Hua Tuo, as the first miracle working doctor of China, developed the use of anesthesia, and furthered the limited Chinese knowledge of anatomy. He has been called "divine physician" because he preferred simple methods - using a small number of acupuncture points and formulas comprised of only a few herbs.
He proved to be a very alert student, observing carefully and asking endless questions and thinking hard by himself. In this way, six years had elapsed without anybody noticing it, and he had become a master in internal medicine, surgery, pediatrics, gynecology, obstetrics and acupuncture. Not long after he left the mountain, he became a famous doctor. Being an accomplished Taoist, he did not seek fame or fortune, though much praise was heaped upon him. Several times he had been offered an official position, which he always declined. Night or day, rain or shine, he was ever available to cure the sick and administer medicines over several decades of his life. He had left his footprints in many parts of the country and succeeded in saving the lives of numerous patients. His great achievements have become part of the history of Chinese medical science, and there are many interesting folk stories about him. Legends of his work are mentioned in historical novels, such as Romance of the Three Kingdoms.
His father died when he was seven and his elder brother was press-ganged. He and his mother depended on each other for a livelihood. Later, his mother was ill with an unknown disease. It pained him to see his mother getting worse and worse day by day, while he himself remained helpless. Several well-known doctors of the day had been consulted, yet one and all they had failed to cure his mother and, before long, she died. There and then he made up his mind to become a master in the profession who was able to render help to the sick. After a long and arduous journey, he arrived at a mountain where he was accepted as a student by a practitioner.
Hua was born around 110 AD. When he was young, he studied and mastered various classics, especially those related to medical and health measures, but also astronomy, geography, literature, history, and agriculture. He was stimulated to pursue a career in medicine after seeing so many people die of epidemics, famines, and injuries from wars. He often went into the mountains in search of medicinal herbs which he would use in treating the minor ailments of ordinary people in the neighborhood.
Cao Cao, of the Period of the Three Kingdoms, often suffered from headache which could only be relieved by Hua's acupuncture. So Cao wanted to retain Hua's service as his private doctor. Having the well-being of the people at heart, Hua was not prepared to serve one man only, even if the man be Cao. Under the pretext of his wife's illness, Hua went back home. When the truth later became known to Cao, he dispatched his men several times to ask Hua to come back, but failed. And at last Cao had this distinguished doctor murdered in 207 AD at age 97.
He pioneered medico-athletics in China. He believed that physical exercises could toughen the body, cure diseases, and prolong life. He practiced qigong and taught the "frolics of the five animals", imitating the movements of tiger, bear, ape, deer and bird. These practices were later incorporated into various health promoting martial arts practices, such as Tai Chi. When treating illness, he even utilized psychological methods.
Although he had passed away ages ago, Hua has always been extolled for his superb medical skills and his humanitarian spirit in curing the diseased. He is so widely respected that his name and image adorn numerous products. It was a tradition in the past that when a patient had recovered due to the efforts of a competent physician, the family would present a congratulatory board to the doctor inscribed with the words: A Second Hua Tuo.