Through thousands of years of fighting against diseases humans have accumulated a wealth of experience and knowledge, and the legacy of traditional medicine is still highly visible in contemporary life. The National Palace Museum is home to a rich collection of traditional medical texts, and many of which were once part of the Qing imperial collections of books or official compilations; others are rare editions uncovered by late Qing scholars in Japan, acquisitions by the Museum and donations from private collectors. Even today, this collection continues to be a valuable resource for academic research and an inspiration for innovative applications.
Birth, aging, sickness and death form the circle of life. Once a fetus is conceived, it develops inside a woman's body, and then a new life is born. As the infant grows, so begins a life journey which may be peppered with problems of ill health or development. In the face of disease, each of the different medical traditions, religious beliefs and cultural systems has its own interpretation of how the human body works. For ages humans have dealt with diseases and plagues of various magnitudes, and left behind for posterity a variety of therapies and recipes. It is on this foundation that the Han Chinese has gradually developed methods to prevent disease at its root. Food therapy and various recommendations for the cultivation of good health have also become an integral part of the quest for longevity. As the saying has it, "human life is precious, and even more valuable than a thousand taels of gold," public health has long been an important part of governmental institutions, and advancements in medical and pharmacological theories have helped to spur the progress of medical culture and practices.
This exhibition is divided into eight sections: "The Beginning of Life," "The Human Body in Perspective," "The History of Disease," "Treating External Symptoms," "Medical Recipes and Prescriptions," "Religion and Medicine," "Cultivating Health and Longevity" and "Medicine and the State." By showcasing rare medical texts, documents, paintings and artifacts from the Museum's collection, it is intended to trace the development of traditional Chinese medical scholarship and its interactions with human lives, diseases, religion and institutions, and to show the mutual influence between Chinese, Japanese, and Korean medicine. Visitors are invited to explore the traditional ways to healing and health, and to reflect upon modern views of life and medicine, and to appreciate the essence of leading a long and healthy life.