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Korean J Med Hist > Volume 13(1); 2004 > Article
Korean Journal of Medical History 2004;13(1): 1-19.
'조선인삼'의 기원에 대하여
양정필, 여인석
A Study on the Origins of 'Korean Ginseng'
Jeong pil Yang, In sok Yeo
Department of Medical History, Yonsei University College of Medicine, Korea.
Generally the originating area of ginseng is known to be in Shangdang, China. The originating time, which has been estimated according to textual and archeological outcomes, is known to be the first century B.C., during the Han dynasty era. This can be referred to as the 'Chinese origin theory of ginseng'. According to such hypothesis, the Chinese only discovered ginseng 'suddenly' during this time when it should have been self-generating for thousands of years before. However, Shangdang has been one of the historic centers of China since the ancient period and specially took prominence in terms of the beginning and development of Chinese pharmaceutics, which makes this theory largely dismissable. Moreover, there were six characters that expressed '[sim]' at the early stage and were used together with each other up to the days of Ming and Qing dynasty. Also this theory did not explain clearly about the formation of ginseng character. Hence it is fairly obvious that the 'Chinese origin theory of ginseng' do not answer appropriately to the fundamental questions of the origin of ginseng. In order to approach such mystery, perspectives need to be newly shifted to the 'outer origins' of Chinese ginseng. In this case 'outer' only points to Manchuria and Korea, since these areas are the only candidates regarding the natural circumstances of ginseng growth. So, it can be inferred that ginseng has first been identified with the locals of Manchuria and Korea, and then underwent influx to China to have been used as a medicinal stuff. Following such theory, the reason why ginseng suddenly appeared in Han China was that around this period, specially during the Han commandery epoch, it had just been introduced to China as a part of Korean culture. Also the reason there are many '[sim]' characters can be said that the sound of indigenous Korean 'sim' was considered in respect to selecting similarly-articulated words. Reaching such conclusion, the formating principle of '[sim]' can be no other than borrowing-sound character. To summarize our discussion, it is still unknown when was the actual origin of ginseng but it was far earlier than two thousand years ago as was previously accepted as the origin of this medicine plant. The originating place was not Shangdang of Shansi area of China as was commonly accepted, but Manchuria and Korea. Then ginseng must have been known and utilized by the locals of these areas. This is the 'Korean origin theory of ginseng' and simultaneously an indirect examination of the origin of 'Korean ginseng.'
Key Words: Sangdang in ancient history, formating principle of ginseng, sim (indigenous Korean of ginseng), Manchurian and Korean ginseng
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