Honzowamyo (本草和名)

Honzowamyo is the oldest Japanese dictionary of medicines still in existence, and was compiled by Sukehito FUKANE. The dictionary is also known as Honinhonzo, and so on.

This dictionary was compiled by Sukehito FUKANE, who served Emperor Daigo as a court physician and Gon no ihakase (assistant professor of medicine), during 901 to 923. The dictionary is modeled after "Xinxiu Bencao" compiled in Tang-dynasty China, and includes names of medicines, which were found in other Chinese medical books and translated into Japanese, and information about whether the medicines (medical plants) were produced in Japan and where they were produced. Although there are some errors in the identification of the medicines by analogy due to the low level of the study at that time, every single Japanese name of the medicines used before the early Heian period is recorded, and the origins and histories of them are revealed, and plenty of so-called itsubun (lost writings), which previously existed but do not exist now even in its home country, China, are included in the dictionary. Therefore, the dictionary is a valuable material to learn the original versions of the lost medical books and to trace the origin of Chinese traditional medicine. In addition, the dictionary influenced medical science and natural history in later ages; for example, it was quoted in "Ishinho" (an ancient medical book) written by TANBA no Yasuyori. The dictionary is also a valuable material for the study of the history of Japanese language in the early Heian period.

Although it had been lost for a long time since then, an old manuscript of the two-volume dictionary composed of 18 chapters was dug up from the Momijiyama Library by Genkan TAKI, who served as a doctor in the Edo bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun), and it came to be handed down again to posterity. The present whereabouts of the old manuscript discovered by Genkan TAKI is unknown, but there still remains the version revised and issued by Taki in 1796, which was also published for the general public six years later, and the National Palace Museum in Taiwan has another version traced from the old manuscript and once possessed by Tatsuyuki MORI.

[Original Japanese]