J Syst Evol ›› 2007, Vol. 45 ›› Issue (4): 458-472.DOI: 10.1360/aps06196

• Research Articles • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Huma should be Linum usitatissimum, not Sesamum indicum—With special reference to the source of confusion of names for traditional Chinese medicine and the written time and author of Shên Nung Pên Ts’ao Ching

1WU Zheng-Yi, 2WANG Jin-Xiu*, 2TANG Yan-Cheng   

  1. 1(Kunming Institute of Botany, the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Kunming 650204, China)

    2(State Key Laboratory of Systematic and Evolutionary Botany, Institute of Botany, the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100093, China)heather@ibcas.ac.cn
  • Received:2006-12-01 Published:2007-07-18

Abstract: The confusion of Huma (胡麻) in Chinese history was discussed after an introduction of Chih Wu Ming Shi T’u K’ao of the Qing Dynasty and its author—Wu Qijun’s contribution to Chinese botany. The morphological characters and distribution of Huma and Jusheng (巨胜) documented in ancient Chinese literature were comparatively studied. Simultaneously, other questions about the Chinese medicament and medicine were inspected in the backgrounds of historical development and social stratum differentiation. We concluded that the earliest recorded Huma in Chinese literature should be Linum usitatissimum. The Chinese name for this plant has been used by the folks until well into modern times. Jusheng (巨胜) should be Sesamum indicum. The reason for the confusion of these two names was also explored. It was further inferred that the confusion of names for traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) originated in the similarity of their property and function while the difference of their morphology and distribution was not taken seriously. We also concluded that Shên Nung Pên Ts’ao Ching was forged by TAO Hongjing (陶弘景) in his Collected Commentaries on Pên Ts’ao Ching but attributed to an ancient author, Shennong (神农). In this book TCM was classified by their property and function, which became the root cause of the confusion of Chinese names for TCM from then on. Some suggestions were also given for the development of Chinese materia medica in the future.

Key words: Huma, confusion of names for traditional Chinese medication, Shên Nung Pên Ts'ao Ching