Li Shizhen


Today if you visit Google Hong Kong you will be greeted by the Li Shizhen Google Doodle. The Google Doodle show a character whom I presume is Li Shizhen standing on a mountain side picking herbs or flowers. In the background there is some trees, and these trees have been stunningly designed to be part of the main images but also cleverly placed to assist in the spelling of “Google”.

Li Shizhen

If you hover over the Li Shizhen Google Doodles (Over the Trees) messages pop up written in Chinese, but unfortunately I cannot interpret these.

Wikipedia Li Shizhen

Li Shizhen July 3, 1518 to 1593, was one of the greatest Chinese doctors, polymaths, scientists, herbalists and acupuncturists in history. His major contribution to clinical medicine was his 27-year work, which is found in his book Compendium of Materia Medica.

Li Shizhen is also considered to be the greatest scientific naturalist of China, and was very interested in the proper classification of herb components.

The Bencao Gangmu is a medical text with 1,892 entries, each entry with its own name called a gang. The mu in the title refers to the synonyms of each name. The book has details about more than 1,800 drugs (Chinese Medicine), including 1,100 illustrations and 11,000 prescriptions. It also described the type, form, flavor, nature and application in disease treatments of 1,094 herbs.

Li Shizhen Compendium of Materia Medica has been translated into many different languages, and remains as the premier reference work for herbal medicine. His treatise included various related subjects such as botany, zoology, mineralogy, and metallurgy. The book was reprinted frequently and five of the original editions still exist

While only six copies of the original edition remain – One in the US Library of Congress, two in China, and three in Japan (a seventh copy in Berlin was destroyed during World War II) – several new editions and numerous translations have been made throughout the centuries, and it was not replaced as the pharmaceutical materia medica of China until 1959: over 400 years after its first publication.

It is good to see that Google have used their doodle today to teach us more about the life and legacy of Li Shizhen 495 years after his birth, and the important contributions that he’s made to understanding medicine and herbs.