Scientific Research On Nationally Produced Drugs

In 1945, the leading Chinese scientific magazine Kexue (Science) began publication of a series of special issues to review the past three decades of development of each scientific discipline in China. In the issue on "The Recent 30 Years of Scientific Research in Chinese Drugs," the author of the review praised the research on Changshan as being second only to the world-famous work on mahuang (ephedrine) in the 1920s, as the major achievement of Chinese drugs studies in the 1940s (Zhang, 1949).

Unlike most other Scientific Research on Nationally Produced Drugs, which was directed and controlled by Western-style doctors, the research on Changshan was inaugurated, recorded, and officially supported by an enthusiastic advocate of Chinese medicine — Chen Guofu. Chen Guofu and his younger brother, Chen Lifu, were long-term political allies of the KMT leader Chiang Kai-shek. The Chen brothers also provided strong political support for the National Medicine Movement organised by the TCM doctors. Chen Lifu served as the first president of the Guoyi Guan (National Medicine Institute) established in 1931, and Chen Guofu was on that institute's board of directors. At the same time, both were deeply involved in constructing a German-style national health administration. From Chen Guofu's side, an important personal dimension was that, having been a victim of TB for 40 years, he had developed a strong interest in medicine. He had consulted more than 100 doctors, including both Chinese and Western trained, and had written a multitude of booklets on medical matters.

While the Chen brothers' interests in medical matters were simultaneously medical, political, and personal, they had no formal medical education at all. Chen Lifu held a master's degree in mining engineering from the University of Pittsburgh, and Chen Guofu's formal education had ended with military high school. Therefore, even though they both had been lifelong supporters of Chinese medicine, their support was generally perceived as being ideological and nationalistic rather than scientific (Croizier, 1968, pp. 92-99). As a result, historians have never taken seriously the Chen brothers' influence on the practice of Chinese medicine. According to Chen Guofu, however, the discovery of the antimalarial efficacy of Changshan was built completely on his own audacious personal experiment. From Chen Guofu's point of view, he played a groundbreaking role in this discovery.

For him, the history of discovering Changshan began in 1940 when he sent the Chinese prescription for treating malaria to the clinic of the KMT's Central Politics School (Zhongyang Zhengzhi Xuexiao). Once Changshan, one of the seven drugs in this prescription, had entered the school clinic, it was handled almost exclusively by Western-trained scientists and physicians.

Traditional Chinese Medicine

Traditional Chinese Medicine

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