Essential Subtleties on the Silver Sea presents the first translation into English of the complete Yin-hai jing-wei, a classic fifteenth century text on Chinese ophthalmology.
As one of the few original manuscripts on traditional Chinese medicine translated into a Western language, this work offers an unprecedented view of the practice of medicine, and specifically eye care, in premodern China.
Superbly translated from the classical Chinese and extensively annotated by Jürgen Kovacs and his colleague Paul U Unschuld, one of the foremost authorities on traditional Chinese medical literature, the text provides detailed descriptions of the etiology, symptomology, and therapy of every eye disease known to fifteenth-century Chinese practitioners. Many descriptions are accompanied by medical illustrations from the period. Also included are sections devoted to Chinese medicine in general, eye surgery, special methods of diagnostics, pharmaceutics, and all aspects of ophthalmic treatment. In a lengthy introduction, Kovacs and Unschuld provide the first in-depth analysis of the development of a specialty within Chinese medicine and examine the significance of the Yin-hai jing-wei from both historical and clinical perspectives. Concluding the volume are a list of drugs mentioned in the text and a complete bibliography.
The picture of early Chinese ophthalmology that emerges from these pages is remarkably clear and comprehensive, and, in some respects, surprising. Despite the modern association of acupuncture with traditional Chinese medical practice, for instance, not one reference to acupuncture can be found here. Instead, the most commonly advocated mode of therapy employs a wide variety of herbal, mineral, and animal substances. There is also ample evidence of the importance of surgical interventions in eye treatment and of the influence of freeing (mainly Indian) health-care-practices on the development of Chinese ophthalmology.
At a time when traditional Chinese medicine is seen by many as a possible alternative to Western approaches to illness and healing, it is important to analyze carefully the historical bases of these medical traditions. As a source document for comparative studies of Chinese and Western medicine, of the image and reality of Chinese medicine, and of numerous other issues on the history of medicine and Chinese thought, the Yin-hai jing-wei has no equal in the Western world.