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#16 Non-Han Nan Ban

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Posted 18 August 2008 - 02:24 AM

This is just not serious. :lol: "Nei Ching Su Wen" is not an author: it's a book title! The Suwen 素問 [Basic Questions] is one half of the received Huangdi neijing 黃帝內經 [Yellow Emperor's Inner Canon], which recent studies have dated to about the 1st century BC (though it was based on earlier material). Not a single scholar supports the 5th century as a possible date for the Suwen. For more on the dating of the Inner Canon, see this thread:

http://www.chinahist...showtopic=26391


:wallbash: :lol: Wow. Thank you. :) The fact that Cambridge publishes their book is very sad. :no: :rolleyes:

I suspect that the 6th century as a date for the Sushruta Samhita is also an uninformed guess based either on tradition or on third-hand scholarship. Even the Wikipedia entry is more subtle:

I don't know anything about the Sushruta Samhita, but my guess is that it was probably composed around the 3rd century AD and attributed in retrospect to a venerated intellectual ancestor (as happened so often in China).


India did have a strong oral tradition passed down and transformed into written word, but the written word appeared no earlier than the 3rd century BC (same era as the Qin text; even then, I'm sure the oldest copies of the Sushruta Samhita probably do not date from the 3rd century BC). The validity of exact transmitted accounts of leprosy in India before the 3rd century BC should therefore be taken with a huge grain of salt.

What the Cambridge Encyclopedia of Human Paleopathology says that deserves consideration is that some very early texts (notably the Old Testament) mention words that eventually came to mean "leprosy." But like the term mentioned in Leviticus, li 癘 in ancient Chinese texts referred to all kinds of skin disorders, not just to leprosy. They key point is therefore that none of these older texts described the symptoms of leprosy. This is why I think that the 3rd-century-BC Qin bamboo slips still contain the earliest unambiguous description of leprosy in world history!


That is an excellent point. :clapping:

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#17 madalibi

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Posted 18 August 2008 - 02:45 AM

Immunology, in the form of smallpox inoculation, attested in the early 16th century (possibly earlier: I'll look it up).


I was going to add this, but it appears that there is a competing claim about its origins in India, centuries or so before China.


If you give me your sources, I'll try to look into this. Needham actually argued that smallpox inoculation started around the year 1000 in "Taoist" circles, and that "Taoists" transmitted the recipe secretly for 500 years, but the historical anecdote he based this claim on dates to the Qing period.

The earliest clear mention of inoculation Needham found was in a book by Wan Quan 萬全 called Douzhen xinfa 痘疹心法 (1549). (My own brief investigation tells me that the original title might also have been Douzhen xinyao 痘疹心要 or Douzhen shiyi xinfa 痘疹世醫心法.) Needham's discussion appears in SCC VI:6, p. 134. As he points out, this work mentioned inoculation only in passing, suggesting that inoculation was already common at the time.

What I need now is your source for the competing Indian claim!

#18 Non-Han Nan Ban

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Posted 18 August 2008 - 01:40 PM

"Government-sponsored" is the key term here. If you say "the first official pharmacopeia," you will get opposition from European scholars who will argue that a pharmacopeia has to have force of law in order to be "official." But the Xinxiu bencao was not legally enforced. If you need a citation, Needham makes this distinction in SCC VI:6 (Medicine) p. 56, note 39.


Thanks. :)

Of course the Chinese had no idea what "thyroid hormones" were, so Needham's identification is based on his interpretation of biochemical processes that Chinese sources described in very different terms. And we saw how he over-interpreted the "Autumn Mineral"... I'll try to investigate, but things would go faster if you could give me your reference. For one thing, the index to SCC VI:6 mentions neither goiter nor thyroid hormones.


Well, I never said that the Chinese understood what thyroid hormones were, just that they utilized them (by using thyroid glands of animals) to treat goiter. I did not glean this from Needham; I read this in Robert Temple's Genius of China, page 135.

