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The first pharmacopoeia -- Xinxiu Bencao


Xinxiu Bencao (Newly Revised Canon of Materia Medica) is the first pharmacopoeia (a book listing drugs and their directions for their uses) published by the Chinese government and is widely considered as the "first pharmacopoeia in the world." Twenty-three people headed by Su Jing of the Tang Dynasty (618-907) compiled the book in 659.

The Newly Revised Canon of Materia Medica is also called Tang Bencao (Tang Materia Medica) or Yinggong Bencao. In the second year of the reign of Emperor Xianqing of the Tang Dynasty (657), Su Jing presented a petition to the emperor to compile a pharmacopoeia. Then, the Tang government issued a decree to let 23 experts led by Su Jing to compose the works. They completed the task on January 17 of the fourth year of Emperor Xianqing's reign (659).

The book is in 54 volumes, divided into three parts. The "Main Body," namely the commonly called Newly Revised Canon of Materia Medica, contains 20 volumes, with one volume being the table of contents; and 25 volumes for pictures of medicines, with one volume also being the table of contents. In addition, there are 7 volumes of the third part -- "Illustrated Description."

After the book's publication, the Tang government made it issued throughout the country as the basis for medical application, which lasted for more than 400 years.

The text part of the Newly Revised Canon of Materia Medica contains the preface and the introduction of 850 kinds of medicine, with 114 new kinds in comparison with "Notes to Bencao Jing by Tao Hongjing." By supplementing, correcting, and revising the contents of earlier works, it has a high academic value.

Newly Revised Canon of Materia Medica sums up the pharmacological achievements before the Tang Dynasty, and not only has more categories and quantity of medicines, but also included a lot of folk knowledge on pharmacy. At that time, the book's accuracy and authenticity were beyond comparison with any other books of the same kind.

With its rich textual research on medicines and pharmacy knowledge, the book won the respect from the medical circle both home and abroad, and exerted a deep influence on the pharmacology development of later generations.




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