Anecdotes of miracle cures abound in ancient Chinese popular literature. Some are now explainable by modern medical science while others remain medical mysteries.
During the Warring States period (403-221 B.C.), a famous doctor named Bian Que used a stone needle to perform acupuncture at the point bai hui at the center of the cranium of a price who was in a coma. The prince was revived with one treatment.
Di Renjie, an official of the Tang dynasty (618-907 A.D.), saw a 15-year old boy on the side of a road with a fist-sized tumor on his nose. The official approached the boy and said: “I can cure you.” He used an acupuncture needle and applied it to the back of the child’s head. The needle point penetrated to about one inch deep. Then Di Renjie asked the boy: “Do you have any feeling in the tumor?” The boy nodded. Di immediately pulled the needle out. Almost instantly, the tumor fell off and the child recovered.
In 621 A.D., the famous doctor Zhen Quan met a provincial official who was suffering from arthritis and could not draw his bow to shoot. Zhen Quan applied an acupuncture needle to the point jian yu on the shoulder. Afterwards, the official was able to draw his bow and shoot arrows with ease.
Cao Cao 曹操 and Hua Tuo 華佗
The tumultuous relationship between Cao Cao 曹操 and Hua Tuo 華佗 is well documented in Chinese historical annals. Cao Cao was prime minister of Eastern Han (25-220 A.D.). Hua Tuo (?-208 A.D.), known as the “miracle doctor” of China, was executed by Cao Cao. In Chinese opera, Cao Cao is portrayed as the evil minister with black and white face paint. He was known to have a booming voice and a very bad temper, going into a rage at the slightest displeasure, very impatient and intolerant, extremely suspicious and paranoid, constantly scheming, plotting and strategizing. He is known to be a swift executioner. He is also known to have suffered from severe headaches. Hua Tuo was summoned by Cao Cao to treat his headaches. Hua Tuo was able to stop the headache with one acupuncture application. Fearing that the headaches would flare up again, Cao Cao asked Hua Tuo several times to serve as his personal physician. Hua Tuo refused to accept the invitations. Cao Cao got very angry, and in a rage, sent his soldiers to arrest Hua Tuo. The doctor told Cao Cao: “Prime minister, your sickness cannot be treated effectively with acupuncture anymore. I suggest that you take an anesthetic powder that I shall prepare for you called the ma fei san, and then I will perform an operation by opening up your cranium to cut away and remove the root of your headaches.” After hearing this, Cao Cao went into another rage. He became immediately suspicious and thought that the doctor was scheming to murder him. So Cao Cao instantly ordered the execution of Hua Tuo. That was in the year 208 A.D. Many of Hua Tuo’s innovative medical techniques and herbal formulas for many illnesses were thus lost forever.
This story is well recorded in history. However, there is no historical explanation of Cao Cao’s disorder, his bad temper and his rage, and there is no recorded medical diagnosis. From the perspective of modern medical knowledge, we can surmise the following. Cao Cao was obviously suffering from severe headaches due to a brain tumor, which also caused extreme mood swings. In modern terms, he was suffering from bipolar disorder characterized by alternations of manic and depressive states, and paranoia, the mental disorder characterized by delusions of grandeur and persecution with extreme suspicion and fear. His suspicious nature betrays his delusions of persecution, and his swiftiness as executioner betrays his delusions of grandeur. The severe headaches were brought on by the brain tumor, and Hua Tuo lost his life after he suggested brain surgery to remove it. Alas!
[Source: Interesting cases of acupuncture treatments, Cultural Expo, The Epoch Times, Chinese, April 22, 2011, Friday (817E edition)]