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Ancient Chinese Medicine Illustration

Medicine

Ancient China for Kids

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The ancient Chinese were very advanced in medicine. They had many thousands of years to experiment. One ancient Chinese legend tells of the heavens sending wise kings down to earth to help man survive in this new and hostile world. Another legend says that one of these kings was a taster. He tasted all the plants to find out which ones were safe for man and which ones were not. After many tastings and many experiments, this king identified many different plants that cured different ailments and diseases. The ancient Chinese made medicines from these plants.

In Shang times, the science of acupuncture began about 4,000 years ago. The ancient Chinese believed that the body had systems. Sometimes, these systems needed to be adjusted or reset. The ancient Chinese inserted 9 needles into the body in certain places to adjust the system that was "ill". Using these needles in the right way was a specialized profession in ancient China, and the knowledge of how to use the needles was handed down from father to son. Acupuncture began in the stone age, so in the beginning, these needles were made of stone. 

In Chou times, the ancient Chinese practiced preventive medicine. In the larger cities, governments constructed sewage systems for better hygiene. Women were encouraged, and sometimes rewarded, for regular house cleaning. People were taught not to drink contaminated water, and whenever possible, to boil water before drinking or using to cook food. People were taught proper storage of food items to avoid contamination. They were encouraged to wash their hands before eating, using steam heated cloths.

Taoism introduced the concept of Yin and Yang. The Yin and the Yang is the concept of putting your shady side and your sunny side together in one healthy circle of life. The ancient Chinese believed if one side or the other was off balance, you would get sick. Part of Taoist teaching is how to keep your yin and yang in balance for good health and happiness. Some of the ways to keep your yin and yang in balance include good food, lots of exercise, low stress, and a good environment.

By Han times, ancient Chinese doctors were quite enlightened. They wrote books on medicines and good health. They had developed strong medical ethics to discourage anyone from practicing medicine without proper knowledge. Most importantly, they began to share knowledge with each other. No longer was medicine a secret science in ancient China, passed on from father to son. Students could learn medical skills.

By Tang times, thanks to the traders along the Silk Road, new knowledge about medicines and vaccines entered ancient China. Chinese doctors began to inoculate people against smallpox.

Ancient Chinese Medicine

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Interactive Quiz for Ancient China (with answers)