shen nong ben cao jing

The original textbook of Oriental medical science, “Herbal Pharmacopoeia”, was compiled by the founding father of

Chinese medicine, Shen Nong (Han Dynasty, 206 BC ~ 8 AD). In it, the legendary herbalist-emperor documented 365

species of plants and classified them into three categories: superior, average and fair.

These classifications were based on two main criteria: its benefits, based on consumption on a continual basis, and side

effects. For those plants graded as “superior”, the power to harmonize the functions of the body, mind and spirit and the

range of ailments they could treat were greater and broader than those of weaker specimens. In addition, they had to

have little or no long term side effects. Among the specimens in this class, Reishi was ranked the highest in this classic

medical text, even superior to the well known ginseng.

In the “Compendium of Materia Medica” (Ben Cao Gang Mu), which contains hundreds of natural medicines the Chinese

have used for thousands of years, celebrated physician and naturalist Li Shi Zhen (1518~1593) described the benefits of


Li Shi Zhen

It benefits the life energy, or “qi” of the heart, repairing the chest area and

benefiting those with a knotted and tight chest. Taken over a long period of

time, agility of the body will not cease, and the years are lengthened to those of

the Immortal Fairies.

Over the ages, Reishi has become ingrained in Oriental art and culture because of its prestigious status in Traditional

Chinese Medicine (TCM).Reishi was associated with happiness, a good future, good health, longevity and living among

the immortals.


Pengzu was well known in the Chinese culture as a symbol for long life, nutrition treatment and sex therapeutic treatment. He maintained his health so well that he married more than 100 wives along the way and fathered hundred of children, as late as in his 800s. The way he kept himself in good health was by taking reishi (Ganoderma Lucidum) and drinking the chute, living in reclusion and good health.


Magu, the goddess of beauty and eternal youth, serving reishi, schizandra, and a “peach of longevity” to her immortal friends.

The White Snake

“The White Snake.” In this fairy tale the heroine, in an attempt to save her lover’s life, tries to steal a Reishi plant from the Gods.

Since the first Chinese dynasty, paintings, embroideries, buildings, and sculptures of the gods and immortals have

depicted Reishi as a symbol of divinity, longevity and good fortune. Depictions of Reishi are displayed throughout the

Forbidden City and the Summer Palace in Beijing as a testimony to its value, and the mushroom’s distinctive shape was a

favorite ornamental design feature used by royalty and the wealthy.

Even the traditional scepter of the emperors of China was a stylized Reishi, called a “Ru Yi”.

Reishi Yongle Palace Murals-1
the auspicious Ganoderma in Artifacts-1
Reishi Yongle Palace Murals-2
the auspicious Ganoderma in Artifacts-2