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Memory of the World Register print


Donguibogam, The Principles and Practices of Eastern Medicine
Encyclopedia of Oriental Medicine

Donguibogam (Dong-ui-bo-gam), or “The Principles and Practices of Eastern Medicine”, was written by Heo Jun (1539~1615, also known as Uiseong Heo Jun) in the early 17th century, following an order from King Seonjo. Donguibogum is an encyclopedia of Oriental Medicine that presents not only the Korean medical theories of the time, but also medical theories that from all over East Asia. It has 25 volumes and was printed by wooden blocks.

Donguibogam is easy to consult: each disease is described, followed by recommended methods of treatment. The texts below the headings were not written by the author himself, but were taken from other medical reference books. Donguibogam is very highly regarded and a great deal of its prestige stems from the author’s informative explanatory notes that accompany each text, as well as the detailed citations identifying the source of each of the texts contained in the 25 volumes.
 

Donguibogam contains medical information from the Joseon Dynasty and from China, as well as popular methods of treatment handed down over the generations. The encyclopedia recommends medicinal ingredients readily available at the time and suggests preventive measures that can be taken before a disease breaks out. Furthermore, Donguibogam introduces foods that are beneficial for health, so it is still widely referred to in Korean cuisine.

The 25 volumes of Donguibogam Sinhyeongjangbudo, the illustration of the human body and organs
[ The 25 volumes of Donguibogam ] [ Sinhyeongjangbudo, the illustration of the human body and organs ]

 

Court Physician Heo Jun
Heo Jun
[Heo Jun]
Heo Jun was a highly regarded court physician responsible for looking after the health of the royal family. He was appointed as royal physician in 1575 after he cured King Seonjo of a serious illness. He was raised to an even higher official post after he treated the king’s ailment during the Japanese invasion of Imjin Waeran (임진왜란). However, the king’s physical condition worsened, and Heo Jun was held responsible for his sudden death in 1608 and was sent into exile. Luckily, Heo Jun was soon released and served as the royal physician of King Gwanghaegun.

After 16 years of research, Heo Jun was finally able to publish the Donguibogam, which he had first begun upon King Seonjo’s order. The book had a tremendous effect on the development of Oriental medicine in the Joseon era. In the 18th century, the book spread to Japan and China, where it was and is still recognized as one of the classics of Oriental medicine. Today, the Donguibogam still contributes greatly to the diffusion and development of East Asian traditional medicine. It has been reprinted 30 times in China and twice in Japan, and was partly translated into English by an American, Dr. Landis. It can be said that the Donguibogam has been widely used in the treatment of diseases for approximately 400 years.
Donguibogam, published in Japan Donguibogam, published in China
[ Donguibogam, published in Japan ] [ Donguibogam, published in China ]
Characteristics of Oriental Medicine
Characteristics of Oriental Medicine

Oriental Medicine differs from modern medicine in its holistic view of the human body. It believes that the body is an interconnected entity rather than a group of different organs. In Oriental Medicine, the human body is ‘a universe’ and there is a flow of energy among seemingly unrelated organs. This is viewed as a key factor when treating a disease. Due to this view, Oriental Medicine mainly focuses on treatment methods that help the body maintain a stable, constant condition. It is common for Korean people to drink an herbal concoction made by an Oriental medicine practitioner or to receive acupuncture when sick.
Similar to the training for medical doctors practicing western medicine, becoming a doctor of Oriental medicine in Korea requires six years of specialized education at university level.
 

Though 400 years have passed since its publication in 1613, Donguibogam has been well-preserved in its original form. It is still referred to in modern medical practice and serves as a basis for continued research. In recognition of its originality and historic importance, the first and complete edition of Donguibogam was listed on UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register in July 2009. These original editions of the Donguibogam are kept at the National Library of Korea (25 volumes / Treasure No. 1085) and the Academy of Korean Studies (25 volumes / Treasure No. 1085-2).

◆ Where to find the Donguibogam
☞ National Library of Korea
☞ Jangseogak of the Academy of Korean Studies

◆ Learn about Heo Jun and his other publications
☞ Heo Jun Museum
☞ Heo Jun Museum Official Site (Korean)

Korean drama about Heo Jun

◆ Medical Tourism in Korea
☞ Oriental medicine tours
☞ Article: “New Initiatives for Medical Tourism in Seoul”
☞ Seoul Oriental Medicine Market
 



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