The Classic of Difficult Issues

The Nan Jing (or Huangdi Bashiyi Nanjing 黃帝八十一難經 - The Yellow Emperor's Eighty-one Difficulties Classic) is one of the four Classics of Chinese medicine. It was complied during the first and or second century CE. Described by Unschuld as a work that “marks the apex, and also the conclusion, of the developmental phase of the conceptual system known as the medicine of systematic correspondence” (Unschuld 1986:3), this text covers health and health care in terms of five phases and yin yang theory in a more complete way than previous works.

“An innovative diagnostic approach and a coherent concept of needling therapy are, on first glance, the two central messages conveyed by the Nan-ching; they represent, however, but two ingredients of a virtually complete conceptual system of medical care that also includes a detailed discussion of physiology , etiology and pathology.” (Unschuld 1986:17)

Suggested Translation

Unschuld, Paul, trans. Bianque, Nan-ching: The Classic of Difficult Issues: Comparative Studies of Health Systems and Medical Care, University of California Press, Berkeley, Los Angeles, 1986.

Translation of the text and commentaries by twenty Chinese and Japanese authors of the past 17 centuries with interpretation by Unschuld.

“...this edition of the Nan-ching should serve primarily as a research tool. It is hoped that the publication of this book will stimulate others to embark on the difficult task of philological analysis of other writings form the history of Chinese medicine, and to develop ever improving methodologies for conveying the concepts they contain to a Western readership.”(Unschuld 1986: 9)

The prolegomena includes a discussion of the issues present in translating traditional Chinese medicine for practitioners in the West, including a discussion of the translation of terms. This portion of the book is available to view at Amazon or google books if you do not yet own it.

other translations

Flaws, Bob, Classic of Difficulties Nan Jing. Blue Poppy Press: Boulder, 1999.

Wilms, Sabine trans. The Great Compendium of Acupuncture and Moxibustion Vol. I, The Chinese Medicine Database, 2010.

(Contains Select Chapters from Nei Jing and Nan Jing)

online resources

For the Original Chinese text ›

From the Chinese Text Project, under pre-Qin and Han texts - Chinese Medicine Texts.

For the Suggested Translation ›

Google books has Unschuld’s translation as an ebook or some sections can be viewed online for free :