Bian Que (fl. circa 500 BCE), one of the most famous semi-legendary doctors of Chinese antiquity and the first specialist in moxibustion, discussed the benefits of moxa over acupuncture in his classic work. He asserted that moxa could add new energy to the body and could treat both excess and deficient conditions. On the other hand, he advised against the use of acupuncture in an already deficient (weak) patient, on the grounds that needle manipulation would leak too much energy.
According to the legend recorded in the Records of the Grand Historian (史记·扁鹊仓公列传), he was gifted with clairvoyance from a deity when he was working as a noble hostel staff. The legend states that while being an attendant at the hostel, he encountered an old man who stayed there for many years. The old man was thankful of Bian Que's attentive service and politeness, and gave him a packet of medicine which he told Bian Que to boil in water. After taking this medicine, he gained the ability to see through the human body. He thereby became an excellent diagnostician with his X-ray-like ability. He also excelled in pulse taking andacupuncture therapy. He is ascribed the authorship of Bian Que Neijing (Internal Classic of Bian Que). Han Dynasty physiciansclaimed to have studied his works, which have since been lost. Tales state that he was a doctor of many disciplines, conforming to the local needs wherever he went. For example, in one city he was a children's doctor, and in another a female physician.
Another legend stated that once, while visiting the state of Guo, he saw people mourning on the streets. Upon inquiring what their grievances were, he got the reply that the heir apparent of the lord had died, and the lord was in mourning. Sensing something afoot, he is said to have gone to the palace to inquire about the circumstances of the death. After hearing of how the prince "died", he concluded that the prince had not really died, but was rather in a coma-like state. Using his acupuncture, he was said to have brought the prince back to consciousness. Prescribing the prince with medicine, the prince healed within days.
Bian Que advocated the four-step diagnoses of "Looking (at their tongues and their outside appearances), Listening (to their voice and breathing patterns), Inquiring (about their symptoms), and Taking (their pulse)."
The Daoist Liezi has a legend (tr. Giles 1912:81-83) that Bian Que used anesthesia to perform a double heart transplantation, with the xin 心 "heart; mind" as the seat of consciousness. Gong Hu 公扈 from Lu and Qi Ying 齊嬰 from Zhao had opposite imbalances of qi 氣 "breath; life-force" and zhi 志 "will; intention". Gong had a qi "mental power" deficiency while Qi had a zhi "willpower" deficiency.
Bian Que suggests exchanging the hearts of the two to attain balance. Upon hearing his opinion, the patients agree to the procedure. Bian Que then gives the men an intoxicating wine that makes them "feign death" for three days. While they are under the anesthetic effects of this concoction, Bian Que "cut open their breasts, removed their hearts, exchanged and replaced them, and applied a numinous medicine, and when they awoke they were as good as new." Salguero (2009:203)