Medical Literature

In 1392 Yi Songgye assumed the throne as King T'aejo and the Yi Dynasty (1392-1910) began. His supporters initiated a sweeping land reform program that began with a cadastral survey of landhold-ing throughout the country and the destruction of previous registers of public and private landhold-ings. New developments in agriculture as well as in science, technology, and medicine followed, stimulating inventions and publications. For example, the agricultural manual called The Art of Farming, compiled in 1430, was based on the reasonable but novel premise that because Korean climate and soil differed from those of China, agricultural methods should be designed to meet the specific conditions found in the peninsula. Improvements in agricultural techniques produced increased yields, and the spread of cotton cultivation provided improved clothing for the common people.

Important developments in medical knowledge took place in the early years of the Yi dynasty, as the government encouraged its study and created two specialized institutions for medical care. One served the royal family and elite officials, and the other was to serve the general population. Candidates who scored well on the "Miscellaneous Examinations" could be employed in the Palace Medical Office, which trained regional medical officials.

The concept that indigenous conditions must be considered was increasingly incorporated into medical as well as agricultural writings. China's influence on medical philosophy remained strong, but interest in the study and exploitation of Korea's own traditional folk remedies stimulated the development of independent medical scholarship as may be seen in the Hyang-yak kugup pang (Emergency Remedies of Folk Medicine 1236).

A major milestone in the development of Korean medical science was the publication of a medical encyclopedia in 85 volumes entitled the Hyangyak chipsong pang (Compilation of Native Korean Prescriptions 1433). A similar format was followed by the compilers of the Uibang yuch'wi (Classified Collection of Medical Prescriptions), which was completed in 1445. In an attempt to include all known theories of medicine, the compilers assembled 264

volumes. Unfortunately, this resulted in a massive collection unsuited for general use, and only a few copies were ever produced. In 1596 the King ordered Ho Chun to prepare a more useful text. The project took Ho Chun and his group more than 10 years to complete. It resulted in the highly respected 25 volumes of Tongui pogam (Exemplar of Korean Medicine 1610), which were still being reprinted in Korea, China, and Japan during the eighteenth century. The work's preparation was, at least in part, a response to the devastation caused throughout almost all of Korea during the 7-year struggle of the Hideyoshi Invasion (1592-8). In the most severely affected provinces some villages were totally destroyed, population was markedly decreased, and famine and epidemic disease inevitably compounded the misery of the people (Lee 1984).

The Hyangyak chipsong pang and the Tongui pogam served as the models for many other medical books of this era. Ho Chun, the author of the Tongui pogam, was a Taoist, and his medical philosophy rested on the three Taoist essences: mind, sense, and spiritual power. His classification of disease was based on causes as well as symptomatology and the physical location of disorders. The view of disease initiated by the Tongui pogam exerted a profound influence on the Korean medical world during the second half of the Yi Dynasty. Epidemics were collectively referred to as "bad disease" in the ancient period, but as medical knowledge developed, references to epidemic diseases became more specific. Generally, the epidemic diseases recorded as "bad disease" in the Yijo Sillok (True History of the Yi Dynasty) constituted those other than the eruptive fevers, among them influenza, epidemic meningitis, typhoid and typhuslike diseases, and other diseases that have no particularly well-marked external manifestations.

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