As for inoculation, the 10th century reference also came from Temple's book, pages 135-137. He says that when the eldest son of Prime Minister Wang Dan died of smallpox, the latter sought a cure to save the rest of his family. Temple says a Daoist hermit summoned from Mount Emei introduced the technique of inoculation. However dubious this may be, he says that smallpox inoculation did not become widely known in China until the late Ming, specifically 1567 to 1672 (Longqing Emperor's reign). He cites the author Yu Tianchi and Yu Chang, the latter's book being Miscellaneous Ideas in Medicine (1643). He also includes an account of Zhang Yan in 1741, the Transplanting the Smallpox.

As for inoculation in India, I read this in a rather sketchy online source, but this has been debunked in another source I have just read by Dominik Wujastyk, in her chapter "Medicine in India" in the book Oriental Medicine (page 29):

Inoculation was current in Turkey in the early eighteenth century; there is evidence that it may have been brought to Turkey from China. It is interesting, then, to find a detailed account by a renowned English surgeon in 1767, describing the widespread practice of inoculation in Bengal. There is also some evidence to push the Indian practice of inoculation back further, to 1731. Once again, there is a historical paradox here: there is not the slightest trace of this important and effective treatment in any of the Sanskrit medical treatises. Smallpox was certainly recognised in Ayurvedic texts, where it is called masurika ('lentil' disease) and was treated after a fashion. But of inoculation there is absolutely no mention. The link between theory and practice is broken once again.

After smallpox vaccination was introduced to India in 1802, a rumour was started in 1819 by an article in The Madras Courier, a popular daily newspaper, to the effect that there existed in ancient Sanskrit text describing in detail the process of vaccination. This proved, it was argued, the superiority of ancient Indian science, and that 'there is nothing new under the sun'. Unfortunately, this rumour gained currency and was republished in books and encyclopedias across Europe all through the nineteenth century, and it even surfaces today. Careful literary research has shown, however, that no such Sanskrit text exists, and that the whole affair was almost certainly triggered by the excessive zeal of British vaccination propagandists, who composed tracts on vaccination in local languages and probably in Sanskrit too.


That line, "and it even surfaces today" is incredibly funny, because right now (before I edit it), the wikipedia page for inoculation says:

The earliest record of inoculation is found in 8th century India, when Madhav wrote the Nidāna, a 79-chapter book which lists diseases along with their causes, symptoms, and complications. He included a special chapter on smallpox (masūrikā) and described the method of inoculation to protect against smallpox.[3]

Around the same time, it is recorded that the Chinese inoculated their patients by making them snort the powdered scabs of smallpox victims since at least the 10th century. Another method of their inoculation was by scratching the powder into their skin.[3][4]


:lol: I guess someone had to come up with something that would predate the Chinese discovery by at least two centuries to make it safely in the Indian camp. Funny.

Oh, and I added leprosy to the article on Chinese discoveries already:
http://en.wikipedia....ese_discoveries

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#19 madalibi

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Posted 19 August 2008 - 01:24 AM

Well, I never said that the Chinese understood what thyroid hormones were, just that they utilized them (by using thyroid glands of animals) to treat goiter. I did not glean this from Needham; I read this in Robert Temple's Genius of China, page 135.

:P Sorry! I should have introduced my sentence with "As we both know..." I just wanted to observe that we should be careful with some of Needham's interpretations, because they are based on a modern scientific point of view, but not always on modern scientific experiments that would support Needham's suppositions.

As for Temple, most of his claims come directly from Needham. Temple is some kind of "Needham for dummies" (here again, don't get me wrong :D ). He takes conclusions from Needham, removes a lot of the evidence Needham had presented to support them, and erases all the caveats Needham had prudently inserted around his claims. As with the case of, guess what... smallpox inoculation.

As for inoculation, the 10th century reference also came from Temple's book, pages 135-137. He says that when the eldest son of Prime Minister Wang Dan died of smallpox, the latter sought a cure to save the rest of his family. Temple says a Daoist hermit summoned from Mount Emei introduced the technique of inoculation. However dubious this may be, he says that smallpox inoculation did not become widely known in China until the late Ming, specifically 1567 to 1672 [1572] (Longqing Emperor's reign). He cites the author Yu Tianchi and Yu Chang, the latter's book being Miscellaneous Ideas in Medicine (1643). He also includes an account of Zhang Yan in 1741, the Transplanting the Smallpox.

