Hua Tuo

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Hua Tuo (140 — 208 AD), Ancient Chinese physician and surgeon, operating on Guan Yu
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Introduction

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Hua Tuo (华佗 also Hua To, courtesy name Yuanhua) (140 — 208 AD), Ancient Chinese herbalist and "physician of the people" lived during the Eastern Han Dynasty (25-220 AD) but was born in eastern China in what is now called Anhui province. His family was poor; a life-changing event early in his life was the death of his father. His interest in herbal remedies and pharmaceuticals arose when he began to work in a herbal pharmacy. Later, his fame as a healer was said to have reached the level of Hippocrates. Tuo’s understanding of medicinal herbs and healing was thought to have been developed through exposure to a range of textual and practical sources. Although best known for his skills as a physician, Tuo also developed an anesthetic called mafeisan.

There are many folk stories about Hua Tuo but relatively little can be verified in part because none of his books on the materia medica have survived. Tuo was apparently a skilled surgeon and, in one story, he successfully performed an operation, either an appendectomy or partial splenectomy. Tuo's anesthetic called mafeisan may have been powdered cannabis or opium taken with alcohol. In any case, the recipe for mafeisan was lost. While Tuo is mostly remembered as a physician and surgeon, he also made contributions to acupuncture and developed a set of tai chi exercises called the Frolics of Five Animals, which are still practiced today. The five animals are the Tiger, Deer, Bear, Ape and Crane.

Tuo was asked to help Cao Cao, a warlord in the Eastern Han Dynasty, who had suffered from migraines. However, Cao Cao was a suspicious man, and thought Tuo would try to kill him during the brain surgery he thought was necessary. Instead of trusting Hua Tuo, Cao Cao had him executed.

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