The Ancient Sage Hua Tuo’s and His Medical Miracles (Part 1)

A statue of Hua Tuo.

A statue of Hua Tuo at Huazu Temple in Bozhou, Anhui, China.. Image: beibaoke1 via Dreamstime)

Hua Tuo was a renowned Chinese doctor of the late Eastern Han Dynasty. Unfortunately, there is very little known about this legendary doctor’s background or his early years in the existing records. However, in the annals of history and legend, Hua Tuo’s medical skills are dazzling and brilliant.

Any individual who cultivates their character and is well trained in the high arts can have supernormal abilities and have open “Celestial Eyes” that can see through the human body, see one’s destiny, and predict one’s death. Hua Tuo successfully cultivated himself and possessed these high abilities in this respect.

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Searching for sages to obtain the Tao is better than possessing a worldly reputation

Hua Tuo and Cao Cao, who was the ruler of the State of Wei, were from the same village in Qiao County in the State of Pei. Hua Tuo had a calm temperament and was intelligent and eager to learn. Although he was familiar with the classics, he preferred to spend his time on the study of alchemy and cultivation. He often visited famous mountains and caves, searching for immortals to obtain the Tao.

An interesting story has been recorded in the historical texts of Zhong Cang Jing expounding the legend of Hua Tuo’s encounter in the mountains and how he obtained the books from sages.

One day, Hua Tuo went for a walk in the mountains after drinking. He was slightly drunk, so he took a rest in front of the ancient cave in Gongyi Mountain. During this time, he suddenly overheard someone talking about the methods of curing diseases. Hua Tuo felt strange and quietly moved near the cave entrance to eavesdrop.

After a while, he heard someone say: “Hua Tuo is nearby. We can entrust him with this alchemy of healing.” Then, the other voice deliberately said: “Hua Tuo is greedy by nature and has no compassion for living beings, so how can you hand over the alchemy to him?”

When Hua Tuo heard this, he was startled and broke into a cold sweat. He immediately darted into the cave and tried to defend himself. But instead, he saw two older men sitting inside. They were wearing wood veneer clothing with straw hats on their heads and looking at Hua Tuo with smiles.

A statue of Hua Tuo at the tomb of Hua Tuo. (Image: Beibaoke1 via Dreamstime)

Hua Tuo hurriedly bowed forward respectfully and said: “I just heard two sages talking about the alchemy of healing. I was very interested and forgot to go home when I listened to it. Besides, I have always liked to learn the Tao, which can help people. However, I can’t find an effective way and feel sorry in my heart. I hope the two gentlemen here can understand my sincerity. Please open up my wisdom, and I will live up to your kindness for the rest of my life”.

At this time, the old man sitting in the upper position said: “We will not hesitate to teach you the Tao provided, when you save people, you don’t differentiate between the rich and the poor, do not take bribes, do not fear hard work, have compassion for the old and the weak, and this will save you from disaster in the future.”

Hua Tuo quickly thanked them and said: “I will remember your teachings, remember every single word, and do according to your instructions.”

The two sages then pointed to the eastern side of the cave and smilingly said to Hua Tuo: “There is a box of books on the stone bed; you can pick it up by yourself and get out of here quickly. Don’t show them to ordinary people, and keep them a secret.”

Hua Tuo stepped forward to pick up the books, and when he turned back, the two sages were nowhere to be seen. Hua Tuo hurriedly left the cave. The moment he stepped out of the cave, a dark cloud rushed in suddenly, and the cave collapsed instantly.

It turned out that Hua Tuo’s search for seclusion was to seek the Tao. Now that he had the good fortune to meet the sages in the mountains and obtain the books, when the high official Huang Wan recommended him to become an official, he did not accept the post.

Able to see through a human body and remove parasites

Hua Tuo’s treatment method described in the historical biography seems to have been far more than the “seeing, hearing, asking, and knowing” of later generations of traditional Chinese medicine.

