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In 1723,the 1st Qing Yongzheng reign, the emperor granted Tongrentang’s imperial supply of medications, when a legendary development process was initiated and lasted a successive duration of 188 years, then proudly as the only fold pharmacy supplier. The emperor’s grant to imperial supply of Tongrentang medications indicates the trust of Qing Imperial Palace and favor in Tongrentang. Meanwhile, this also proves the superb quality of Tongrentang prepared medicines, which were then replaceable with those by the imperial pharmacies.”


Medicinal Materials and prepared drug in pieces, were in most frequent demand, widest ranges, and largest quantities among all the Tongrentang supplies to the imperial court. Taking the supplies during the Tongzhi through Xuantong reigns as an example, there was a proven record of the Qing imperial court’s 163-time, which was only in a period of 49 years.

Traditional Chinese Medicines: Several thousands of package inserts and hundreds of Traditional Chinese Medicines are collected at the Palace Museum, such as Niuhuang Qingxin Pill (cow-bezoar sedative bolus), Jiawei Xiaoyao Pill (flavored rambling pill), Yangxue Antai Pill (pill for nourishing the fetus), Tiaojing Pill (pill for menstrual regulation), Qianjin Zhidai Pill (pill for arresting leucorrhea), Xiaoer Xiangju Pill (aiding digestion pill for kids), Nv Jin Pill (pill for warming the uterus) and many others. The package inserts imply that some corresponding herbal medicine was ever consumed in the Imperial Palace. A number of Tongrentang Chinese Medicines are still housed at the Palace Museum cultural relic hall, including Babao Taiyi Zijinding, Lidong Pill, Shixiang Fanhun Pill, Shenxiao Huoluo Pill(presently renamed Tongren Da Huoluo Pill), Zaizao Pill and Suhe Pill,and so on.

The manuscript of TRT Traditional Medicine Matching was re-copied into the Qing Imperial Palace for imperial pharmacy preparation of Traditional Chinese Medicine in the 4th day of the 6th lunar month, 1885 (the 11th Guangxu reign), then housed at the Palace Imperial Hospital and presently at the Palace Museum. The book includes a total of 103 formulas. In the 8th day of the 8th lunar month ,1891 (the 17th Guangxu reign), the Qing Imperial Palace ordered Tongrentang to copy the updated TRT Traditional Medicine Matching and TRT Materia Medica (now housed at the Palace Museum) for the imperial pharmacy preparations, which comprise 425 formulas of Tongrentang Traditional Chinese Medicines. The first category is anemogenous phlegm, while the first recommended Chinese Medicine is Niuhuang Qinxin Pill in that category.

After that, the Qing imperial pharmacy applied Tongrentang formulas to prepare their medicines for several times.


Keeping healthy for preventive treatment of diseases

Keeping healthy constantly for preventive treatment of diseases

Keeping healthy and preventing disease are quite worthwhile all year round. This is the fundamental philosophy of Traditional Chinese Medical Treatment. Half of the Tongrentang supplied medicines for the imperial pharmacy preparation was mainly aimed at such preventions.  

Recuperating at all seasons for Preventative treatment of diseases

The seasonal medication applies to the tropism of taste of Traditional Chinese Medicine for recuperation of the human body to prevent disease by using mild and effective Medicinal Materials and following the Five Elements theory. Such theories and practices of keeping healthy with Traditional Chinese Medicine in the Qing Imperial Palace still remain valuable of vast application in the modern society.

In spring, Tongrentang supplies fresh Rhizoma Phragmitis, white chrysanthemums and Caulis Bambusae In Taenia for nourishing the lung, nourishing Yin(feminine and negative) and strengthening liver. Common rushes and Sanxianyin are helpful for digestion and removing food stagnation, and strengthening the spleen and stomach.

In summer, Tongrentang supplies Herba Elsholtziae Decoction, Caulis Bambusae In Taenia and other products for clearing such heat, helping produce saliva and quench thirst.

In autumn, Tongrentang provides common rushes, mint and white chrysanthemums for nourishing your lung and expelling pathogenic heat.

In winter, Tongrentang supplies fresh Rhizoma Phragmitis, cardamom, fructus amomi and San xian Yin and medicated leaven to down regulate lung Qi(Vital energy) for appetizing and warming the stomach.

Indication-based Preventive Medication for Treating Disease Before Its Onset

In 1778--1801, the 41st through 64th Qing Qianlong reign, the Qing emperor Qianlong, in the twilight of his life, suffered from post-natural weakness, in addition to deficiencies of Yin(feminine and negative), Yang(masculine and positive), Qi(Vital energy) and Blood, therefore frequently took eight-therapy cakes and Shengmaiyin, of which, during 1799--1801, 359 were Tongrentang consumed by him.

