Specimen medicinae Sinicae

"Medicus Sinicus" - Michał Boym`s great work on Chinese medicine and pharmacology, published posthumously in parts as "Specimen Medicinae Sinicae" in 1682 and "Clavis medica ad Chinarum doctrinam de pulsibusi" in 1686. These were the first European treatises on the subject of Chinese method of diagnosis of diseases by examination of changes in the patient`s pulse and the patient`s tongue, containing the basics of the Yin and Yang concept, the principles of Qi energy circulation through channels called "meridians" in connection with the action of acupuncture and Chinese natural medicines.

The first edition, however, was unmarked with his name and was essentially a plagiarism of his work. The plagiarist was a certain Andreas Cleyer, in the years 1665 to 1697 employed as a German surgeon general in the Dutch trading company Dutch East India Company in Batavia (now Jakarta, Indonesia, then a Dutch colony). Cleyer obtained the original text by Boym from his companion Boym, a Jesuit and publisher in Paris, Philippe Couplet, to whom Boym entrusted it in 1656, on his way to China. Philippe Couplet, instead of delivering the text to Europe as soon as it was agreed, sent it to Batavia in 1656, where it fell into the hands of Cleyer, whom Couplet befriended, and who compiled, edited and published after his return to Europe under his surname. As Boym died in 1659, he was no longer able to defend his authorship. However, as early as 1686, Couplet himself re-edited this text and re-published in Nuremberg, this time as "Clavis medica ad Chinarum doctrinam de pulsibus autore r.p. Michaele Boymo e Soc. Jesu et in China missionario", that is, correctly giving the authorship of Boym. Therefore, today, Michał Boym is undoubtedly considered the author of all the above-mentioned medical treatises. Additionally, some of Boym`s manuscripts from "Medicus Sinicus" were found in the Jagiellonian Library. There is a copy of the Nuremberg edition from 1686 in the National Library.

These texts were created with the materials collected by a Pole since his arrival on the island of Hainan in 1647, which in turn were created in China based on the famous, the oldest (over 2000 years old) Chinese medical book, the so-called "Huangdi Neijing" or "Canon of Internal Medicine of the Yellow Emperor", the legendary ruler of China. The canon itself comes from the period of the so-called Warring States, i.e. 5th-3rd century BC, and is still the basis of Chinese traditional medicine, which is still in use today.

The Chinese therefore recognize Michał Boym as the first European translator of the Canon of Internal Medicine, although Medicus Sinicus was more than a direct translation, as it was an analysis of original texts and an attempt to lay out their concepts in a way that was understandable to Europeans.

Link to the edition of "Specimen Medicinae Sinicae" on the New York Academy of Medicine website, click here