Infectious diseases in ancient China

In ancient China, although the term “epidemic” did not exist, its medical concept did exist, and this was the “epidemic”. In the Eastern Han Dynasty Xu Shen’s “Shuowen Jiezi” interpreted “epidemic” as “all people are sick”, which means that many people are sick. If the disease breaks out on a large scale, it is called a “major epidemic.” Five major infectious diseases such as typhoid fever, miasma, corpse transmission, mange, and caput sore, once brought serious disasters to the ancients.

Typhoid fever, the most common infectious disease in ancient times

The ancients knew about the phenomenon of epidemics very early. The “Illness Doctor” article of “Zhou Li·Tian Guan” stated: “Scockle disease occurs in all four seasons, first disease in spring, itching and scabies in summer, malaria in autumn, and cough and breath in winter. .” What is the “first disease” in spring? Literally it is “headache”.

Sun Yirang, a master of Chinese studies in the late Qing Dynasty, wrote in “Zhou Li Zhengyi”: “Spring is discordant, and the people feel its anger, but it is in the head because of the pain.” From Sun’s point of view, the temperature in spring is unstable. It is easy to suffer from headache and brain fever when it is cold or hot. This is the “typhoid fever” in ancient medicine. The ancient concept of typhoid fever is very broad, and all diseases that are infected from the outside can be called “typhoid fever.”

The first wave of typhoid fever in Chinese history occurred during the Eastern Han Dynasty, when the world’s first summative clinical medical work “Treatise on Febrile and Miscellaneous Diseases” was born. The author Zhang Zhongjing was a famous doctor at the time. His clan originally had more than 200 people, but since the first year of Jian’an (AD 196), two-thirds of them died in less than 10 years, and 70% of them died of typhoid fever.

According to the “Three Kingdoms·Wei Shu·Wu Di Ji” records, Cao Wei’s army was also trapped by typhoid fever. Cao Cao fought a famous “Chibi War” in July in the 13th year of Jian’an (AD 208). But in December, Cao Jun had a “great epidemic, and many officials died.” In fact, the infectious disease Cao Jun suffers is the “typhoid fever” that occurs frequently in winter and spring.

Another large-scale death caused by typhoid occurred in the first half of the 13th century. According to the “Jin History·Ai Zong Benji” records: In the first year of Tianxing (1232), “Bianjing epidemic, every 50 days, more than 900,000 people died from all walks of life.” Bianjing is now Kaifeng City, Henan Province. In less than two months, nearly a million people died. Modern scholars believed that this epidemic was typhoid fever based on what was recorded in Li Gao’s “Distinguishing Internal and External Injury”.

Miasma, the most ferocious infectious disease in ancient times

Among the ancient infectious diseases, the miasma was probably the most terrifying and ferocious infectious disease in the eyes of the ancients. What kind of infectious disease is miasma? It’s actually malaria. The word “malarial” changes from “scourge” to “torture”, and “torture” refers to the head of a tiger. The meaning is very clear. This is an infectious disease as fierce as a tiger.

In the early days, people directly wrote malaria as “abuse”, and the “Book of Rites · Yueling” was called “multiple malaria”. Liu Xi, a native of the Eastern Han dynasty, called the disease “torture” when he explained “malaria” in “Shiming·Shibing”. “Any disease may be cold or hot ears, and this disease is two diseases first and then hot, which seems to be cruel.”

During the pre-Qin period, malaria was first endemic in southern China. The so-called “malaria in autumn” in “Zhou Li” means that this disease occurs frequently in autumn. Investigating the cause of the disease, the “Book of Rites” believes that if the temperature in autumn is too high, that is, the so-called “summer season” in autumn, there will be an outbreak of malaria, because the mosquitoes that spread malaria multiply.

In ancient times, the Lingnan and Sichuan-Guizhou areas were full of miasma, so these areas were also the worst-hit areas of malaria. In the past, there was a folk rumor in Yunnan that said: “Smoke will start in May and June, and all new customers will die; in September and October, the smoke will be bad, and the souls of old customers will also fall.” The “Liujiang River” in the “Shuijing Notes” by Li Daoyuan of the Northern Wei Dynasty also Said that on both sides of the Lujiang River, “there is a miasma from time to time, and it will die in March and April.”

The soldiers of the past dynasties have suffered severe setbacks due to malaria. At that time, Zhuge Liang, the prime minister of the Kingdom of Shu, was afraid of miasma and delayed his plan to expedite the south. Tang Xuanzong Li Longji was even more defeated by the miasma during his southern expedition. According to the “Thirty-three Periods of the Tang Dynasty” records, in June of the 13th year of Tianbao (754), the imperial court sent a servant Li Mi to lead a 70,000 army to conquer Nanzhao Kingdom (in present-day Yunnan), and the soldiers were reported The miasma disease, sick and hungry, died “in ten out of ten.”

Corpse, the most severe infectious disease spread in ancient times

“Zone corpse” is one of the most severe infectious diseases in ancient times. There are many other names such as “corpse note”, “escape corpse”, “wind corpse”, “sink corpse” and “flying corpse”. The so-called “transmission of corpses” is actually “tuberculosis”, that is, tuberculosis. The scourge of tuberculosis to the ancients has a long history. It was mentioned in the book “Huang Di Nei Jing” in the pre-Qin period.

