Myrrh: Medical Knowledge from Arabia into Chinese Materia Medica

Sean Bradley


Native to the Arabic peninsula, myrrh (Commiphora spp./mo yao ) was traded throughout the ancient world and is an example of the transfer of botanical medical knowledge from the Middle East to China. The timeline of myrrhs introduction to China is a matter of debate. Though firmly established during the Song Dynasty (960-1279 CE) and later documented by Li Shizhen (1518-1593 CE) in his Bencao gangmu of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644 CE), the  incorporation of myrrh into Chinese materia medica (bencao ) tradition may have been much earlier. Looking at the primary textual sources both within the field of materia medica and outside of this tradition (in the standard histories, miscellaneous texts, and accounts of foreign interactions), we will trace the inclusion of myrrh into the Chinese medical tradition.


Key words: Myrrh - Silk Road - Chinese Medicine 

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