Fuzi : exploration of the growing regions and conditions of aconite

Many of you may know that I work with Heiner Fruehauf, who was one of the founders of the Classical Chinese Medicine program at NCNM.  He still teaches there, but has several other projects as well.  Two are accessible online:

  • Classicalchinesemedicine.org
  • : a fantastic educational resource for people interested in the roots of Chinese medicine.  Heiner is really building something special there.  Note:  CCM.org is currently down as they upgrade.  It’s going to be 100% more fantastic when it re-launches.

  • Classicalpearls.org : Home of easily the most effective and Classically based encapsulated herbal formulas.  Based on the research and clinical work of Dr. Fruehauf, I use them personally in my own practice as well as being a willing advocate of them whenever people will listen.  🙂

As a student of Heiner’s, and because of my deep involvement with the Classical Pearls, I am privileged to learn a lot of information that I couldn’t learn anywhere else. Some of that I would like to share here on Chinese Medicine Central.

As many of you know, Fuzi is an herb that I am deeply interested in.  I have seen some very dramatic clinical successes when Fuzi was brought into the picture, and there is also just something captivating about the plant.  There is a lot of information coming out on the Classical Pearls Facebook Page about Fuzi, but some of the information that the Classical Pearls team would like to put out is just too long for the Facebook format.

So, I’m happy to be able to share it here with Chinese Medicine Central readers.  This post is the first of, hopefully, many articles to come that draw on the research and scholarship of Heiner Fruehauf and others.  I hope this information will be useful and interesting to you as well as stimulating lots of discussion.

Today, I want to share part of a translation that Heiner did of a Song dynasty travelogue.  In this work, a scholar Yang Tianhui reports about his travels searching for the facts about Fuzi.  What I find fascinating about this work is just the way it allows us to have a deeper resonance with the PLANT in very fine detail.   I’ll offer just a couple of paragraphs now, and release some more next week – hopefully with a little bit of extra information tracked down by yours truly.  Later paragraphs have some very interesting cosmological information as well as continuing to help us understand more about the complicated nature of Fuzi growth and harvesting.

Enjoy – and thank you Heiner!

Yang Tianhui:  Notes from My Visit to the Fuzi Growing Area of Zhangming County

(Song Dynasty, 1099 CE)
translated by Heiner Fruehauf

NOTE:  This work is covered by the same Creative Commons license as the entire site.  Please be ethical in your use of the work of others.

Mianzhou (today’s Mianyang in Sichuan Province) is the ancient region formerly called Guanghan. Its land is divided into eight administrative districts, among which only the county of Zhangming (today’s Jiangyou) produces Fuzi. Zhangming consists of 20 townships, among which only Chishui, Lianshui, Huichang, and Changming are suitable for the cultivation of this particular crop. The total arable land in all four townships amounts to a bit more than 520 Qing (approximately 320 acres). 50% of this land is set aside to yield rice, 30% is used for beans and other staple crops, and only 20% is reserved for the cultivation of Fuzi. Combined production output for all 4 towns is 160,000 catties (10 tons) of Fuzi. The town of Chishui produces the most, followed by Lianshui, while Huichang and Changming yield only very small amounts.

In all 4 locations the peasants prepare the land for cultivation by clearing the fields at the appropriate time of year, then plant it with a jumbled mixture of dill (Anethum graveolens), shephard’s purse (Capsella bursa-pastoris) and wheat grass. Once these fertilizer crops have begun to sprout robustly, they are plowed under, leaves and roots and all, until the land looks clear again. Only then the aconite seedlings are planted. For each Mu of land 10 pieces of cattle are used, applying 50 Hu (approximately 450 gallons) of their dung as fertilizer. A 7 cun (9 inch) ridge in the field is called a Long, a 5 chi (1.5 yards) ridge is called a Fu. Once a field is fully prepared it consists of 20 Fu and 1,200 Long.

Long measurements use the Fu ridges as landmark, their depth is the same. The rest of the land consists of ditches for drainage and irrigation. Once the spring sun has come out in full force and the Bi Constellation has emerged (during the 3rd month of spring: April), the Long and Fu ridges are being repaired in preparation for the rains that inundate the land at this time of year. Once the spring rains have passed, causing the crop stalks to grow tall, weeds are cultivated to form a protective ground cover around them, to keep the gradually intensifying rays of the sun out. The amount of labor required for this type of crop is thus 10 times the effort applied to other fields, yet the year’s yield is also ten-fold of what other crops bring in, possibly more.

Together, these 4 townships plant more than 1,000 Hu (approximately 9,000 gallons) of seedlings. The best seedlings come from the surrounding areas of Long’an, Longzhou, Qigui, Mumen, Qingdui, and Xiaoping. The seedlings are planted during the 11th month starting at the winter solstice, and the mature roots are harvested just before the end of fall in the 9th month of the year (October).

The plant stalks look like wild growing Artemisia (Ai), but they appear more lusterful. Their leaves can be compared to Valerian (Dima), yet they are thicker. The flowers are purple, the leaves are yellow, and the stamens appear long, full, and round.

About Eric Grey

Hi - I'm the founder of this site and the primary master of all functions here. When I'm not writing, you can find me reaching out to the Chinese Medicine community across the web and in my own backyard. I currently teach Chinese herbs at my alma mater, the National College of Natural Medicine. Additionally, I'm the founder of Watershed Wellness, a thriving local clinic in Southeast Portland in Oregon. No matter where I'm working, you'll find my focus on the Classical approach to Chinese medicine laced throughout everything I do.

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