All these claims come from an article that Needham and Lu Gwei-djen wrote in 1980, updated in 1987, and updated again for SCC VI:6 (Medicine), which Nathan Sivin edited and published in 2000. SCC VI:6 is the reference you need, because Temple’s claims are based on the 1980 article. I will explain below what Needham said about Yu Tianchi. Yu Chang's 喻昌 book is called Yuyi cao 寓意草. It is a collection of medical case records. A scholar called Charlotte Furth has recently translated the title as Notes on my Judgment. Zhang Yan's book from 1741 is called Zhongdou xinshu 種痘新書, which means "New book on smallpox inoculation." Temple's translation of both titles is wrong.

The 2000 article in SCC VI:6 is titled “The origins of immunology.” Here’s some of what it says on smallpox inoculation (to save time, let me Romanize directly into pinyin):

P. 134:

The earliest reference (apart from the Taoist tradition which we discuss separately below, p. 154) seems to be in the book of Wan Quan& #33836;全 on smallpox and measles, Dou zhen xin fa, first published in +1549 and reprinted half a dozen times in the Qing dynasty.

I already discussed Wan Quan’s (1499-1582) Douzhen xinfa in a previous post. Needham says this about Wan:

Speaking of treatments, he casually mentions that smallpox inoculation is liable to bring on menstruation unexpectedly in women. His book gives no information on the technique. His remark suggests that inoculation was common in his time, even though no one else was writing about it.


Still on p. 134, Needham translates a passage from Yu Tianchi’s 俞天池 Shadou jijie 痧痘集解 (Collected commentaries on smallpox, 1727), which he claims was based on Weng Zhongren’s 翁仲仁 Douzhen jinjing lu 痘疹金鏡錄 (1579):

Smallpox inoculation arose in the Longqing 隆慶reign-period [+1567 to +1572], especially at Taiping 太平 district in Ningguo 寧國 prefecture [modern Anhui]. We do not know the names of the inoculators, but they got it from an eccentric and extraordinary man who had himself derived it from alchemical adepts (dan jia 丹家). Since then it has spread all over the country....


This account and Wan Quan's book are the evidence for Needham’s claim about the existence of inoculation in 16th-century China. I believe he is right.

To recount the 10th-century story, though, Needham adopts an interesting narrative strategy. On p. 154, he starts like this:

The moment has come to examine the persistent conviction that for some five centuries before the earliest extant writings on inoculation for smallpox, it had been practiced under conditions of restriction and secrecy.

This "persistent conviction" is of course Needham’s...

The figure around whom the tradition revolved was Wang Dan 王旦 (+957 to +1017), prime minister in the reigns of two Sung emperors....

For the rest of this paragraph, Needham explains who Wang was.

His connection with smallpox inoculation came about because his first born son had died of the disease....

Needham then recounts how Wang consulted people to help him after his first son had died.

And now the killer line:

Such is the account as Zhu Yiliang 朱奕梁 gave it in his Zhongdou xinfa 種痘心法 (1808).

So Needham has just told us this whole story about Wang Dan, only to let us know that the story was actually told in the 19th century! Even if Needham says that "other books on inoculation include the same account, with numerous variations" (p. 154), he mentions no source earlier than the 18th century. However, he observes that all his sources "affirm that the remarkable inoculator came from Mt. Emei" (pp. 154-55), hence Temple's claim to that effect.

After disproving a dubious claim that smallpox inoculation was mentioned in an early-seventh-century medical treatise, Needham says this on p. 155:

We have not attempted to survey generally the Chinese literature on smallpox through the centuries. It would be valuable to study closely all the medical books which discuss smallpox between the +7th and the +16th centuries, to uncover further evidence of inoculation that may be lurking there.

This is all we have! I would be prudent before believing claims made more than 700 hundred years after the events they purported to describe. Needham was clearly tempted to believe in a connection with his heroes "the Taoists" (remember the "alchemical adept" mentioned in Yu Tianchi’s explanation of the spread of inoculation in the Longqing period?), and he might even be right, but I don't think he managed to prove his point.

And thanks for the sources on India. :P Made me laugh.

