Pi Tong, a Famous Practitioner of Chinese Medicine

Pi Tong forgot to eat and rest when he was treating patients, and he treated all his patients equally, whether rich or poor, with great care. When he met with poor people, he would sometimes provide free treatments and medicines. (jimmiehomeschoolmo/Flickr)
Pi Tong forgot to eat and rest when he was treating patients, and he treated all his patients equally, whether rich or poor, with great care. When he met with poor people, he would sometimes provide free treatments and medicines. (jimmiehomeschoolmo/Flickr)

Pi Tong, who was a famous doctor of Chinese medicine during the Eastern Han Dynasty, lived at Xindu, presently known as Anguo County of Hebei Province. He was a very wise man who was knowledgeable in military strategies and he wrote exceptionally persuasive articles.

Pi Tong was also one of the founding fathers of the kingdom of Emperor Liuxiu, and was widely respected for his superb medical skills and noble medical ethics.

Pi Tong forgot to eat and rest when he was treating patients, and he treated all his patients equally, whether rich or poor, with great care. When he met with poor people, he would sometimes provide free treatments and medicines, and he contributed generously to help them. When he treated kings or high officials, he would never charge them more than his usual fees.

Once, the princess was ill and he diagnosed her as suffering from chronic indigestion, which led to an appetite problem. He thus prepared a pill for the princess. After the princess took it, she immediately suffered intense nausea and vomited. She then began to drink more water.

Several days later, her appetite returned and her complexion improved. Pi Tong was afraid that the Emperor would betroth the princess to him, and he therefore hurriedly returned to his hometown.

However, in gratitude, the emperor then decreed the title “the King of Medicine” on Pi Tong. Temples were later built in Pi Tong’s hometown. So Pi Tong was respected by the people as “the King of Medicine.” Soon after he was granted this honor, Pi Tong heard that the southern part of China had been ravaged by a plague, so he left his hometown and traveled to the disaster scene to treat patients there.

However, his mother became ill after he left home and couldn’t find any drugs to treat her illness. Pi Tong’s brother sent a letter to him and described their mother’s symptoms. Pi Tong was very anxious about his mother’s illness, but he had too many patients to leave the South.

His sick mother was also missing Pi Tong very much, so his brother decided to bring their mother to join Pi Tong in the South. However, even though Pi Tong began to diagnose his mother as soon as she arrived, he also could not cure her illness, as he couldn’t find any suitable drugs. His mother became be very homesick, so Pi Tong asked his brother to take their mother home.

Prior to their parting, Pi Tong, with tears in his eyes, said to his mother: “It was not that your son was not filial to you, but that your son was not wise enough to find the right drugs for you.

Even though I can cure the illnesses of so many people, I can’t treat my own mother’s illness, because the drugs for this illness are very hard to find in this human world, and only by the mercy of God as a reward for my efforts to save people will you find those drugs.”

He wished his mother well and that she take good care of herself, and see whether she would be lucky enough to find those drugs in the future. On their way home, Pi’s mother became very thirsty, but they were far away from any villages and they couldn’t find any clean water.

So Pi Tong’s brother left his mother by the roadside and went to look for water to give her. In an ash tree forest, he found a skull containing some rainwater, with two little snakes playing inside. His brother dispersed the two snakes and brought the water to his mother. He said:

His mother was so thirsty that she closed her eyes and gulped the water; she felt much better afterwards. One day, they passed a little village. His mother felt very hungry, but there was no restaurant in the village, so his brother was forced to beg from the villagers.

Luckily, there was one family in the village who just given birth to newborn twins. The lady of the family was blind, while the gentleman was crippled, and they were was very happy to have the twin boys.

So once they heard that there were a beggar outside, they gave the beggar the mother’s leftovers—a bowl of barley rice and an egg, but it happened that the egg had two yolks. After finishing the rice and egg, Pi’s mother felt much stronger and she managed to walk back to their hometown. A short time later, Pi’s mother completely recovered from her illness.

Afterwards, Pi Tong’s brother got a letter from Pi Tong, in which he wrote:

He also expressed his eagerness to know how their mother was doing. Pi Tong’s brother very surprised to learn that what his mother obtained on their way home was exactly what was prescribed by Pi Tong. He wrote a letter back to Pi Tong, saying that their mother’s illness was cured by the very drugs that he prescribed.

Once Pi Tong received his brother’s letter, tears came to his eyes again, and he said:

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