Around-the-clock Medical Service For Curing of the Diseases

Upon their sickness, the Qing imperial palace officials and their family, especially the emperor and the empress dowager, demanded Tongrentang’s provision of around-the-clock medical services.

再造丸收载于1764年《同仁堂传统配本》的“风痰门”。经考证,御医李德昌为慈禧太后拟再造丸,光绪十一年(1885年),是根据《同仁堂传统配本》结合慈禧太后本人体质加1味白芍而成。 同仁堂再造丸仿单现存于故宫。仿单内容:“此药专治风湿诸痹、口眼歪斜、半身不遂、行步艰难、筋骨拘挛、手足疼痛。宣畅气血。通利经络。大者一丸、小者酌用。病在左部。用金器煎汤送下,用四物汤为引,当归、生地、白芍、川芎各一钱;病在右部,白术一钱、茯苓一钱、人参一钱、甘草五分,用四君子汤为引,如无人参用黄芪代;其余用姜汤、黄酒酌用;孕妇忌服;五种痫症。同仁堂乐家老铺开设在北京正阳门外大栅栏中间路南,有冲天招牌便是”。
The Zaizao Pill is compiled into the Anemogenous Phlegm category of TRT Traditional Medicine Matching Tongrentang in the 11rd Guangxu reign (1885), through investigations, it is evidenced that, the imperial physician Li Dechang proposed the Zaizao Pill to Empress Dowager Cixi with reference to TRT Traditional Medicine Matching, and just added one more herbal medicine -Radix Paeoniae Alba based on Cixi’s actual physical conditions. The Tongrentang imitated Zaizao Pill recipe from Tongrentang is now enshrined at the Palace Museum,

Ensuring the emperor’s health during his travels

During the travel of the emperor and other imperial family members, Tongrentang medicines specially formulated for use by the ancient China's emperor were often brought with them.

During Qianlong’s ‘Mulan Qiuxian’ (autumn hunting) in his 48th reign(1783), the preparation of herbal medicines, slices, patent medicines used in the hunting was undertaken by Tongrentang, which was ordered ‘to be due on 31st day of the 8th lunar month’. There were 27 kinds of medicinal materials, 34 patent medicines  And 7 kinds of precious and fine materials and powders.

Rewarding the Minister to show emperor's kindness

The emperor not only paid attention to his own health, but also cared for the ministers or regional premiers who had made contributions, courtiers and preferred ministers, imperial relatives, and the frontline officers and soldiers.

Pingan Pill is a prescription for treating pains in the heart and stomach. This prescription is suitable for those who feel fullness in chest, vomit, have sour regurgitation, and feel anorexia, distention and stagnation. It can regulate the liver and spleen, and coordinate the up and down movement without damaging the promordial Qi(Vital energy). Therefore, it was used not only by imperial families, but also by ministers as rewards given by Emperor Yongzheng.

Ensuring that examinations would gather talents

In the Qing Dynasty, imperial medical examinations were held two times, separately in spring and autumn , by the Imperial Hospital. The examinations were monitored by Court officials and the examination results of the participants, including minor officials, medical assistants, food doctors, interns, physicians, were used to determine whether they could work in the Imperial Hospital or not. At this time, Tongrentang was responsible for the "examination room errands", and supplied Chinese medicines to these who had discomfort during the test.

In imperial medical examinations that took place every 3 years in Qing Dynasty, Tongrentang prepared medicines according to the physical conditions of the successful candidates of the examinations with their name on the prescriptions and then delivered these prescriptions to where they lived.

These drug-supporting services provided by Tongrentang had not only won the hearts of the scholars for the imperial family, but also made the products of Tongrentang well-known in the world.

Prevention and Control of the Epidemic to Stabilize the Public Confidence

Dr. Zhang Zhongyuan, a court physician of the Qing Dynasty, said in the Annals of Imperial Academy of Medicine: “At the order of the emperor, medical stations would be established and medical staff be dispatched to distribute medicines in the capital city whenever there was an epidemic outburst...the imperial decree stated: ever since the beginning of the Qing Dynasty, whenever an epidemic erupted in the capital city, the infantry commander would petition for an imperial decree to distribute medicines to soldiers and civilians from both Manchu and Han community. Once the Emperor issued an imperial decree, the Imperial Academy of Medicine would make a “list of medicines” and start the distribution accordingly...it was mandatory to follow the imperial decree.”

