The usages of the āmalaka fruit in ancient China

WANG Dawei1,2 GAO Yongxiang3

(1.Institute of Taoism and Religious Culture, Sichuan University)
(2.Postdoctoral Research Station, Chengdu University of Traditional Chinese Medicine)
(3.College of Basic Medicine, Chengdu University of Traditional Chinese Medicine)

【Abstract】As Buddhism was disseminated in China, āmalaka had been known and recognized gradually by ancient Chinese physicians. According to ancient Indian medical classics, it has a very wide range of usage. In related Chinese literature, āmalaka has detoxifying, tonifying and hair nourishing functions, especially the detoxificationfor mineral toxicity which has not been recorded in modern pharmacopoeia. Buddhism is the intermediary for the dissemination of the uses of this herb. If there has been no much mention of āmalaka in Buddhist scriptures, ancient Chinese probably had no much interest in this herb. The exotic touch and Buddhist background of this herb are important reasons for its uses in traditional Chinese medicine and its role as an e epitome of the mutual exchanges between Chinese and Indian civilizations.

【Keywords】 ancient China; āmalaka fruit; usage;

【DOI】

【Funds】 Western Project of China National Social Science Fund of China (15XZJ007)

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(Translated by LIU Yuhui)

    Footnote

    [1]. ① For related research, see Chen, M. 印度梵文医典《医理精华》研究. Beijing: Zhonghua Book Company (2002); Chen, M. Foreign Medicine and Culture in Medieval China (中古医疗与外来文化). Beijing: Peking University Press (2013); Wen, C. 中古中国外来香药研究. Beijing: Science Press (2016). In recent studies, Chen’s research findings are the richest and the most remarkable. [^Back]

    [2]. ② Chen has a special article on the “Sanlejiang.” See Chen, M. Historical Research (历史研究), (1) (2012). This article was included into the book Foreign Medicine and Culture in Medieval China. For related discussions, also see Cheng, L. Chinese Wild Plant Resources (中国野生植物资源), (3) (2005). [^Back]

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    [6]. ② There are a large number of records of social-life activities in ancient India. As specially mentioned by Ji in a article (商人与佛), “there are many historical materials about ancient Indian society in the Vinaya Pitaka that are extremely detailed and vivid.” (See 季羡林文集 Vol. 7. Nanchang: Jiangxi Education Publishing House, 119 (1998)). [^Back]

    [7]. ③ [Tang] Yijing (trans.) Taisho-pitaka, Vol. 24, 210. [^Back]

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    [12]. ② The Siddhasara is an ancient India medical work written in the mid seventh century. The author of the book is Ravigupta who “studied the works of Dhavantari and AtreYa about the ‘Veda of Life,’ the general name of the Indian classical medical system. . . Professor Emmerick deduced from the Siddhasara and related India medical classics that Ravigupta probably lived in the mid seventh century. The Siddhasara is a classic work about clinical knowledge. In nature, it is an anthology of herbal prescriptions. It selected effective prescriptions from several medical books and compiled them into 31 chapters.” (See Chen, M. Mt Wutai Researches (五台山研究), (4): 29 (1999)). Professor Chen is probably the scholar who has the most extensive exploration of the medical classic. Chen’s representative work on the Siddhasara (印度梵文医典〈医理精华〉研究) is a detailed study of the medical classic with corresponding Chinese translations, which has great value for us to understand ancient Indian medical science. [^Back]

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    [15]. ⑤ According to Chen, “The Jivaka-pustaka is a bilingual manuscript (in Khotan script and Sanskrit language) stolen by A. Stein from the Library Cave in in Dunhuang and collected in the Indian Office Library in London with the collection number of Ch.ii003. The original language of the bilingual version of the Jivaka-pustaka is Sanskrit, and the one in Khotan script is the translation. The book title was given by H. W. Bailey for easier research because there is mention of Jivaka, the name of the famous Indian physician who belonged to the same era with the Buddha, at the beginning of the existing text. This book title later was widely accepted by the academic community.” (The Chinese Journal for the History of Science and Technology (中国科技史料), (1): 77 (2001)) [^Back]

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    [26]. ② 太平圣惠方 Vol. 23, pp. 433–434. [^Back]

