[Li Shizhen] is considered to have been China's greatest naturalist.
He was very interested in the proper classification of the components
of nature. His major contribution to medicine was the forty year
project of sifting through the vast array of herbal lore and writing
down the information that was, in his view, a reliable reflection
of reality. His book, the Pen T'sao Kang Mu [Bencao Gang Mu; 1596],
has been used as a pharmacopoeia, but it was also treatise on
botany, zoology, minerology and metallurgy. The book was reprinted
frequently and five of the original edition still exist. A rough
translation of the herb entries was published in English by two
British doctors (Porter and Smith) who were working in China at
the end of the 19th century, though extracts of it had been published
in Europe since 1656. British researcher B.E. Reid spent 20 years
translating an abridged version which was published in 1932.