Master of Traditional Chinese Medicine: Fang Heqian

Fang Heqian, male, Han nationality, born in December 1923, is the chief physician and professor of Beijing Chaoyang Hospital affiliated with Capital Medical University.

He comes from a family of TCM doctors in the capital, his father, Fang Bo Ping, and his brother, Fang Ming Qian, are both famous TCM doctors.

He is proficient in typhoid fever, but does not claim to be a scripture prescription school, advocating the combination of scripture prescriptions and seasonal prescriptions, and has created several empirical prescriptions himself

He was fond of Peking Opera, chess, and food, and had beautiful handwriting.

When I first met Fang Heqian, I was in the special needs clinic of Beijing Chaoyang Hospital. At that time, he was discussing a clinical case with a young physician who was teaching him. When Fang Heqian was explaining the clinical application of Gui Zhi Tang, he quoted the original text from the Treatise on Typhoid from time to time. If I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes, it would have been hard to believe that this hale, clear-minded national medical master was 86 years old.

In Beijing’s TCM community, people mention Chaoyang Hospital, and Fang Heqian’s name is invariably mentioned. He is an old expert and a good doctor in the hearts of his patients, a good leader, a good senior, and a good teacher in the hearts of his colleagues in the department. His fame in Beijing and nationwide comes from his profound knowledge, excellent medical skills and modest personality. The phrase “the old cow knows that the sunset is late, but does not wait for the whip to start” makes people admire his tireless and diligent struggle.

Exquisite medical skills as a great doctor

He prescribed medicines with little strength, usually for a few dollars a serving; he paid great attention to the taste of the medicine and tried not to use medicines that were too bitter or smelled too bad. Patients praised him for his “small taste of medicine, which is not unpleasant to drink and solves problems”.

Fang Heqian’s medical skills are well known in the TCM community. Many general hospitals in Beijing often ask Fang Heqian to consult with them when the treatment of critical patients is ineffective, and his unique medical skills have brought many difficult patients back to life and turned them to safety. In 1958, he practiced at the Beijing Hospital of Traditional Chinese Medicine, and in 1968, he was transferred to the Department of Traditional Chinese Medicine at Beijing Chaoyang Hospital and now the Special Needs Clinic.

A few years ago, an 81-year-old man who had been suffering from diabetes for a long time developed a serious complication, diabetic foot, and came to Chaoyang Hospital to find Fang Heqian. The old man had subacute necrosis of his left toe, which had been black and purple for more than a month, making it very difficult for him to move. Western doctors believed that the only option was amputation. The old man and his family were in a dilemma. After being introduced, the old man came to Fang Heqian for medical consultation. After careful questioning, Fang confirmed that the disease was caused by a lack of vital energy and a deficiency of both qi and yin. He then applied his own “nourishing soup” to cultivate vital energy, support the righteousness and dispel the evil. Two weeks later, after taking 12 doses of Fang Heqian’s “Tonic Soup”, the patient’s swollen extremities improved. 6 weeks later, the patient’s gangrene was cured. When he came back to the hospital, he looked rosy, moved freely, and could walk slowly.

Fang Heqian’s medical skills are not only highly reputable in China, but some of his Chinese friends abroad also often come to him.

In 2004, he saw a Chinese American, Mr. Jiang. Mr. Jiang had been suffering from diarrhea, abdominal pain and blood in his stool for nine years and was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease in the United States. He was diagnosed with “Crohn’s disease” in the U.S. Mr. Jiang consulted Western doctors in the U.S. and was not treated for nearly two years. The American doctor said there was no cure and suggested Mr. Jiang to have surgery. After returning to China, Mr. Jiang sought help from Chinese medicine practitioners in many hospitals and took various prescriptions for more than one year, but he was still not cured.

Fang and Qian saw his wasted form and learned from the consultation that the patient had abdominal pain, bloating, and loose stools for many years. The patient’s barium meal imaging results were: ileal segmental stenosis and pseudo-diverticulum formation. Fang and Qian diagnosed his symptoms as spleen qi deficiency and dampness stopping qi obstruction. Subsequently, he used the prescription of Ginseng and Atractylodes to strengthen the spleen and resolve dampness, and Xianglian Pill to regulate qi and relieve pain, and when Mr. Jiang came back to the clinic 1 week later, his condition improved significantly. In two years, Mr. Jiang insisted on flying back and forth between the two countries, taking 60 to 70 doses of Chinese medicine prescribed by Fang Heqian before each return, and was eventually cured, much to the amazement of the American doctors.

