Compiled by Ge Hong 葛洪 (zi: Zhichuan 稚川, hao: Baopuzi 抱朴子, ?283-?343);
Revised, annotated and expanded by Tao Hongjing 陶弘景 (zi: Tongming 通明, hao: Huayang yinju 華陽隱居, 451-536),
Edited and appended by Yang Yongdao 楊用道 (1144)
Edited by Duan Chengyi 段成己 (zi: Chengzhi 誠之 hao: Juxuan 菊軒 1199—1279).
For a full bibliographic study (in Chinese language) please see here.

The largest drug recipe text in the Daoist Canon, the Recipes to Keep Close at Hand were compiled by the polymath alchemist, literati and bureaucrat, Ge Hong, one of the single most important figures in Daoist lineages of the fourth century. Widely read and deeply invested in immortality practices, he compiled this work to serve medically illiterate readers, and to redress the rapacious practices of urban physicians. The work is a rich treasure trove, waiting to be mined. It is the source from which China’s first Nobel Prize winner, Tu Youyou found the method to derive arteminisin from qinghao 青蒿.

The work is highly structured, which makes it germane to digital humanities analysis. It is divided into eight chapters, which are further subdivided into multiple sections. The sections, totalling 73 over all, are devoted to different diseases. There is a description of the disease, and then a first recipe, which is followed by another and another, each with the opening 又方 (Another Recipe). Some way down through the list, many sections will include the heading 附方 (Appended Recipe), which indicates that recipe and all the ones following it in that section are “appended” by Yang Yongdao. Yang indicates his primary source was the Waitai miyao 外台秘藥, a Tang text, so we can learn something about the development of pharmacology from this work. The earlier sections ought to include Ge Hong’s and Tao Hongjings recipes.

Instructions for Accessing the Database

To Use the Database, please go to http://docusky.org.tw/DocuSky/home/ . Click the middle blue button 開始使用(穩定版)to enter the system

Please then click 登入 here,

Login: msb@ntu.edu.sg
Password: Daoi$t

Then use the same menu to enter the database.

In the next page, scroll down the options until you find 肘後方.DZ9. Click the blue title of the database. This will take you to the text.

We have tagged the recipes for drug names, disease terms and useful other data, such as people’s names and text titles. These can be revealed by clicking “Tag” on the top right, which will reveal a “Tag Analysis” bar on the left of the screen.

These tags are quite extensive, and you can filter for multiple features at once to drill down on the information you want to know. Select a particular category and all the tags will be listed. To explore the text use the techniques show in this video instruction. It refers to a different text, but the basic methods are the same.



Transforming Meta-Text to Metadata

Recall that I mentioned that the disease for which each passage is indicated is only mentioned at the beginning of each section. Also, that the Jin dynasty editor, Yang Yongdao appended much later recipes from the Tang dynasty Waitai miyao 外台秘藥, and perhaps others. He indicated this later provenance simply by inserting a header once in a given section, “Appended Recipes” 附方. All entries which follow that header in the original text are appended, although this is not indicated in the passages themselves.

This is problematic when we move to a database format, which dislocates the data from the original form of the manuscript. If you find a given para in a search result, you will not know from the contents of the passage what the editor, Yang Yongdao expected his readers to understand, and had in fact equipped them to do so with his header. Therefore, we have “appended” metadata to each passage, so you the user, can know its provenance.

Because each individual recipe does not contain all of the metadata, as it were, from above, i.e. the disease name and description and the “appended” note, we have “appended” these ourselves as metadata to each passage. To see these metadata about the passages, click “Comment” and you will see all the necessary metadata.