Translating Ancient Chinese Wisdom into Medicine for Today

Literary Chinese 1

Literary Chinese for Practitioners of Chinese Medicine

Block One:

Basic Vocabulary and Grammar plus Foundational Medical Terminology and Passages

This course is the first of three blocks dedicated to teaching literary Chinese to practitioners of Chinese medicine who want direct access to the classical medical literature.

Required Texts, Articles, and other References

  • Nigel Wiseman and Yuhuan Zhang, Chinese Medical Characters, Volume One: Basic Vocabulary (Paradigm, 2003).

  • Sandra Hill, Chinese Medicine from the Classics: A Beginner’s Guide (Monkey Press, 2014)

  • Nigel Wiseman and Feng Ye, Chinese Medical Chinese: Grammar and Vocabulary (Paradigm, 2002)

  • A version of Paul Kroll et als, A Student’s Dictionary of Classical and Medieval Chinese (Brill, 2014): The hard copy is $259, the paperback version ca. $50, and the Pleco add-on only $39.99 with the educational discount.

In addition, one of the following two electronic resources is required, depending on your use of a computer or tablet:

  • Wenlin CD-ROM software ( for computers.

  • Pleco, an application for ipads, tablets, or smart phones. The basic app is free but the “Basic Bundle” ($29.99) will become more and more indispensable as this class progresses from studying individual characters to reading phrases, sentences, and then texts. It includes the Optical Character Recognition feature, enhanced handwriting, flashcards, stroke order diagrams, a text file reader, audio pronunciation, etc. Pleco does offer an educational discount and also contains a host of additional dictionaries at a very reasonable price. You will not regret acquiring this tool!

Recommended Textbooks, Articles & Other Information Resources

Helpful files and links

Course Outline and Assignments

Lesson One: Introduction to Chinese Language and Writing

Discussion Questions to prepare for this session:

  1. What do you think is a realistic goal for this block of 10 classes and for our course of study altogether?

  2. What are your greatest concerns and what do you most look forward to?

  3. Why do you want to study classical Chinese as a medical practitioner? How might it help you in your clinical practice?


  • Wiseman, Chinese Medical Characters I, 1-26 (introduction).

  • Pinyin chart and sound practice

  • Archie Barns, “Introduction to Chinese Script.”

Lesson Two: Pinyin Pronunciation and First Characters

Lesson Three: Pinyin Practice, Writing Characters, Dictionaries

  • Wieger, Chinese Characters, pp. 5-33 (Introduction).

  • Wiseman, Chinese Medical Characters, pp. 54-83.

  • Quiz

Lesson Four: Introduction to Classical Chinese Grammar and the Theory of Correspondences and the Dao 道

  • Wiseman, Chinese Medical Characters, 84-111.

  • Hill, Chinese Medicine From the Classics, 1-21.

  • Quiz

Lesson Five: More Characters and Basic Grammar and Yinyang and Five Phases 陰陽五行

  • Wiseman, Chinese Medical Characters, to p. 125.

  • Wiseman, Chinese Medical Chinese, Grammar 1-2 (pp. 1-14).

  • Quiz

Lesson Six: Character Practice, Fuller’s Basic Sentence Structures, and The Three Treasures (Shen, Jing, Qi)

  • Wiseman, Chinese Medical Characters, to p. 141.

  • Michael Fuller, An Introduction To Literary Chinese, “Introduction,” pp. 1-32.

  • Hill, Chinese Medicine From the Classics, pp. 21-29.

  • Quiz

Lesson Seven: Nominal versus Verbal Sentences and The Zàng Organs I (Kidney and Liver)

  • Wiseman, Chinese Medical Characters, to p. 157.

  • Hill, Chinese Medicine from the Classics, pp. 30-54.

  • Quiz

Lesson Eight: Wiseman’s Verbal Sentences and the Zàng Organs Continued (Heart, Spleen and Lung)

  • Wiseman, Chinese Medical Characters, to p. 199.

  • Wiseman: Chinese Medical Chinese, Grammar 3 (pp. 14-22).

  • Hill, pp. 54-83.

  • Quiz

Lesson Nine: First Reading Selection (Daodejing)

  • Homework file to be prepared

  • Wiseman, Chinese Medical Characters, to the end.

Lesson Ten: Introduction to the Neijing: The Yellow Emperor and the History of the Text

  • Homework file to be prepared

  • Review and Final