Fang often taught his disciples that “patients are our parents” and that “medicine is a benevolent art”. Patients should be treated equally and with high responsibility regardless of their position, wealth, or affinity. At the age of 84, Fang Heqian still attended outpatient clinics 5-6 days a week, receiving about 30 patients each time.

He prescribed medicines with less force and no big prescriptions, seldom used rhinoceros horn, antelope horn, musk, and other precious medicines, and strove to solve problems simply, conveniently, and cheaply. When prescribing medicines, he paid great attention to the taste and tried not to use medicines that were too bitter or smelled too bad. Patients praised “Fang Lao’s medicine has less taste and does not taste unpleasant, but also solves the problem”, and “I am half cured when I sit here”.
The method of Zhongjing does not stick to its prescription

Fang Heqian was proficient in typhoid fever, but he did not claim to be a scripture school, and he advocated the combination of scripture and prescriptions. In the 1960s, he edited the “Chronicle of the Treatment of Epidemic B Encephalitis in Beijing”, which had a handful of copies for Chinese medicine doctors in Beijing hospitals at that time and had a wide impact.

Fang Heqian insisted on promoting Zhongjing’s academic, evidence-based treatment and holistic concept. He believed that the development of Chinese medicine in the 21st century should not be based on stereotypes, but only based on a deep understanding of Zhongjing’s scholarship, can he integrate and apply it flexibly, so to speak. Fang Heqian was proficient in typhoid fever but did not claim to be a sutra school. He advocated the combination of classic prescriptions and prescriptions of the time, which can be as effective as the rafter when used properly. For example, in “The Essentials of the Golden Luxury”, he used sour date palm soup to treat “deficiency labor and vain annoyance without sleep”, and Fang Heqian added bamboo rhizome and white wormwood from the formula of “Bamboo Peel Pill”, which is effective for insomnia caused by yin deficiency and dirty dryness.

He made good use of the “Harmony Method”, emphasizing the treatment concept of “correctness is the basis, and the support of correctness is to drive away evil”, and proposed the insightful idea of “Harmony is to support correctness, and the solution is to disperse evil”. He also created the “Liver Harmony Soup” and “Liver Harmony Soup”, which have relieved the pain of many critical patients in clinical practice.

Fang Heqian advocates the combination of Chinese and Western medicine to complement each other’s strengths. Both Chinese medicine and Western medicine need to be used in the present and to improve, and they can complement each other, but they should never be combined. As a modern TCM doctor, he can make use of modern medical diagnostic tools and cooperate with the four diagnoses to facilitate the diagnosis of TCM; however, he cannot discard the theory of identification and treatment by examination only. Chinese medicine and Western medicine on the understanding of the disease, categorization, diagnosis, etc. have their views, regardless of the objective reality, rigid application of the “right number into the seat” is the desecration of Chinese and Western medicine, not only can not cure the disease, but also mislead the disease.

In the summer of 1956, a sudden epidemic of BSE ravaged Beijing, and as a member of the Chinese Medicine Department of the Beijing Municipal Health Bureau, Fang Heqian was involved in the rescue treatment of BSE. The Beijing Municipal Health Bureau adopted the experience of Shijiazhuang in treating BSE with “Bai Hu Tang” in 1955, but the result was very little. Mr. Pu believed that in 1955, the dry fire was in season and Yangming internal heat was present, so “Bai Hu Tang” was effective; while in 1956, there was a lot of rain and heavy dampness, so the treatment should be aromatic and disperse the evil. Pu Fu-chou used the formula of Huo Xiang Zheng Qi San, which made the disease more than 90% effective and saved many lives.