So let's assume for the moment that smallpox inoculation was known nowhere in the world in the 10th century. What would be the next earliest indication of its use? I think it is still 16th-century China. My suggestion would then be to make the 16th century your main claim (because it is clearly ascertained by documents from the time), and to mention Needham's speculation that the technique already existed in the late 10th century in esoteric circles.

Oh, and I added leprosy to the article on Chinese discoveries already:
http://en.wikipedia....ese_discoveries

Very nice entry, short, clear, and packed with relevant information. A few very small modifications. First, is there a way to replace one of these "described/description" with other words?

Leprosy, first description of its symptoms: The Feng zhen shi 封診式 (Models for sealing and investigating), written between 266 and 246 BC in the State of Qin during the Warring States Period (403–221 BC), is the earliest known text which describes the symptoms of leprosy, termed under the generic phrase li 癘 (for skin disorders).[11] This text described the destruction of the nasal septum in those suffering from leprosy (an observation that would not be made outside of China until the writings of Avicenna in the 11th century), and according to Katrina McLeod and Robin Yates it also described "swelling of the eyebrows, loss of hair, absorption of nasal cartilege, affliction of knees and elbows, difficult and hoarse respiration, as well as anaesthesia."[11] Leprosy was not described in the West until the writings of the Roman authors Aulus Cornelius Celsus (25 BC – 37 AD) and Pliny the Elder (23–79 AD).[11]


In "termed under the generic phrase li 癘 (for skin disorders)", I would replace "phrase" (which usually refers to a string of words) by "character" or simply "word." Or I would change your whole phrase into "under the generic term li 癘 (for skin disorders)."

And finally, cartilege should be "cartilage" (unlike sortilege) ;)

Madalibi

#20 scottbajie

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Posted 19 August 2008 - 06:29 AM

Oh, and I added leprosy to the article on Chinese discoveries already:
http://en.wikipedia....ese_discoveries



A short note to give some context to this description of leprosy. The disease was a pandemic and probably not known to the Romans until they started expanding. There are genomic projects associated with leprosy so someday they will know (better than this study at the Pasteur Institute) where the pandemic originated. The Pasteur study points to East Africa or India as the starting point for the disease. Probable references to leprosy exist in the Bible and a Egyptian texts (1550 BC). The Greeks supposedly got it from Alexander the Great's conquests. The Romans got it from their conquests. The Crusaders brought it back from the middle east. The colonial powers of western Europe spread the disease all over the world.

http://www.pasteur.f...osy_origins.htm
http://www.stanford....osy/history.htm
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#21 scottbajie

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Posted 19 August 2008 - 04:18 PM

Also, despite the "autumn mineral" and sublimation process in all likely cases being bogus, what about the Chinese use of gypsum with calcium sulfate to separate hormones from urine? Also, the use of saponin from Gleditschia sinensis to do the same thing? Surely these would have worked, as they did for Adolf Windaus in 1909 with digitonin.


I have been trying to find some chemical data on this one. My instincts tell me to be cautious (you are taking a soluble compound and making it insoluble - so will it go back into solution - will the body be able to use it?).

Windaus' method is rather harsh. The digitonin does precipitate but to get the free sterols again he uses hot 95% alcohol so I am not sure if it is a useful extraction method. As for how the body would handle it if ingested in the combined form (sterol + digitonin), I am not sure.

I have not been successful at finding the details of manufacture but Premarin (female hormones from pregnant mares) is a sulfate. So I dig and dig for awhile and found this below (by Sivin of course - I guess anytime we read something from Needham we should look to Sivin for the correct version).

I would be curious which methods have been refuted (below - limited preview available on google). Hopefully, I can track down the 3 papers referenced.


Alchemy Revisited: Proceedings of the International Conference on the History of Alchemy at the University of Groningen, 17-19 April 1989
p.3

Research on the History of Chinese Alchemy by Nathan Sivin

"Asian scholars over the past decade, rather, have made the question of whether early alchemists isolated active sex hormones from the urine of pubescent boys the most frequently explored topic in what they see as the prehistory not of biochemistry but of organic chemistry. Needham's claim was not based on experimental reconstruction of the ancient processes. Several attempts to repeat those processes in laboratories on the Chinese mainland and Taiwan have concluded that their product could not be purified active sex hormones. But none has taken internal alchemy seriously enough as a topic of study to question the reasoning that led Needham to this fragile interpretation."

