Master Cao was a pivotal force in the classical formulas school (经方派) and was a true master in using the underlying principles and formulas found in the Shang Han Lun and Jin Gui Yao Lue. Master Cao felt that the medical texts, which followed were too insignificant to study and discuss, and therefore he attached great importance to the thorough study of these texts to his students, and felt that Zhang Zhongjing’s theories and formulas were the perfect framework for successful medical practice. In addition to being skillfully versed in these medical canons, Cao Yingfu was also an accomplished poet, often interweaving the two when attempting to convey his thought process in clinic, often instructing his students to compose a poem and matching it with a relevant line from the classics. This kind of inquiry and thought process truly shows the breadth of his skill and how his mind rarely waivered from the classical Chinese medicine concept of the human body being a reflection of his environment, the microcosm of the macrocosm.
However, master Cao was not completely strict in his formula choices and would often use formulas like Bu Zhong Yi Qi Tang, Xiao Yao San, and Liu Wei Di Huang Wan, in addition to herbs such as niu bang zi, qian hu and various others. This shows that he was obviously well read and did not quickly write off more modern formulas. His use of these non Zhang Zhongjing formulas displayed his deep understanding in the formula constructions and where they were applicable. He advocated that students must understand and study the root of the medical philosophies and not just pick the flowers, and it’s from this same feeling that he encouraged his students to read the Yue Fu (乐府诗集) poetry of the Han and Wei dynasties and specifically the poet Wang Yuyang (王漁洋).
When the Japanese invaded the south, his hometown of Jiangyin, Jiangsu province fell into enemy hands and on December 7th, 1937, he died heroically resisting the invaders. While master Cao died a hero, the world lost a great Chinese medicine master. We are very fortunate to have several of his books available in order for subsequent generations to learn from not just in China, but also around the world. It is my hope in translating some of his cases that this knowledge can spread. We are also very fortunate to have scholar-physicians like my teacher Dr. Huang Huang uphold this love and dedication to master Cao’s work and to classical literature.
Female. Since delivering a child her cycles come every forty days, which are accompanied by distending pain in the epigastrium following meals. When the cycle arrives, there is pain extending from the stomach to the lower abdomen. During the pain she experiences a strong desire to have a bowel movement. After the bowel movement the pain would typically stop. Pain would return the following afternoon and stop during the menstrual flow, and once again come and go the following day. Both pulses were wiry.
This is liver and gall-bladder exploiting deficiency of the spleen viscera. In this case Xiao Jian Zhong Tang with Chai hu and Huang Qin is appropriate.
Gui Zhi 3 qian
Sheng Bai Shao 5 qian
Zhi (Gan) Cao 2 qian
Sheng Jiang 5 pcs
Hong Zao 12 pieces
Yi Tang 2 liang
Chai Hu 3 qian
Jiu (Huang) Qin 1 qian
Tai Wu Yao 1.5 qian
After one package, her pain stopped and the menses ceased. Patient continued with two more packages, after which the condition resolved.
The master (Zhang Zhongjing) in his great classic said:
“In cold damage, (when) the yang pulse is choppy and the yin pulse is wiry, as a rule there should be urgent pain in the abdomen. First give Xiao Jian Zhong Tang; if it does not reduce, Xiao Chai Hu Tang governs.”
Cao Yingfu (曹颖甫): Now here (in this case) I feel it goes without saying that there had not been a reduction and I immediately added Chai Hu and Huang Qin to treat her, why not? This woman’s situation was a menstrual disease and many belong to Chai Hu patterns, and so it was clearly obvious (to add it). The following day it was reported that the disease had resolved.
Abdominal pain which liked pressure. During episodes of pain a distressing sensation of cold air was felt moving up and down (the body). Pulse was wiry-deficient. In addition there was an aversion to cold.
This is due to the liver exploiting the spleen and Xiao Jian Zhong Tang governs.
Gui Zhi 9g
Bai Shao 18g
Sheng Jiang 9g
Zhi Gan Cao 6g
Da Zao 6g
Yi Tang 30g
Liáo Shēng annotation: “This case is a pattern of abdominal pain (due to) central yang insufficiency with interior deficiency. The patient experienced abdominal pain, which liked pressure, the pulse was wiry-deficient and an aversion to cold was present. This signifies the overabundance of yin cold-qi, central yang insufficiency, and liver wood exploiting spleen (earth). Therefore Xiao Jian Zhong Tang was used to treat and resolve the condition.
The function of this formula is to supplement deficiency, quiet the center, moderate urgency and stop pain. The name of this formula is center fortifying (decoction). Fortify means to establish or set up, and because central qi is insufficient, it is very important to ‘establish’ or ‘set it up’. The formula contains sweat inducing (herbs) and not central effusing (herbs). It is referred to as a ‘minor’ (decoction) and only half (of the formula) resolves the exterior, so it does not completely secure the center. Xiao Jian Zhong Tang uses a heavy dose of Yi Tang, which is sweet, warm and serves as the sovereign to supplement the center. Bai Shao is the minister, which is sour and sweet to tonify yin. The assistant Gui Zhi is acrid-warm, which effuses and scatters. Combined with Bai Shao it regulates the nutritive and defense. In addition, Gan Cao, Da Zao and Sheng Jiang, which are sweet moderating and acrid warm, nourish the stomach and harmonize the center. Therefore (this formula) is able to warm and nourish central qi, calm and supplement yin and yang and regulate the nutritive and defense.”
*Xióng Liáo-Shēng (熊廖笙) style name Yǐ Xíng (以行) was born in 1905 in Ba County in Chongqing, Sichuan Province. Master Xióng was well versed in the classics, primarily the Nei Jing, Nan Jing, Shang Han Lun, and Jin Gui Yao Lue. The author of several books, Dr. Xióng possessed a deep and profound scholarship of the Shang Han Lun and was highly skilled in distilling the essence and precise details of various ancient doctors cases, which were found in his various annotations.
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