The diagnosis and treatment of BSE taught Fang Heqian a lesson that would benefit him for life. He further learned that only by being practical in academics and not departing from evidence-based treatment can he achieve the desired results. He also learned that he should be flexible and not stick to his views on the differentiation of the six diseases of wind, cold, summer, humidity, dryness, and fire. To summarize the experience in the treatment of B encephalitis, in 1957, Fang Heqian edited the manual “Chronicle of the Treatment of Epidemic B Encephalitis in Beijing”, in which more than 200 cases were collected and 200 copies were printed by the Beijing Municipal Health Bureau and sent to all medical units. At that time, Chinese medicine doctors in all hospitals in Beijing had one copy in hand, which had a wide impact. Later he edited the book Yanshan Night Talk and other books.

When SARS broke out in March 2003, Fang Heqian thought that TCM should play a role and asked the TCM department of Beijing Chaoyang Hospital and the Party Committee of the hospital for orders in April. His superiors did not approve his request to go to the front line of SARS, considering his 80 years of age. Even though he stayed in the hospital, Fang Heqian insisted on attending outpatient clinics and checking wards during the peak of SARS. He drew up preventive prescriptions and distributed them to the medical staff of the hospital, saying “there is nothing to be afraid of”, which educated and inspired the medical staff around him. As a national veteran TCM expert, Fang Heqian actively suggested prescriptions to the State Administration of Traditional Chinese Medicine and believed that the different stages of SARS have the difference in cold and dampness, which still need to be treated with evidence, and made a great contribution to the victory over SARS.

Through thick and thin, he never changed his mind

Fang Heqian was once unable to practice medicine and worked as a laborer in a brick factory. The director of the brick factory said, “You’re not good at burning bricks, but you like the profession of a doctor, you’d better go and be a doctor.”

Fang Heqian was born in 1923 in Yantai, Shandong Province, and his father, Fang Bo Ping, was one of the ten most famous doctors in the capital. From a young age, Fang Heqian was exposed to a large number of Chinese medical texts. After two years of private education, from junior high school onward, Fang Heqian attended three Chinese medicine workshops run by his father at home and studied medical monographs such as the Three Character Classic of Medicine, the Internal Canon, and the Treatise on Typhoid. In repeatedly reciting and studying, Fang Heqian built a solid foundation in Chinese medicine from his teenage years. At the same time, he practiced with his father in his father’s clinic, preparing for his father’s opening, changing medicine for patients who came to him, copying prescriptions to support the diagnosis, and learning by doing.

When he was 16 years old, an old man in his 60s had a canker sore that wouldn’t heal for a long time. The patient is then smoked with lighted moxa wool. The patient’s sores were crusted over and healed after 10 strokes of moxibustion, which surprised Fang Heqian, a teenager who was following the consultation.

The miracle of Chinese medicine further strengthened Fang Heqian’s ambition to continue his family’s medical practice. In addition to memorizing a large number of medical classics, his father’s “The Secret of Medical Science” and three books of medical notes were also valuable learning materials for him. He insisted on reading for 3 hours every day after his father’s 6-hour consultation. To this day, Fang Heqian still recites the 397 books and 113 prescriptions of the Treatise on Typhoid Fever by heart.

In 1942, at the age of 19, Fang Heqian took the Chinese Medicine Examination of the Beijing Health Bureau. During the interview defense, the examiner asked an oral question: “Why can Chinese medicine cure diseases?” The question sounded difficult and the answers given by the students were varied, making it difficult for many people.

Fang Heqian pondered a little and answered calmly: “The sky eats people with five qi, the earth eats people with five tastes”, “The five tastes go to the stomach, so acid goes to the liver first, bitter goes to the heart first, sweet goes to the spleen first, pungent goes to the lungs first, and salty goes to the kidneys first.

He recited the relevant verses of the Nei Jing off the top of his head, and the teacher gave him a perfect score for his concise and incisive answer. After the examination, Fang Heqian was qualified to practice medicine, and the “Fang Heqian Clinic” was then licensed, beginning his career as an independent practitioner.

In 1949, when New China was founded, Chinese medicine opened a new chapter in its history. However, due to political reasons, Chinese medicine had a difficult and tortuous journey. During this period, Fang Heqian worked as a shopkeeper in a private oil shop and as a worker in a brick factory in Shuangqiao, but he kept in mind his father’s legacy that “he would not seek other occupations, but would still work as a medical practitioner.


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