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Ge Hong as depicted by Gan Bozong, woodcut print, Tang dynasty (618–907)

Ge Hong (Chinese: 葛洪; b. 283[1][2] – d. 343[1] or 364[2]), courtesy name Zhichuan (稚川), was a Chinese linguist, Taoist practitioner, philosopher, physician, politician, and writer during the Eastern Jin dynasty. He was the author of Essays on Chinese Characters, the Baopuzi, the Emergency Formulae at an Elbow's Length,[3] among others. He was the originator of first aid in traditional Chinese medicine and influenced later generations.

Early life

Ge Hong was born as the third son into a well-established family, his father died when he was 13.


In his public service role as an official, he was often asked to appraise his friends and acquaintances as possible candidates for government office positions and was also chosen to perform military service. However, he was unhappy with his life as an official. Although he never rejected Confucianism, he grew interested in Taoist cultivation and using drugs so he could achieve the spiritual freedoms of Taoist Immortality.

He wrote an autobiography of his life that was the last part of his collected writings[4]

His grandfather served as Minister of Personnel and his father as governor. By Ge Hong's time, although the family was declining, he was once made Marquis (noble title) of the area within the past relying on his meritorious military service.


His main contributions were in Chinese alchemy and medicine, and also as a religious scholar integrating Confucianism and Taoism. Ge Hong questioned ancient writings and was against the traditionalism of the time, whereby older writings were valued while newer ideas were less respected, and instead emphasized innovation and methods which involved experimentation and results. This was especially the case in his work in medicine and alchemy. In medical practice, Ge Hong read a large number of medical books in his analysis and research. He summarized treatment experience and collected knowledge from folk treatments, compiling works such as the hundred-scrolled book《玉函方》.

In his book《肘后方》, he suggested treating rabies patients by applying the brain matter of rabid dogs onto the bite wound,[5] and extractions from the plant Artemisia annua (青蒿) to treat malaria. The latter method inspired the works of Tu Youyou, which led to the discovery of artemisinin extracted from the same plant, part of the 2015 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.[6]

See also


  1. ^ a b Wells, Matthew (18 July 2013). "Self as Historical Artifact: Ge Hong and Early Chinese Autobiographical Writing". Early Medieval China. 2003 (1): 71–103. doi:10.1179/152991003788138465. S2CID 161623586.
  2. ^ a b Liu, Peng (12 October 2016). ""Conceal my Body so that I can Protect the State": The Making of the Mysterious Woman in Daoism and Water Margin". Ming Studies. 2016 (74): 48–71. doi:10.1080/0147037X.2016.1228876. S2CID 164447144.
  3. ^ "Daoism Series 31: Prepared Emergency Formulae Behind the Elbow". Purple Cloud. 2020-12-09. Retrieved 2022-05-05.
  4. ^ Ebrey, Patricia Buckley (1993). Chinese civilization : a sourcebook (2nd ed.). New York: The Free Press. pp. 91. ISBN 002908752X. OCLC 27226697.
  5. ^ Ge, Hong. 《肘后备急方》 (in Chinese). Wester Jin (near present day Guangdong).
  6. ^ "Youyou Tu – Biographical". Retrieved 2018-04-22.

Further reading