Good Stories from China: Legendary Doctor Bianque and Duke Cai

September 13, 2006 12:00 am Last Updated: September 13, 2006 12:00 am

Bianque is a legendary doctor who lived during the Spring and Autumn Period about 2,700 years ago, and his magical hands saved many lives, both of commoners and princes.

One day Bianque went to see Duke Cai in the State of Qi. After a moment of observation, Bianque said, “Your Honorable is diseased, but it has just started underneath the skin. If you do not seek treatment it may get worse.” Duke Cai replied, “But I do not have any discomfort.”

After Bianque left, Duke Cai said to his subordinates, “Doctors like to show off their skills by treating healthy people.”

Ten days later, Bianque went to see Duke Cai again. “Your Honorable's disease has extended to the muscle, and will become serious without treatment.” Duke Cai was unhappy at hearing this.

Another ten days passed. When Bianque saw Duke Cai again, he did not say anything but turned around and left. Duke Cai was puzzled, and he sent a messenger to ask for reasons.

Bianque replied, “When the disease is in the skin, herbal baths can treat it; when it is in the muscle, injection can cure it; when it is in the stomach, hot herbal tea can still correct it. But if the disease has entered the bone marrow, the matter has to be turned over to gods, as I have no way to treat it. Today, I saw that the Duke's disease has entered the bone marrow, so I do not dare to treat him.”

Five days later, Duke Cai started to suffer from severe pain. When he asked for Bianque, Bianque had already left the State of Qi.

Source: “Han Fei Tzu” by Han Fei (circa 281—233 BC), a prince and a philosopher in the State of Han.