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Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies

28 November 2019
Melvyn Bragg and guests, including Roel Sterckx, discuss the life and ideas of Li Shizhen (1518-1593) whose compendium of natural medicines is celebrated in China as the most complete survey of natural remedies of its time.


Broadcast on BBC Radio 4's "In our time" slot (listen here). Melvyn Bragg is in discussion with:

  • Craig Clunas, Professor Emeritus in the History of Art at the University of Oxford
  • Anne Gerritsen, Professor in History at the University of Warwick
  • Roel Sterckx, Joseph Needham Professor of Chinese History at the University of Cambridge

Li Shizen trained as a doctor and worked at the Ming court before spending almost 30 years travelling in China, inspecting local plants and animals for their properties, trying them out on himself and then describing his findings in his Compendium of Materia Medica or Bencao Gangmu, in 53 volumes. He's been called the uncrowned king of Chinese naturalists, and became a scientific hero in the 20th century after the revolution.