(notes)
Needham (1954..) pp. 312-37. The point has been refuted, among others, in four papers by Liu Kuang-ting published in 1981, Meng Nai-ch'ang (1982), and Chang Ping-lun & Sun I-lin (1988). A preliminary paper presented by H. T. Huang, et. al. at a 1988 conference, suggested that under certain circumstances traces of hormones may be present but not in effective concentrations. This is hardly a vindication of Needham's claim. At best, far from being augmented, the high natural concentration of sexual hormones in the urine has been markedly reduced.
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#22 Non-Han Nan Ban

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Posted 19 August 2008 - 11:09 PM

First, I just want to thank both of you, Madalibi and Scottbajie, for your time, your effort, and your excellence. Both of you are true scholars. This thread is for the win! :clapping:

As for Temple, most of his claims come directly from Needham. Temple is some kind of "Needham for dummies" (here again, don't get me wrong ). He takes conclusions from Needham, removes a lot of the evidence Needham had presented to support them, and erases all the caveats Needham had prudently inserted around his claims. As with the case of, guess what... smallpox inoculation.


Yes, he certainly does not exhaust the details like Needham (then again, I've read this one relatively short book of Temple's), which is actually one of the Needham's strengths (despite all his weaknesses). Despite the attention to detail, Needham is too quick in making conclusions and too "liberal" in his speculation, stretching evidence as far as one could stretch in some cases (really Needham? 1808? Sheesh). The one good thing about Temple's book is that it updates a few errors about dating in Needham's volumes, but that is largely because Needham's work is so dated. Other than that, Temple simply paraphrases everything Needham has done.

All these claims come from an article that Needham and Lu Gwei-djen wrote in 1980, updated in 1987, and updated again for SCC VI:6 (Medicine), which Nathan Sivin edited and published in 2000. SCC VI:6 is the reference you need, because Temple’s claims are based on the 1980 article. I will explain below what Needham said about Yu Tianchi. Yu Chang's 喻昌 book is called Yuyi cao 寓意草. It is a collection of medical case records. A scholar called Charlotte Furth has recently translated the title as Notes on my Judgment. Zhang Yan's book from 1741 is called Zhongdou xinshu 種痘新書, which means "New book on smallpox inoculation." Temple's translation of both titles is wrong.


Thank you! Temple does not provide the Chinese characters in his book for all these titles, so I've had only his apparently garbled English transliterations to use. These better translations are sorely needed.

So Needham has just told us this whole story about Wang Dan, only to let us know that the story was actually told in the 19th century! Even if Needham says that "other books on inoculation include the same account, with numerous variations" (p. 154), he mentions no source earlier than the 18th century. However, he observes that all his sources "affirm that the remarkable inoculator came from Mt. Emei" (pp. 154-55), hence Temple's claim to that effect.

This is all we have! I would be prudent before believing claims made more than 700 hundred years after the events they purported to describe. Needham was clearly tempted to believe in a connection with his heroes "the Taoists" (remember the "alchemical adept" mentioned in Yu Tianchi’s explanation of the spread of inoculation in the Longqing period?), and he might even be right, but I don't think he managed to prove his point.


Hah! I will be editing that passage soon. Thank you for bringing this to light. Needham strikes again. :P

And thanks for the sources on India. Made me laugh.


:lol: I know right? It was truly rich.

So let's assume for the moment that smallpox inoculation was known nowhere in the world in the 10th century. What would be the next earliest indication of its use? I think it is still 16th-century China. My suggestion would then be to make the 16th century your main claim (because it is clearly ascertained by documents from the time), and to mention Needham's speculation that the technique already existed in the late 10th century in esoteric circles.


A very wise suggestion, given that Needham relies on a source from the 19th century for this. Tisk, tisk.

Very nice entry, short, clear, and packed with relevant information. A few very small modifications. First, is there a way to replace one of these "described/description" with other words?


