Tuesday, April 11, 2017

I for Immortal Lady Bao: Female Scientists Before Our Time

Painting of Bao Gu: "Healing Legacy" by Caroline Young
Bao Gu lived during the Chinese Jin Dynasty (265-420 AD) in Guangdong on the South China Sea coast. She was the daughter of Nanhai, prefecture chief (i.e. county chief). Life as she knew it changed upon marrying Ge Hong, a respected alchemist.

Traditionally, Chinese alchemy focused on the purification of the spirit and body through Qigong (a form of exercise and meditation) and the consumption of different “alchemical medicines” (or elixirs) as needed. For instance, Ge Hong would have believed that by refining bases into gold, an elixir ingested of “fake” gold would give longevity if not immortality. Because of alchemy’s grand experimentation in transforming various elements into medicines, alchemy is considered the forerunner of chemistry and pharmacology.


Bao Gu inherited this interesting world of Chinese medicine from her new husband who in addition to being an alchemist was busy recording his knowledge of alchemy in various works. His knowledge and use of moxatherapy (a type of acupuncture) was also recorded. Moxatherapy had been used successfully to treat “acute diseases and patterns,” such as “sudden death, sudden turmoil (cholera) and vomit-dysentery.” Lady Bao, as she was then called, became a skilled moxatherapist. She has the honor today of being the first recorded female moxatherapist in Chinese history.

Lady Bao traveled extensively with her husband, practicing medicine and alchemy in the Luofu Mountain region. She soon gained the title of “Immortal Lady Bao” when the locals started experiencing miraculous cures. She was not only an expert in acupuncture but also known for her treatment of tumors and warts. She treated diseases in Guangzhou, Nanhai, Huiyang, Boluo, etc., and often spent time locating and gathering herbs for her treatments.


Spring Mugwort
It was at the foot of Yuexiou Mountain where she discovered the plant mugwort floss from red-rooted mugwort for use in her acupuncture treatments (moxibustion). Mugwort had healing properties and was used in conjunction with the acupuncture needles. Some began calling her “Mugwort Lady Bao.”

After she died the locals built a temple at the base of Yuexiu Mountain out of love and in commemoration of her medical contributions.



Souces:
http://kaleidoscope.cultural-china.com/en/106K1191K1622.html
http://afe.easia.columbia.edu/timelines/china_timeline.htm#Timeline%20of%20Chinese%20History
Xiaorong Chang, Hong Jing, Yi Shouxiang, Illustrated Chinese Moxibustion Techniques and Methods,
2012. Publisher, Singing Dragon, p. 18.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_alchemy


20 comments:

  1. What an interesting post! I love hearing about forgotten yet awesome women in history - think I'm gonna go back and read through the rest of your posts on the topic :)

    Over on ElenaSquareEyes, I is for my favourite band - Imagine Dragons

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    1. I am very fond of Lady Bao's story. I found a good source of information that made telling her story easy compared to the other women in this series. Thanks for visiting!

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  2. I really have to come back here after the challenge is over, and read through all of your posts because this one was so very interesting too!

    I really love this tale, and I love that the locals were so grateful for her, that they built a temple in her honor.


    ¸.•´¸.•*´¨) ¸.•*¨)
    (¸.•´ (¸.•` ¤ Good luck on the rest of your A to Z challenge

    Sylvia @ The Creative Life

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    1. Her life and story became a local Legend. Her example to other women today is wonderful. She practiced medicine alongside her husband, yet she established a name in her own right.

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  3. I find these fascinating. It's so nice to know that women could make an impact even that long ago. You won a copy of Elle Marlow's book. Can you please contact me at jandsmatt@gmail.com so I can send it to you? Congrats!

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    1. Hello Suzanne. I am happy you are enjoying this series. Thank you too for the book you mention. I had no idea I had entered a contest! I look forward to reading Elle's book, although it may be awhile before I can read.

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  4. very interesting Sharon thank you. I too think it's marvellous that you are honouring women from times past and ancient.

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    1. Thank you Susan. It has been difficult writing factual bios, as much of the information is speculative, but sources do give a sense of the women they were and their impact on others.

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  5. I love how it seems that everyone was cool with her practicing medicine.

    --Heidi

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    1. Yes, it does appear she was well loved by many. A beautiful Legacy to leave behind.

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  6. Sharon you must spend hours reasearching all these wonderful women who made way for
    how we live today. Thank you for another excellent Read.

    Yvonne.

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    1. Yes, hours spent researching but I do love it. It's very addictive. Some might call it an occupational hazard. LOL.

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  7. Wow. I love powerful stories of women's history. Thank you for the post.

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    1. We still have a lot to learn. Keep reading about it and spreading the word. These are stories often missed in school. Thanks for visiting, Toni!

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  8. Another fascinating post - I love these honorings. Lady Bao has been a favorite of mine since I first heard her story in my acupuncturist's office.

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    1. I really like the modern painting of her by Caroline Young. Gives us a nice visual of her. I have never experienced acupuncture, but more and more it seems are benefiting from this alternative treatment.

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  9. Very interesting. Qigong became an official Scrabble word a couple of years ago but I have yet had the chance to use it. I am curious as to how you treat 'sudden death' besides having a funeral?

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  10. Huh...interesting the Scrabble game. I found the'sudden death' quote odd too, but there were no other sources (that I could find) to explain. Maybe it was an early form of CPR. Now that would be interesting.

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  11. I bet, if she was here today, she would know so much about herbs and other natural medicones that she could teach us much. I don't think I would want to call her her Mugwort though

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  12. :) We have ancestors in our past from all cultures to thank for this kind of knowledge. I keep thinking of America's Native Americans.

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