Why did the ancients refer to tuberculosis as “transmission of corpses”? Hua Tuo’s “Fahrenheit Central Tibetan Scriptures” contains a “Theory of Passing the Corpse”, “Zhong is sick and dying, so it is a disease, so it is said to pass on the corpse.” The general idea is that this disease is very easy to be transmitted, and it may be contracted during visits to patients and after death. In Jin Gehong’s “Earbbit Reserve Emergency Prescription”, there was a special “prescription for treating five corpses of stroke”, saying that the infectious disease was “everywhere and evil. Others, and even destroy the door.”

Chao Yuanfang, a well-known medical scientist in the Sui Dynasty, gave a new name to tuberculosis. He proposed the concept of “five steaming” in “The Origin of Diseases of Chao’s”. Among them, “bone steaming” means tuberculosis, meaning that the disease is deep and severe. Bone, yin deficiency, hot flashes from the inside to the outside, the malaria is difficult to heal for a long time.

Regarding tuberculosis, although the ancients talk about it, but according to historical records, during the Sui and Tang Dynasties, a tuberculosis expert named Xu Yinzong once cured tuberculosis with special remedies. The “Xin Tang Book · Fang Ji Zhuan” records that at that time, “the Guanzhong had many bone steaming diseases, which were transfected, and the winners were all dead, and Yinzong’s treatment must heal.”

Mange, the ancient “disease” that patients should not get married

Mange, that is, leprosy, also known as “leprosy”, “heavenly punishment disease”, “leprosy”, “leprosy”, etc., is another malignant infectious disease that feared the ancients.

According to “The Biography of Zhongni’s Disciples”, one of Confucius’s “72 disciples” Ran Geng had suffered from leprosy. Confucius went to visit him, held his hand from the window, and sighed: “Death is dead. Husband! People in Sri Lanka have some diseases too!” In the vernacular, people with such good virtues get this kind of disease. This is fate! In the “Historical Records”, it is not clearly stated that Ran Geng suffered from leprosy, only called “malignant disease”. However, the Eastern Han scholar He Xiu once made a note on the “illness” in the “Chunqiu Gongyang Biography”: “It is a genus of scrofula, deaf, blind, scrofula, baldness, lameness, stubbornness, and incompetence.” Combined Ran Geng was isolated in the house , Only “pi” this kind of malaise meets the conditions.

In ancient times, patients infected with mange were listed as “not suitable for marriage.” According to the records of “The Book of Rites and Destiny”, the custom of “five not to marry” existed in the Han Dynasty at the latest, one of which is “don’t take (marry) if there are evils in the world”.

In addition to Ran Geng, the celebrities suffering from leprosy in ancient times also included Lu Zhaolin, a poet in the early Tang Dynasty. During Lu Zhaolin’s illness, he wrote “Sick Pear Tree Fu” to tell of his pain. At that time, the famous medical scientist Sun Simiao prescribed a prescription to treat his illness, but he was never cured, and he drowned in the river.

According to records, leprosy was once a pandemic during the Sui and Tang dynasties, and the imperial court set up “Fangrenfang” in some monasteries. This was also the beginning of the establishment of leprosy hospitals in China.

Lump sore, an infectious disease that the ancients first discovered prevention and treatment methods

Lupus, also known as “wandou sore”, “tianxing acne” and “dou sore”, in the Ming and Qing Dynasties, it was called “smallpox” and “rash acne”, which is the internationally known “smallpox”.

The earliest record of this infectious disease can be found in Jin Gehong’s “Elbow Reserve Emergency Recipe for Treating Typhoid Fever and Temperature Diseases”: “When you are sick, you will still have sores on the head, face and body. Wearing Baijiang will follow the decision and live, and if it is not cured, many dramatists will die.”

The infectious disease “Lupus” is not an indigenous disease in China. At that time, it was said that “for four years in Yonghui, this sore flowed from west to east, all over the sea.” Why is it called “sore sore”? Ge Hong’s textual research: “The gains from the attacking the captives in Nanyang in Jianwu are called the ulcers.” However, Ge Hong has many doubts in his mind. “Yonghui” is the reign of Emperor Gaozong and Li Zhi of the Tang Dynasty, and “Jianwu” is the number one in the Eastern Han Dynasty. The reign title of Emperor Guangwu Emperor Liu Xiu, and at least three emperors such as Jinhui Emperor Sima Zhong used the reign title of “Jianwu” before Ge Hong.

According to the legend that Guangwu Emperor Liu Xiushi’s famous general Ma Yuan died of illness in Jiaozhi of Nanzheng, some scholars believed that “Jianwu” was Liu Xiu’s reign, and then verified that smallpox was first brought back by Ma Yuan’s Nanzheng army in the Eastern Han Dynasty. The author checked the “Hou Hanshu·Biography of Ma Yuan”, and there is indeed a record of Ma Yuan “going out to the address (toe)” and died from infectious diseases, but it should be a miasma (malaria) infection, not smallpox.

Although Ge Hong recorded doubts, two facts should be affirmed. One is that smallpox is a foreign infectious disease, and the other is that the Chinese have known smallpox very early.

Modern archaeologists have discovered smallpox disease on Egyptian mummies 3000 years ago, and speculated that smallpox spread from Egypt or India in the 4th century AD. Throughout the 18th century, more than 100 million people in Europe died of smallpox. Although smallpox is fierce, because China first discovered a way to prevent smallpox, smallpox did not cause unprecedented disasters in China as it did in Europe. According to Qing Zhu Chunguo’s “Conclusion on Acne”, when Zhao Heng (Zhenzong) was emperor in the Song Dynasty, there was a record of “Wang Su inoculating pox”.