When Hua Tuo was traveling in a carriage, he saw a man on the roadside. The man’s family tried to get him into a carriage and bring him to see a doctor. The man was having problems swallowing food because his throat was blocked. The man was moaning in pain. Hua Tuo could not bear to see the man moaning, so he stopped his carriage and checked on his condition.

Hua Tuo immediately told the man: “The biscuit seller on the roadside sells vinegar pickled with garlic and leeks; you buy three liters and drink it, and then you will be fine.” So the man’s family did what Hua Tuo told them to do. After taking the vinegar, the man immediately spit up a parasite and his disease was cured. Just one look at the man and Hua Tuo could tell that there was a parasite in the man’s stomach.

Another strange medical case is also related to parasites in a patient’s stomach.

Cheng Deng, the prefectural chief of Guangling Prefecture, felt ill. He felt uncomfortable in his chest, had flushed cheeks, and could not eat. Hua Tuo took his pulse and told him: “There are several liters (pints) of parasites in your stomach, and they have grown into tumors. It happened because you always liked eating raw fish.”

Hua Tuo immediately made him two liters of herbal medicine. Cheng Deng drank one liter first, followed by the rest of the treatment later. After taking the medication, Chen Deng vomited three liters of parasites. The parasites were still squirming, and the lower part of the parasites was like raw fish. After that, Cheng Deng recovered from the illness.

However, Hua Tuo said to Cheng Deng: “This kind of disease will recur three years later, and if you can find a good doctor by then, he may save you.”

The tomb of Hua Tuo.
The tomb of Hua Tuo (140-208 AD) in Xuchang, Henan, China. (Image: Beibaoke1 via Dreamstime)

Just as expected, Cheng Deng’s illness recurred three years later. But unfortunately, Hua Tuo was harvesting medicine on a mountain and was not available, and Cheng Deng passed away eventually.

There were two surprising points regarding this medical case. First, Hua Tuo diagnosed that there were parasites in Cheng Deng’s stomach just by taking his pulse, and that the cause of the disease was eating raw fish. Secondly, Hua Tuo also predicted that Cheng Deng would become ill three years later, and without a good doctor by his side, he would die.

Hua Tuo’s diagnosis suggests that he had the power of celestial eyesight, which, in the case of Cheng Deng, he could see into Cheng Deng’s stomach and also predict Cheng Deng’s death.

Chronicles of healing and prediction of death

The medical cases recorded in the Chronicles of the Three Kingdoms become more and more extraordinary as you go deeper into the text.

Hua Tuo’s case of treating Li Cheng, a military official, actually predicted Li Cheng’s death 18 years later.

Li Cheng had been coughing for a long time. He could not sleep day or night and would often spit out pus and blood. He went to Hua Tuo to ask for advice. Hua Tuo told Li Cheng: “You have a tumor in your intestines, and what you spit out when you cough doesn’t come from your lungs. I will give you two doses of medicinal powder. After taking the powder, you will vomit out more than two liters of pus and blood. Take a good rest. You can get up for a while in a month. Take good care, and you will regain your health in a year. However, there will be another attack in eighteen years. Take this medicinal powder, and you will get better soon. You will die if you do not have the medicine.”. So he gave Li Cheng two doses of the medicine.

Five years later, Li Cheng’s relative fell sick, and the condition was similar to what he had suffered earlier. The relative said to Li Cheng: “You are healthy now. However, I am about to die. How can you bear to see that I have no cure? Why not lend me the medicinal powder? When I get better, I will go and get the medicine from Hua Tuo to return it to you.”

Li Cheng finally gave the medicine to his relative. Later, the relative went to Qiao County to find Hua Tuo. At that time, he happened to see Hua Tuo being arrested, and he could not bear to go forward to ask for the medicine.

Eighteen years later, Li Cheng’s illness recurred, and there was no medicine for him to take so he eventually died.

From traditional Chinese medicine to the ability to see through the human body and finally predict the end of a patient’s life, Chen Shou, a Chinese historian mostly known for his great work Records of the Three Kingdoms,  passed on to later generations accounts of extraordinary, inexplicable, and inconceivable cases.

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