Main Delivery Forms of Imperial Medicines 

List-based Delivery

The Imperial Pharmacy of Qing Imperial Palace would make a "list of medicines" for patent medicines needed by the internal Pharmacies in every palace, and give it to the shopkeeper of Tongrentang immediately, who would prepare the medicines one by one according to the list.

Prompt Delivery

In the case that the Emperor had special requirements for the quality of medicines, the Imperial Pharmacy would send officials to Tongrentang to select the Medicinal Materials and "deliver them promptly".

On-site Medicine Preparation in the Palace

Pharmacists of Tongrentang were called upon by the Imperial Pharmacy to prepare medicines in the palace.

Monitoring of Medicine Preparation

Some officials dispatched by the Imperial Pharmacy monitored the process of medicine preparation in Tongrentang, with all the Medicinal Materials being selected there in Tongrentang.

Emergency Delivery of Medicines

This happened when some patients in the palace needed special treatment, mostly when the Emperor and the Empress Dowager suddenly fell ill. In this case, the Imperial Pharmacy would receive imperial decree through the supervisors of the Internal Pharmacy and the Longevity Pharmacy of Palace of Heavenly Purity, then all medicines needed would be well-prepared in Tongrentang for prompt delivery. Even at night, the Imperial Pharmacy must send special dispatchers to Tongrentang to collect the medicines.

Basic Procedures for the Delivery of Imperial Medicines

Tongrentang’s process of offering medicines to the Qing Imperial Palace were as follows:

The supervisor and eunuch of the Internal Pharmacy would convey the imperial decree to the Imperial Pharmacy for the delivery of medicines.

Summoned by the Imperial Pharmacy, the drug dealer of Tongrentang would come and collect the “list of medicines” on a daily basis, and then deliver the list to Tongrentang.

Tongrentang would prepare the medicines immediately according to the “list of medicines” and deliver them to the Imperial Pharmacy through the drug dealer.

The medicines should be checked for the quality and weighed according to the “list of medicines” by the officials of the Imperial Pharmacy for acceptance.

The Imperial Pharmacy would deliver the medicines to the Internal Pharmacy, and the preparation process would start after the emperor gave his permission, namely “the Internal Pharmacy would present the medicines to the emperor for determining whether the preparation process should start”.

The Imperial Pharmacy (or the Internal Pharmacy) would prepare the pills, powder or decoction.

Once the preparation completed, some of the records would be present to the Empress Dowager and the Emperor for review.

The Imperial Pharmacy would calculate the final price of imperial medicines and make a “price list of medicines”.

The list would be signed by a total of 17 competent officials from the Imperial Household Department and the Imperial Pharmacy.

The Imperial Pharmacy would compile a memorial of the above mentioned process with the title of “Medicinal Expenses Sorted Out by the Imperial Pharmacy”, and submit it to the Emperor for review.

The Imperial Pharmacy then would make the memorial--“Medicine Expenses Sorted Out by the Imperial Pharmacy” into an official document and transfer it to the Treasury Bureau via the Department of Storage.

The Imperial Pharmacy would issue “a certificate bearing an official seal” and collect fees of the medicines from the Treasury Bureau.

The Imperial Pharmacy would issue an official document titled “Settlement Submitted by the Imperial Pharmacy” to Jingyun Gate.

Then, the Imperial Pharmacy would an official document titled “Notification from the Imperial Pharmacy” to the Discipline Inspection Department.

Later, the drug dealer of Tongrentang would collect the total sum of medicine fees.

Quality Requirements for Imperial Medicines

The Medicinal Materials should be superior in quality, impurity-free and authentic. For example, Rhizoma coptidis should be chicken feet-shaped ones from Ya’an, Sichuan Province, which must be superior in quality, bulky and plump with fibrous roots being removed.

The requirements for medicine preparation stated that "all procedures related to processing, grinding, screening of medicines should be rigorous and earnest, as a sign to demonstrate the seriousness of the whole process".

Clarification of the quality-related responsibilities of all parties involved in the delivery of imperial medicines.

1) The drug dealer and shopkeeper of Tongrentang should be responsible for the quality of imperial medicines;

2) The warehouse supervisor of the Imperial Pharmacy should be in charge of checking and acceptance of the medicines and be responsible for the medicines delivered;

3) The Emperor and the Empress Dowager would count and check the medicines themselves;

4) Acting as a form of responsibility sharing, an “allonge” (similar to management records) should be signed by 17 to 18 officials of the Imperial Pharmacy who engaged in medicine administration and preparation, which followed by the final signature of the Chief Minister of Imperial Household Department;

5) Any errors arising from the delivery of medicines should be dealt with by the Imperial Discipline Department, a division coping with criminal cases under the Imperial Household Department.