Discussion of Cold Damage with Commentaries for the Clinic

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Author(s) Shouchun Ma , Dan Bensky
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This book is a new translation and annotated guide to the text and clinical applications of Zhang Zhong-Jing’s Discussion of Cold Damage (Shäng hán lùn), which since the 3rd century has been the most important classical reference for treating externally-contracted diseases in traditional East Asian medicine. The core of the book are translations of the 398 main paragraphs of the Song dynasty edition (11th century), which covers tài yáng, yáng míng, shào yáng, tài yīn, shào yīn, jué yīn as well as sudden turmoil, yin-yang exchange, and relapse after recovery due to consumption.

Each entry begins with the original text of the paragraph in Chinese and its translation. This is followed by an explanation of the text and its significance, touching upon the specific clinical relevance of the passage as well as background issues. For paragraphs that include herbal formulas, the original Chinese is presented together with a translation and brief explanation of the composition. Methods of preparation, both original and modern, are included.

A distinguishing feature of this book are the commentaries that are provided for each paragraph, selected from amongst the most respected scholar-practitioners on the Discussion of Cold Damage during the past thousand years. The reader is thereby given direct access to how prominent physicians have interacted with this text in the past, illuminating some of the more practical approaches to it. Carefully selected case histories are appended to relevant paragraphs to help the reader gain further insight into the clinical utility of the formulas they contain.

Throughout the book the authors, both of whom are practitioners with many decades of experience in Chinese medicine, provide their own comments about issues raised in the text. This includes textual interpretation as well as discussion of the clinical aspects of the paragraphs.

There is also a glossary, table of people noted in the text, bibliography, and full index.

About the translators/editors

Shouchun Ma (馬壽椿 Ma Shou-Chun) was born in Chengdu in 1944. He became interested in medicine as a young boy—his mother was often ill and he would look things up in Essentials of the Materia Medica to help her. After his own illness prevented him from applying to college, Ma studied Chinese medicine on his own, and in 1969 had the opportunity to learn from a highly respected doctor in Chongqing, Shi Ji-Min 施濟民, who was an expert in both acupuncture and Discussion of Cold Damage. There soon developed a small group of Shi’s devoted students. After Dr. Shi’s passing in 1973, Ma and three of his other students formed a study group that met every week until 1980. During this time, he also continued to see patients when he wasn’t teaching.


In 1980, Ma was admitted to the Chengdu College of Traditional Chinese Medicine, one of only a few apprentice-trained students to do so, and received the only place that year in their master’s program in Discussion of Cold Damage studies. There he had the opportunity to work under three famous experts in Discussion of Cold Damage: Peng Lü-Xiang 彭履祥, Dai Fo-Yan 戴佛延, and Chen Zhi-Heng 陳治恆. After graduating, he worked at the Chongqing Institute of Traditional Chinese Medicine, which was primarily a clinical site with both inpatient and outpatient departments. He then moved to Seattle in 1988 where he has been teaching and seeing patients ever since. In 2006 he earned a Ph.D. from the China Academy of Traditional Chinese Medical Sciences under the tutelage of one of the top contemporary scholars and practitioners in China on the Discussion of Cold Damage, Nie Hui-Min 聶惠敏.


Dan Bensky is a graduate of the Macau Institute of Chinese Medicine (Oriental Medicine Diploma, 1975), University of Michigan (B.A. in Chinese Language and Literature, 1978), Michigan State University College of Osteopathic Medicine (Doctor of Osteopathy, 1982), University of Washington (M.A. in Classical Chinese, 1996), and Chinese Academy of Traditional Chinese Medical Sciences (Ph.D. in Discussion of Cold Damage, 2006). He contributed to the translation and editing of Acupuncture: A Comprehensive Text, and to the compilation and translation of Chinese Herbal Medicine: Materia Medica and Chinese Herbal Medicine: Formulas & Strategies. Dr. Bensky is a founder of the Seattle Institute of East Asian Medicine. In 2008, he was awarded the Wang Dingyi Cup International Prize for contributions to Chinese medicine.

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