Donguibogam Village Reference Board

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Title Birth of Donguibogam

2014-12-30 14:16:49
Heo Jun called his compilation on traditional medicine “Donguibogam.” The word “Dongui” means Eastern medicine, distinguishing traditional Korean medicine from Chinese medicine in a declaration that Korea (then Joseon) had an equal level of expertise in traditional medicine as China.
For a long time, Korean people had not been able to receive proper medical treatment when ill or hurt at times of war. This gave rise to the need for a new kind of medicine. It was after the Japanese invasion in 1596, when most of the nation’s land fell desolate, thus making it highly difficult for a patient to get treatment, that Donguibogam was published according to the royal order of King Seonjo, who instructed Heo Jun to compile existing medical books and integrate them into a single, coherent compendium.

This opened the door to a fuller use of widely available medicinal ingredients for poor people. Indeed, this book recognizes the importance of easy-to-come-by medicinal ingredients locally produced in Korea and emphasizes their use and supply in place of expensive medicinal ingredients, listing the names of locally produced medicinal substances in Hangul (Korean alphabet) and making it easily accessible to common people.

It is edited by Heo Jun under the collective support of medical experts at the Naeuiwon (Medical Center for the Royal Family), using around 180 medical books accumulated from the ancient times up to the 16th century as reference, including “Uibang yuchwi (Classified Collection of Medical Prescriptions),” “Hyangyak jipseongbang (Great Collection of Native Korean Prescriptions),” and “Uirim chwaryo (Essentials of Medical Practice).”

Based on the highest level of medical knowledge then available, the best theories and prescriptions are selected for inclusion, and, unlike its predecessors, the book clearly indicates the sources of specific items of information, thereby opening a new era in the intellectual tradition in this field. The book consists of five chapters: Naegyeong (Overview of the Inner Body), Oehyeong (External Appearance), Japbyeong (Various Diseases), Tangaek (Liquid Medications), and Chimgu (Acupuncture and Moxibustion). With the publication of this compendium coherently integrating the best of them available medical knowledge, East Asian medicine was elevated to a new level of systematic clarity.

However, the compilation of Donguibogam was not always smoothly undertaken; the work was once disrupted due to Jeongyujaeran - the second invasion by Japan in 1597.

Heo, sent into exile for a while in 1608 when King Seonjo passed away, devoted himself to putting together this medical book and completed the book (25 volumes divided into 25 books) in 1610, 14 years after he began the compilation. The final publication was done three years later in 1613 by the Naeuiwon (Medical Center for the Royal Family).

A manifestation of the state’s sense of responsibility for the health and well-being of the common people, Donguibogam put an emphasis on spreading the concept of preventive medicine, which was virtually an unprecedented idea up to the 19th century.

Heo Jun titled the compilation Donguibogam and the word, Dongui means Eastern medicine, distinguishing traditional Korean medicine from Chinese medicine and declaring that Korea (then, Joseon) had been developing its own medicine distinct from that of China, thus having an equal level of expertise in the medicine as China.