I'm on it. You're making Wiki a better place! :P

A short note to give some context to this description of leprosy. The disease was a pandemic and probably not known to the Romans until they started expanding. There are genomic projects associated with leprosy so someday they will know (better than this study at the Pasteur Institute) where the pandemic originated. The Pasteur study points to East Africa or India as the starting point for the disease. Probable references to leprosy exist in the Bible and a Egyptian texts (1550 BC). The Greeks supposedly got it from Alexander the Great's conquests. The Romans got it from their conquests. The Crusaders brought it back from the middle east. The colonial powers of western Europe spread the disease all over the world.


I'm not sure about Egypt, but I do know the Bible reference is false, because the word "sara't" used in Leviticus, a word meaning a whole bunch of different impure diseases that could even affect houses and clothes and could be temporary, was falsely translated in the 5th century Vulgate as "lepra", or leprosy.

I have been trying to find some chemical data on this one. My instincts tell me to be cautious (you are taking a soluble compound and making it insoluble - so will it go back into solution - will the body be able to use it?).

Windaus' method is rather harsh. The digitonin does precipitate but to get the free sterols again he uses hot 95% alcohol so I am not sure if it is a useful extraction method. As for how the body would handle it if ingested in the combined form (sterol + digitonin), I am not sure.

I have not been successful at finding the details of manufacture but Premarin (female hormones from pregnant mares) is a sulfate. So I dig and dig for awhile and found this below (by Sivin of course - I guess anytime we read something from Needham we should look to Sivin for the correct version).

I would be curious which methods have been refuted (below - limited preview available on google). Hopefully, I can track down the 3 papers referenced.


Great work! :) Nathan Sivin rocks. I emailed him once telling him I was a huge fan and used his work to edit the Wikipedia article on Shen Kuo, and he emailed me back with a nice letter. :D

If you can find out what those three articles explicitly state about this, we can wrap this little portion of the discussion up. Once again, Nathan Sivin is a great scholar and a great reference to other material.

Cheers guys, you deserve it,
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#23 madalibi

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Posted 19 August 2008 - 11:17 PM

I have been trying to find some chemical data on this one. My instincts tell me to be cautious (you are taking a soluble compound and making it insoluble - so will it go back into solution - will the body be able to use it?).

Windaus' method is rather harsh. The digitonin does precipitate but to get the free sterols again he uses hot 95% alcohol so I am not sure if it is a useful extraction method. As for how the body would handle it if ingested in the combined form (sterol + digitonin), I am not sure.

I have not been successful at finding the details of manufacture but Premarin (female hormones from pregnant mares) is a sulfate. So I dig and dig for awhile and found this below (by Sivin of course - I guess anytime we read something from Needham we should look to Sivin for the correct version).

I would be curious which methods have been refuted (below - limited preview available on google). Hopefully, I can track down the 3 papers referenced.

Alchemy Revisited: Proceedings of the International Conference on the History of Alchemy at the University of Groningen, 17-19 April 1989
p.3

Research on the History of Chinese Alchemy by Nathan Sivin

"Asian scholars over the past decade, rather, have made the question of whether early alchemists isolated active sex hormones from the urine of pubescent boys the most frequently explored topic in what they see as the prehistory not of biochemistry but of organic chemistry. Needham's claim was not based on experimental reconstruction of the ancient processes. Several attempts to repeat those processes in laboratories on the Chinese mainland and Taiwan have concluded that their product could not be purified active sex hormones. But none has taken internal alchemy seriously enough as a topic of study to question the reasoning that led Needham to this fragile interpretation."

(notes)
Needham (1954..) pp. 312-37. The point has been refuted, among others, in four papers by Liu Kuang-ting published in 1981, Meng Nai-ch'ang (1982), and Chang Ping-lun & Sun I-lin (1988). A preliminary paper presented by H. T. Huang, et. al. at a 1988 conference, suggested that under certain circumstances traces of hormones may be present but not in effective concentrations. This is hardly a vindication of Needham's claim. At best, far from being augmented, the high natural concentration of sexual hormones in the urine has been markedly reduced.


Thank you, scotbajie, for contributing your chemical knowledge to this discussion!

