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1Traditional Medicine Research  2020, Vol. 5 Issue (3): 136-144    DOI: 10.12032/TMR20200222166
Special Issue on Infectious Diseases and Public Health     
Overview of the plague in the late Ming Dynasty and its prevention and control measures
Qiu-Hua Li1, Yue-Hai Ma1, Ning Wang1, Ying Hu2, Zhao-Zhe Liu3,*()
1The Second Hospital of Liaoning University of Chinese Medicine, Shenyang 110034, China
2Shengjing Hospital of China Medicine University, Shenyang 110004, China
3Northern Theater Command General Hospital, Shenyang 110016, China
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Highlights

The purpose of this paper is to review the medical system and measures of prevention and control instituted for the plague that occurred during the late Ming Dynasty (1551-1644 C.E.), with the aim of providing guidance for the prevention and control of plague in the present day.

Traditionality

Early records of plague in Chinese medicine can be traced back to the Shang Dynasty (1600-1046 B.C.E). In the late Eastern Han Dynasty (184-220 C.E.), natural disasters and wars led to a wide breakout of plague. Deeply touched by the suffering of people under the plague, the famous doctor Zhang Zhongjing (150-219 C.E.) recorded many classical ancient prescriptions in his medical monograph Shanghanlun (Treatise on Exogenous Febrile Disease) (219 C.E.). Subsequently, as a result of imperial corruption, natural disasters, and frequent wars, the plague that occurred during the late Ming Dynasty was the second greatest plague in Chinese history after the outbreak of plague at the end of the Han Dynasty. During the many struggles that occurred during the plague, a group of great medical experts emerged and devised a series of prevention and control measures, which have the potential to play a key role in the prevention and control of plague today.

Abstract

The plague of the late Ming Dynasty (1551-1644 C.E.) was long lasting, affected a wide range of the population, and had serious consequences. The purpose of this study is to review the medical system in place at the time and the measures instituted to prevent and control the plague during the late Ming Dynasty. Information on the history of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644 C.E.), local chronicles, and related research literature were consulted and analyzed in terms of duration, geographical area, and other dimensions of the epidemic. Because of the abnormal climate, wide range of natural disasters, and the impact of war, the epidemic spread over a wide area during the late Ming Dynasty. The government’s epidemic prevention measures were affected by war and other factors, resulting in poor control of the outbreak. However, in terms of the medical system in place during the Ming Dynasty, some of the thinking and methods of prevention and control of the plague were historical and progressive. Some outstanding physicians such as Wu Youke (1582-1652 C.E.) appeared during this period. His theory of plague prevention and control had a profound influence on the formation and development of pestilence deterrence in later generations. In the late Ming Dynasty, rich experiences and measures of prevention and control were accumulated in the struggle against the plague. These methods and experiences also have a significant, positive guiding influence on the prevention and control of plague in the present day.



Key wordsLate Ming dynasty      Plague      Infectious diseases      Traditional Chinese medicine      Prevention and control     
Published: 13 April 2020
Fund:  The study is supported by 2017 Liaoning Province Traditional Chinese Medicine Clinics (Specialized) Branch Capacity Building Project and 2018 Liaoning Doctoral Start-up Foundation (20180540043).
Corresponding Authors: Zhao-Zhe Liu   
E-mail: lzz_summer@126.com
Cite this article:

Qiu-Hua Li, Yue-Hai Ma, Ning Wang, Ying Hu, Zhao-Zhe Liu. Overview of the plague in the late Ming Dynasty and its prevention and control measures. 1Traditional Medicine Research, 2020, 5(3): 136-144. doi: 10.12032/TMR20200222166

URL:

https://www.tmrjournals.com/tmr/EN/10.12032/TMR20200222166

Time stage 1368-1450 C.E. 1451-1550 C.E. 1551-1644 C.E.
Outbreak, number (n) 30 72 78
Frequency (times/year) 2.77 1.39 1.21
Annual occurrence probability (%) 36.1 71.9 83.0
Ratio of total times (%) 16.7 40.0 43.3
Number of plague counties (n) 234 478 1878
Table 1 Summary of plague occurrence during different periods of the late Ming Dynasty
Major province 1368-1451 C.E. 1451-1550 C.E. 1551-1644 C.E.
Northern Zhili 1 17 38
Hubei and Hunan 6 30 38
Jiangxi 7 27 24
Southern Zhili 6 46 50
Shanxi 4 17 26
Zhejiang 6 27 27
Fujian 7 44 26
Table 2 Major distribution of provinces and disaster years of the plague
Figure 1 The founding emperor of the Ming Dynasty and Welfare pharmacy in the Ming Dynasty. A. The founding emperor of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644 C.E.); B. Welfare pharmacy in the Ming Dynasty.
Figure 2 Prevention and control measures of plague
Figure 3 Variolation was invented in the Ming Dynasty to prevent smallpox. To prevent smallpox, a smallpox scab was ground to a fine powder and blown into the nostrils of children. This method was widely used because of its simplicity.
Figure 4 Treatise on Epidemic Febrile Diseases (1642 C.E.). The Wenyilun (Treatise on Epidemic Febrile Diseases) written by Wu Youke is the first monograph on epidemic febrile diseases in the history of medicine in China. The treatise creates a new guidance for the prevention and treatment of exogenous diseases in traditional Chinese medicine, establishes a relatively complete theoretical system of epidemic febrile diseases and has an epoch-making impact on the development of epidemic febrile diseases.
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