Saturday, June 01, 2019

Hua Tuo heals General Guan Yu (Stories from the Stones)

The carving from the tombstone below depicts the famous Chinese Physician Hua Tuo healing General Guan Yu, who was hit in the arm by a poisoned arrow during the Battle of Fancheng by using a knife to cut the flesh and scrape of the poison from the bone. Hua Tuo initially offered to anaesthetise Guan Yu, but he simply laughs and says that he is not afraid of pain. During this treatment, Guan Yu continues to play a game of weiqi with Ma Liang without flinching from pain. When Ma Liang asks him later, Guan Yu says that he feigned being unhurt to keep the morale of his troops high.

After Hua Tuo's successful operation, Guan Yu allegedly rewards him with a sumptuous banquet, and offers a gift of 100 ounces of gold, but Hua Tuo refuses, saying that a physician's duty is to heal patients and not to make profit. Although Hua Tuo historically died in 208, a decade before Guan Yu fought at the Battle of Fancheng, this story of him performing surgery on Guan Yu has become a popular artistic theme and one we can sometimes find in the carvings of tombstones in Bukit Brown or Greater Bukit Brown.

carving from the tombstone of Chua Soon Leong


1. Hua Teo, Wikipedia.
2. Carving from the tombstone of Chua Soon Leong

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