I already referenced three of the four papers by Liu Guangding (Liu Kang-ting) in an earlier post, as well as the articles by Meng Naichang (Meng Nai-ch'ang) and Chang Ping-lun (Zhang Binglun) and Sun I-lin (Sun Yilin). The two missing papers are:

Liu Guangding. "Cong bei-Song ren tilian xingjisu shuo tan kexue dui kejishi yanjiu de zhongyaoxing" 從北宋人提煉性激素說談科學對科技史研究的重要性 [On the importance of science to research in the history of science and technology, with reference to the claim that Northern Song people extracted and purified sex hormones].

H. T. Huang et al. "Preliminary Experiments on the Identity of Chiu Shi (Autumn Mineral) in Medieval Chinese Pharmacopoeias." Paper presented at the 5th International Conference on the History of Science in China, San Diego, 9 August 1988.

Sivin's discussion and refutation was about the Autumn Mineral and the chemical processes its recipe involved. My question is: were "the Chinese use of gypsum with calcium sulfate to separate hormones from urine" and "the use of saponin from Gleditschia sinensis to do the same thing" all part of the preparation of the "Autumn Mineral"? Aren't we simply discussing the same problem?

Madalibi

#24 scottbajie

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Posted 20 August 2008 - 07:05 AM

Sivin's discussion and refutation was about the Autumn Mineral and the chemical processes its recipe involved. My question is: were "the Chinese use of gypsum with calcium sulfate to separate hormones from urine" and "the use of saponin from Gleditschia sinensis to do the same thing" all part of the preparation of the "Autumn Mineral"? Aren't we simply discussing the same problem?

Madalibi


Gotta love Google Books, I can read part of Needham's Science and Civ but not all of it. He mentioned there were a lot of recipes for preparing Autumn Mineral so I was not sure. Since calcium sulfate/saponin methods were brought up again, I thought maybe they were not covered in Sivin's refutation. If I duplicated your answer then I apologize (I actually wait a few days after questions are posted b/c I know you have better answers than I do :notworthy:).

I guess my contribution is to caution against using the Windaus method for validation especially for the saponin methods. The calcium sulfate method is still "plausible" and could be strengthened by knowing the production methods of Premarin but even then we are engaging in Needhamism (if the phrase does not already exist) - appealing to arguments of possibility instead of experiment. Makes my brain feel dirty.

I will look at those references (if I can find them and they are not in Chinese) to see if they used the methods of calcium sulfate or saponin precipitation - or maybe variations of those were the only ones in Needham's book and I misread the parts I had access to?
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#25 Non-Han Nan Ban

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Posted 20 August 2008 - 03:39 PM

Gotta love Google Books, I can read part of Needham's Science and Civ but not all of it. He mentioned there were a lot of recipes for preparing Autumn Mineral so I was not sure. Since calcium sulfate/saponin methods were brought up again, I thought maybe they were not covered in Sivin's refutation. If I duplicated your answer then I apologize (I actually wait a few days after questions are posted b/c I know you have better answers than I do :notworthy:).

I guess my contribution is to caution against using the Windaus method for validation especially for the saponin methods. The calcium sulfate method is still "plausible" and could be strengthened by knowing the production methods of Premarin but even then we are engaging in Needhamism (if the phrase does not already exist) - appealing to arguments of possibility instead of experiment. Makes my brain feel dirty.

I will look at those references (if I can find them and they are not in Chinese) to see if they used the methods of calcium sulfate or saponin precipitation - or maybe variations of those were the only ones in Needham's book and I misread the parts I had access to?


Needhamism = Speculation over Experimentation. :wallbash: :P

Perhaps I pick on a dead man too much? :unsure: :lol:

I almost can't wait to see the test results about these!

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#26 madalibi

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Posted 20 August 2008 - 10:20 PM

Gotta love Google Books, I can read part of Needham's Science and Civ but not all of it. He mentioned there were a lot of recipes for preparing Autumn Mineral so I was not sure. Since calcium sulfate/saponin methods were brought up again, I thought maybe they were not covered in Sivin's refutation. If I duplicated your answer then I apologize (I actually wait a few days after questions are posted b/c I know you have better answers than I do :notworthy:).

Sorry about the misunderstanding! I certainly did not mean to say you had duplicated my answer. I noticed that you cited the same article by Sivin that I used to discuss the Autumn Mineral problem, so I was wondering if Sivin (or Liu Guangding, Sun Yilin, etc., but certainly not me!) had already discussed the saponin precipitation and calcium sulfate methods elsewhere. Your contributions go far beyond what I could ever say, because you have a scientific background and I don't. I don't know what calcium sulfate or Premarin look like, what their properties are, how they are used, etc.

