Adventures in China's New Territories 4: The Gods of Medicine

IMG_6945I spent a few weeks north of Hong Kong in the New Territories. The transportation system is easy and each day I went exploring. I’d read up, select yet another fascinating place to discover, and off I’d go.

Entering the temple at Wong Tai Sin
Entering the temple at Wong Tai Sin

As a massage therapist I went to pay my respects to Sun Si-miao Zhen Ren, Perfected Master and god of Chinese Medicine.

He was a doctor and herbalist who lived from 581 – 682. (Yes. 101 years.) Perfected Master Sun authored some of the most important Traditional Chinese Medicine treatises. Along with medical recipes and information on everything from acupuncture and massage to herbs and diet, he wrote the following: “A Great Physician should not pay attention to status, wealth or age. Neither should he question whether the particular person is attractive or unattractive, whether he is an enemy or a friend, whether he is a Chinese or a foreigner, and finally, whether he is uneducated or educated. He should meet everyone on equal grounds. He should always act as if he were thinking of his close relatives.” [1]

He tried to heal whoever needed his help, regardless of whether his patients were rich or poor. He turned down offers for jobs as physician at the Sui and Tang courts, working instead with ordinary people.

His books are still required reading for all TCM practitioners. Taoists honor him as a god of healing. Even today, the ill and infirm (or people wishing to stay healthy) visit his temple to make offerings.

IMG_6910

IMG_6922 So I headed to Wong Tai Sin Temple.

IMG_6913I was delighted to discover that at the temple you can worship gods. Goddesses. Protectors and saints. Local deities. Buddha.

IMG_6948The entrance is protected.

IMG_6885

I was met by wonderful bronze statues of the twelve animals of the Chinese zodiac.

IMG_6907IMG_6908IMG_6994IMG_6993I managed to photograph all but the ox and dog.

Horse
Horse
Rat
Rat
Rabbit
Rabbit
Snake
Snake
Goat
Goat
Monkey
Monkey
IMG_6888
Tiger
Rooster
Rooster
Pig
Pig
Dragon
Dragon

Then I ascended the stairs and entered the compound.

IMG_6903IMG_6905IMG_6924IMG_6917 IMG_6941IMG_6963IMG_6923IMG_6939The temple is just outside a metro stop, smack dab in an urban area. The serenity of the shrines and their religious activity is set against a backdrop of tall buildings.

IMG_6989
Click on the photograph and check out all the turtles

IMG_6934IMG_6935Wong Tai Sin Temple includes a meditative garden, and I wandered around to take photographs.IMG_6983IMG_6970IMG_6972IMG_6985

IMG_6967
Even more turtles on this side!

As I walked I thought about the gods of medicine. When Uwe and I were in Egypt in 2013 we visited the ruins at Edfu. They contain a room known as the Laboratory. The high walls are covered in hieroglyphics that are some of the world’s oldest formulas for incense and unguents. Our local guide Khairy spoke German and was finishing a degree in Egyptology. Khairy believes that the Egyptian gods were real men and women. He thought they’d once lived and had made discoveries or created things so extraordinary that over time they came to be considered gods. He said, surely whoever wrote the recipes inscribed on these walls must have seemed like a god.

D31_8064_DxO8
Chamber of medical recipes at Edfu, Temple to Horus

D31_8065_DxO8

I recalled Khairy’s words as I explored the temple.

When I left Wong Tai Sin I don’t know if I came away a better massage therapist, but I love the idea of a temple to a person who dedicated his life to healing others.

NOTES: [1] On the Absolute Sincerity of Great Physicians (大醫精誠 Dayi Jingcheng). This has been called the Chinese Hippocratic Oath.

http://jadeturtlerecords.blogspot.hk/2011/02/sun-simiao.html

http://www.sqg.com.sg/?page_id=22&lang=en

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/chinese-phil-medicine/#SunSim
IMG_6900

Photos Copyright © 2015 Jadi Campbell or Uwe Hartmann. All photogaphs can be enlarged by simply clicking on the image. More of Uwe’s images from Egypt and our earlier trips to China and Hong Kong and his photography may be viewed at viewpics.de.

21 thoughts on “Adventures in China's New Territories 4: The Gods of Medicine”

  1. China and Egypt are two places where some of the earliest forms of writing have been found; although scientists aren’t certain they arose completely and independently of any other source or influence. They do know, however, that writing arose independently in ancient Mesopotamia (around 4000 B.C.) and in México (around 600 B.C.). But we also know for certain the earliest version of a printing press came from China.

    I’m simply fascinated with the evolution of language and writing. Well, I’m a writer, so I guess that’s to be expected!

  2. Considering that China is a cradle of one of humanity’s civilizations and where the prototypes of so many items we use today were developed, this must have been simultaneously extraordinary and overwhelming.

  3. So true what you say, life is a story just waiting to be told. Enjoyed your story and the great photos so keep on travelelling “living in the space between cultures” – wonderful stuff! p.s thanks for stopping by my blog too

    1. Thanks Donna! As I get older the story gets clearer. Maybe I just finally see the patterns and story lines that were there all along… but, they are definitely there.

  4. Thank you for stopping by my humble blog as it allowed me to discover yours! Fascinating post and great photos. (My husband takes most of my photos too but sometimes I surprise myself when I try and take good ones!) What a wonderful place to explore! Thanks for taking us along to enjoy and consider world/earth connections.

    1. Your photos are lovely, too – I’m envious of your fireplace. Thanks also for placing me in your honor roll of blogs. I’m pleased to be included and it was a nice surprise to discover my face there…

    1. Good grief – big parts of the hands (beaks? claws? paws?) had been worn shiny and smooth from being touched by so many visitors. I loved the mix of deities, ancestors and animals.

  5. Jadi,

    Beautiful pictures and wonderful story. Thanks for sharing.

    Diana

    Sent from Windows Mail

  6. Love your story and the pics, once again. Teaching me again how other cultures could be used all over the world if we could only open our eyes to see – Thanks Jadi

    1. What a beautiful comment. It was a great moment making the connection between these different points of inspiration. And that in turn inspires me to share the insights….

Leave a Reply