    [27]. ③ As mentioned in Volume 265 of the Prescriptions for Universal Relief written by Zhu Xiao in the Ming Dynasty, “The herbal prescription with cinnabar, mercury and sulfur can warm the body, reinforce the vital energy, blacken the hair and beard, and improve one’s appearance. Grind cinnabar, mercury and sulfur into powders, each with 2 liang. Mill and wash 7.5 kg of cast iron, heat it in strong fire, and pull it in and out 7.5 kg of water for 20 to 30 times. Take a pan and boil the mineral powders with the water for 21 days. Add warm water whenever the pan is boiled dry. After 21 days of boiling, take some of the compound out and put it on fire. If there is a flame, then boil it again; but if not, then stop the boiling. When it is dried, put the compound into a bottle, press it tightly, and seal the bottle through cementation. Use slow fire to warm the bottle for seven consecutive days, and then heat it in strong fire. When it cools down, break the bottle, take the compound out, and put it into a pot to wash down the smell. Filter out the sediments, dry them in the sun, and grind them into powders. Boil the powers with radix glycyrrhizae and alma for half a day to remove the fire toxin, mix the compound into a jelly with clamshell powders, and make them into pills as big as flaxseeds. Put seven pills in warm wine and take it in an empty stomach. One should abstain from sheep blood during the treatment.” (影印文渊阁四库全书 Book 755, 749). It can be seen from the record that the functions of radix glycyrrhizae and alma in the prescription are to remove the fire toxin. [^Back]

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    [32]. ① 太平圣惠方 Vol. 32, pp. 641–642. [^Back]

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    [34]. ③ Chen, M. 殊方异药: 出土文书与西域医学, 267. [^Back]

    [35]. ④ [Ming] Zhu, X. 普济方 Vol. 223 in 影印文渊阁四库全书 Book 754, 539–540. As annotated in the Prescriptions for Universal Relief, the herbal prescription Wuzi Pill was derived from the Bo Ji Fang (博济方) edited by Wang Gun in the Song Dynasty, but there is no record of such prescription in the extant version of the Bo Ji Fang. According to the introduction to the abstract of the Bo Ji Fang included in the Complete Library of the Four Branches of Literature (四库全书) published by the Wenyuan Ge, Wang Gun collected more than 7000 prescriptions in 20 years and selected 500 of them for a book. But there has been no extant version of this book. Instead, only some fragmentary records can be found in the Yongle Encyclopedia (永乐大典), from which 350 prescriptions can be summarized. Since there are missing herbal prescriptions from the Bo Ji Fang in the Prescriptions for Universal Relief , it can be seen that the Bo Ji Fang was relatively complete in the early Ming Dynasty. (See 影印文渊阁四库全书 Book 747, 1–2) [^Back]

    [36]. ⑤ As stated by Tang Naichang in his article “Research of Zhang Guo” (张果考), “There is a preface to the Xuan Jie Lu (悬解录) written in the ninth year of the era of Dazhong (855). The book was written earlier, but its publication was only about 100 years from the time of Zhang Guo. In the book, Zhang Guo is titled Master Tongxuan, and he provided his prescriptions in the era of Kaiyuan, which was inconsistent with the records in related documents of the Tang Dynasty. Therefore, this annotation is credible. (See Religious Studies(宗教学研究), 19 (1985)) [^Back]

    [37]. ⑥ 道藏 Vol. 19. Beijing: Cultural Relics Publishing House, Shanghai: Shanghai Bookstore & Tianjin: Tianjin Ancient Books Publishing House, 318 (1988). [^Back]

    [38]. ① See China Pharmacopoeia (2010 Edition) (中国药典(2010年版)) Vol. 1, 167. [^Back]

    [39]. ② According to the statistics provided by a scholar, “Among the 205 Tibetan herbal prescriptions included in Volume 1 of the Section of Tibetan Medicine in the Quality Standards for Medicines of the Ministry of Health of the People’s Republic of China, 67 contain alma, accounting for 32.68% of the total.” (See Chen, W. Modernization of Traditional Chinese Medicine and Materia Medica—World Science and Technology (世界科学技术—中医药现代化), (7): 1155 (2016)) [^Back]

    [40]. China Pharmacopoeia (2010 Edition) (中国药典(2010年版)) Vol. 1, 167. [^Back]

This Article

ISSN:1000-4289

CN: 11-1299/B

Vol , No. 06, Pages 75-81

December 2017

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Abstract

  • 1 Characteristics of āmalaka in ancient Indian culture
  • 2 Āmalaka as a traditional Chinese medicine
  • 3 Conclusions
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