I guess my contribution is to caution against using the Windaus method for validation especially for the saponin methods. The calcium sulfate method is still "plausible" and could be strengthened by knowing the production methods of Premarin but even then we are engaging in Needhamism (if the phrase does not already exist) - appealing to arguments of possibility instead of experiment. Makes my brain feel dirty.

See, I lack the knowledge to make this kind of interesting point about the Windaus or saponin method or to propose links with current organic chemistry. Our posts are complementary in a very nice way.

I will look at those references (if I can find them and they are not in Chinese) to see if they used the methods of calcium sulfate or saponin precipitation - or maybe variations of those were the only ones in Needham's book and I misread the parts I had access to?

Unfortunately they are in Chinese. The Huang article is in English, but it's actually a lecture. I don't think it's available anywhere.

Cheers,
Madalibi

#27 madalibi

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Posted 21 August 2008 - 10:59 AM

First, I just want to thank both of you, Madalibi and Scottbajie, for your time, your effort, and your excellence. Both of you are true scholars. This thread is for the win! :clapping:


I had completely missed this post, probably because I completed one of my posts only a few minutes after you finished this one. Sorry about that! But this is indeed a great thread, and I'm sure it will keep developing.

I'm on it. You're making Wiki a better place! :P


No. You obviously are! :notworthy:

Cheers to you all!
Madalibi

#28 William O'Chee

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Posted 25 May 2009 - 09:59 AM

Ephedrine (like artemisinin) is a chemical compound that has been isolated from a plant called ephedra (mahuang 麻黃). I don't know when (and by whom) it was isolated, but I doubt that it was by a Chinese person. The plant's botanical name is Ephedra sinica ("sinica" shows its origin) and its pharmaceutical name is Herba Ephedrae (to indicate what part of the plant is used medicinally). Wikipedia has a decent page on ephedra, but its claim that it has been used in China "for 5,000 years" is very suspicious (the reference is to scientific article). I know for sure that mahuang was mentioned in the Shennong bencao jing 神農本草經, which was compiled during the Han (a very vague date, I know, but there is no consensus on the dating of the SNBCJ and I've never devoted time to investigating it on my own). The Shennong bencao jing already mentioned ephedra's anti-pyrrhetic (anti-fever) properties.

Ok, I pass the baton.

I feel almost foolish joining this erudite discussion, but I did read something about ephedra some years ago, which suggests that ephedra was in fact the substance referred to as soma.

It appears that ephedra has been found as a residue in vessels found in religious complexes in central Asia.

In "A history of Russia, Central Asia, and Mongolia vol I" by David Christian, it is shown at p 112 - p 114 that fortified centres called qala, such as Togolok, in current Kyrgyzstan, contained temples with gypsum plastered white rooms. These were used for the consumption of hallucinogenic drinks. Residues of ehphedra in these drinking containers suggest that this is in fact the substance referred to as soma. The fact the drinking vessels appear to have been made by pastoral nomads adds to the possibility the ephedra originated in shamanism on the central Asian steppe.

The reason these vessels can be traced to the Eurasian steppe is because of their unique construction method, which is described in "The Horse, the Wheel and Language" by David Anthony at p 428. This is dated to between 2,000 BC and 1,800 BC.

All of this predates any Chinese description of the plant.

Edited by William O'Chee, 25 May 2009 - 10:09 AM.


#29 madalibi

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Posted 25 May 2009 - 10:15 AM

Hi William,

In my post, I was careful not to make any claim about the primacy of the Chinese use of ephedra. I just wanted to point out that ephedra was used a long time ago in China, and that its modern botanical name seems to trace its origin to China. But that was it! I'm glad that you found the possible earliest trace of the use of ephedra in world history, once again in the crucial region of Central Asia.

I feel almost foolish joining this erudite discussion, but...


"But" indeed... Ancient Kyrgyzstan, residues of ephedra in ancient vessels, steppe shamanism: your post is as erudite as they get!

Cheers,
Madalibi




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