pursuit of health and longevity, treating disease and expelling pathogens by ingesting substances that have a strong directly-discernible effect on the body is viewed as the lowest goal. By contrast, the higher-ranked medicinals often have no discernible effect when ingested, but especially when taken over long periods of time have such ambitious and intangible goals as connecting the human spirit to heaven, lightening the body, or staving off aging. The information contained in this book and the vision of the world and of the effect of natural substances on the human body expressed here are bound to inspire any practitioner of the Chinese art of yǎngshēng 養生 ("nurturing life").

The present edition is aimed primarily at modern students and practitioners of Chinese medicine, but also at academic researchers and hobby students of medical history, Chinese classical literature, and natural science. To make it as useful as possible for these audiences, we have chosen to include the following features:

  • 54 pages of prefatory matters, including a FOREWORD (linked here) by Dr. Eugene Anderson and a PREFACE (linked here) and INTRODUCTION (linked here) by Sabine Wilms.

  • 412 pages of text in both classical Chinese and contemporary English, consisting of Three Books with a total of 365 entries.

  • A handsome user-friendly 5x7 format to encourage you to carry this little book with you wherever you go and easily look up individual medicinals.

  • A critical edition of the Chinese source text, based on the leading current Chinese editions and incorporating philological, etymological, and archaeological findings.

  • A literal yet elegant translation into English, crafted with careful attention to different possibilities inherent in the classical Chinese but also to readability, to reflect the elegance of the original.

  • A crisp clear layout, featuring the Chinese text immediately above the English translation in a structure that makes cross-referencing easy even for a beginning student of medical Chinese. Click this link for a sample of two minerals from Book Two.

  • 15 gorgeous illustrations (3 linoleum prints and 12 sketches) of medicinal substances by Maria Hicks

  • 40 pages of endnotes that discuss such diverse topics as medicinal identification, grammar questions, and character variations, based on extensive research in historical and contemporary commentaries.

  • A useful clinical GLOSSARY that contains explanations of ancient disease names on the basis of classical medical texts, most notably Sūn Sīmiǎo's 孫思邈 Bèi Jí Qiān Jīn Yào Fāng 備急千金要方 and Cháo Yuánfāng's 巢元方 Zhū Bìng Yuán Hòu Lùn 諸病源候論.

  • References to modern TCM, for example in regards to the usage of medicinals and disease names.

  • In addition to the GLOSSARY, a BIBLIOGRAPHY with both historical sources and contemporary references, herb indices by Pinyin, Latin, and English common name, and a general index.

Divine Farmer medicinal, júhuā, and illustration.

In addition to the book, here are some digital files that you might find useful:

  1. A blog post on the entry on Xìnghérén 杏核仁 (aka, xìngrén, apricot kernel) and the symptom of intestinal rumbling, titled “The Divine Farmer on Thunder in the Body

  2. A page with Questions and Answers that I have been receiving from readers of the book. Please consult this before sending me an email since it may contain your answer.

  3. A cross-reference list with contemporary pinyin names of substances (thank you, Justin Penoyer, for your help in compiling this!)

  4. A critical historical edition of the original Chinese source files used for my translation, in a digital, searchable file that can be used with electronic dictionaries. For more information on how I created this version of the text, consult the Introduction to my book. Click below for the link to the webpage for each book or contact Sabine through the CONTACT button for WORD files:

    1. Link to Book One

    2. Link to Book Two

    3. Link to Book Three

  5. Other blog posts related to the Divine Farmer and this material:

For a detailed review by Z'ev Rosenberg, see his guest blog on this website here.

Comments from other readers: 

Just got my copy! Until I was holding it in my hand, I didn't realize how important aesthetics is in influencing one's relationship with a book and its content. Its surprising petite size fits snuggly in my palm. The clean one-herb-per-page layout makes it a delight to read. The artworks are beautiful. All these make the superb translation & the richly informational footnotes that much easier to absorb. I simply didn't want to put it down! All in all, a work of rigorous scholarship delivered in refreshing beauty and sensibility. Well done, Sabine!