Shen Nong – The Legendary Discoverer of Chinese Herbs

If you’ve done some readings on Chinese medicine, one name appears every now and then. No, I’m not talking about the Yellow Emperor (Huang Di 黃帝). I’m talking about Shen Nong (神農), the Divine Farmer, who is also credited to discovering Chinese herbs and tea.

Legend has it that he tasted everything around him that he could taste – thousands and thousands of plants including poisons – and documented their healing properties.

Shen Nong was credited for writing the first pharmacopoeia in China, most of these entries exist today in the contemporary Chinese medicinal pharmacopoeia!

Thus far, I’ve had quite a good image and impression about Shen Nong.

Until I found a picture of him in a book:

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Shen Nong (神農)

That’s one hell of a creepy dude man! Looks more like he’s getting high from whatever plant/drug he’s taking right now.

Either the person who drew Shen Nong really doesn’t like him, or, Shen Nong must have looked this creepy after eating all kinds of stuff that he picked up from the ground.

I suppose it takes a certain amount of weirdness and eccentricity to go around eating every single plant and poison that you see in front of you. No one in the right mind would do that.

I’m more curious to know how he figured out the healing properties of each plant. I mean… You’ve got to have an entire array of medical problems on you before you can ascertain which plant heals what, right?

Anyway, Shen Nong isn’t the only one who looks really creepy. The other legendary figures look just as creepy as this guy.

If anything, I’ve learnt that if you’ve ever become legendary in the ancient Chinese world, you end up looking creepy.