The Concept of Anatomy and Body Perspective in Ancient China
연세의사학, Vol.15(2) : 29~61, 2012
The concept of anatomy in East Asia originated from the Huangdi Neijing Lingshu(Yellow Thearch`s Inner Classic: Numinous Pivot). According to the Huangdi Neijing, anatomical procedures and the measurement of internal organs were performed, but these practices were not settled in the anatomical tradition of ancient China. The ancient myth depicted deformed people as half-man/half-animal. The ancient Chinese believed in transforming the human body through communication with the world, which would bring unity with nature. To communicate with nature and the universe, the ancient Chinese thought that Taoist medicine and the training of Qi were needed. Miscommunication with the body and nature could make people ill during this myth period. Spells and elixirs were typical tools and means of communication during these times. Fangshi Yixue(a popular Daoist) searched for rational and objective medicine ever since the Warring Country period, and Wuyi(a witch doctor) was criticized for mysticism and deformation of the human body. The Huangdi Neijing combined various schools of anatomy including the branch that performed dissection and measurement of the human body. However, the penal code of the ancient nation prohibited doing the anatomy of the body. Doing anatomy meant punishment for criminals. The main stream of traditional medicine in ancient China did not place any emphasis on the anatomy of the human body. The oldest Zangfutu(traditional anatomical drawing) was the Drawing of Ou Xi-fan`s Five Viscera in the 11th century. Ou Xi-fan was a notorious thief from the Song Dynasty. He was sentenced to death so that his dead body could be dissected. The Drawing of Ou Xi-fan`s Five Viscera was transmitted to the next generation, and there it was able to meet the needs of anatomy. After the Ming Dynasty, Song-Ming Lixue(learning of the neo-Confucian principles during the Song and Ming Dynasties) and a summation of medicine made Zangfutu sophisticated and animated. The human body was combined with a head and thought to be circulated by Qi. Before the advent of Wang Qing-ren`s Yilingaicuo(Correcting the Errors of Medicine) and Benjamin Hobson`s Quantixinlun(Outline of Anatomy and Physiology), the ancient Chinese recognized the human body not only as a mechanical being, but also as a holistic being. Based on practical dissections, Confucian theories, and the competition of schools, the ancient Chinese developed Chinese anatomy.