Lee Je Ma, the Lotus That Bloomed out of Pain
by Hee Jun Kim
(Graduated, Special Writer)
Lee Je Ma is who invented 'Four Constitutional Medicine', which is distinctive branch of Korean traditional medicine. He published the fruit of his research as ‘Longevity and Life Preservation in Eastern Medicine(東醫壽世保元)’ in 1894. Four Constitutional Medicine is the theory that categorizes constitutions of people into four types (greater yang person(太陽人), lesser yang person (少陽人), greater yin person(太陰人), and lesser yin person(少陰人)) according to ‘four constitutional structure theory(四象構造論)’. It offers physiology, pathology, diagnosis, treatment, medicine for each constitution and proposes new direction to many practitioners. He wrote ‘Longevity and Life Preservation in Eastern Medicine(東醫壽世保元)’ and 'Gyuk-chi-go(格致藁)'
A hero is never born amidst peace. Only during chaos can he truly shine. In KM, we have such a hero too. Facing a nemesis called 'disease', he himself had to endure a lot of pain. However, in the end, he was triumph. His name is Lee Je Ma and his greatest weapon of choice was 'Four Constitutional Medicine'.
From the beginning, his life was an unusual one. His father, Lee Ban Oh, was a minor government official at that time. One day, Lee Ban Oh was on the way back home from work when he got drunk with his friends. He got too drunk to go back home alone and it was raining heavily outside, so he had to stay the night at the inn.
However, he wasn't alone at that night. The innkeeper had an ugly daughter who couldn't get married; she slipped her daughter into the room where Lee was sleeping. That night, Lee Je Ma came to this earth.
A year later, Lee Choong Won, who is Lee Je Ma's grandfather and the head of Lee family clan, was having a nap. He had a strange dream. In the dream, a stranger handed him a handsome horse, asking him to take good care of it. Lee Choong Won observed the horse and was surprised to find the horse fine indeed. Overjoyed, he rubbed the horse's back, admiring its excellence. That's just when he woke up. A servant came to wake him up telling that someone was at the door to see him. Still in a daze from sleep, Choong Won hurried to the door to see who it was.
It was the innkeeper, her daughter, and a small baby. "This is your heritage. He is Mr. Ban Oh's son. Please take him in." Was what they said. Choong Won didn't know what was going on so he summoned Ban Oh to find out what this was about. When Ban Oh arrived, he admitted the deed. Surprisingly, Choong Won didn't get angry but even decided to take the baby in. Maybe he knew what this baby had in potential. Of course, this baby was Lee Je Ma.
As Je Ma grew up, it was obvious that he was gifted. He learnt to read and write at the age of 7 and by the time he reached 10, he was already a master. Unfortunately, his childhood wasn't always bright. At the age of 13, his father Lee Ban Oh passed away. Even worse, his strongest supporter, Lee Choong Won also took his last breath that winter. Faced with two personal tragedies, Je Ma was too grief stricken. That's when he took on the road without any destination. The wander and drift took 8 years.
At the age of 21, Je Ma finally succumbed to the pressure to get married. He took a 20 years old bride and got married. She was Mrs. Kim, who was gentle and gracious. From her, Je Ma finally found some peace of mind. However, this wasn't meant to last. After giving birth to a son, Lee Yong Hae, she passed away at the age of 22. Once again, Je Ma lost someone dear. It was stressful enough to make him sick. From that day on, Je Ma suffered from 'Tae Yang Yul Guyk Ban Wi' syndrome. In other words, he kept vomiting and his stride was unstable and skippy.
Once again, Lee Je Ma took on the road to forget his misery. While on the journey, Lee Je Ma met countless people and saw lots of things. He also acquainted numerous scholars and doctors (who were most likely scholars themselves). From this broad experience and observation, Lee Je Ma built the foundation of Four Constitutional Medicine.
However, this was not an easy gain. He had already paid his price. When his wife Mrs. Kim died, Je Ma did all he could to save her life. He used all of his medical knowledge (which was quite broad and deep) and gave her lots of medicine. Nevertheless, this wasn't enough to save her. This and the observation of numerous different people led him to believe that each person was born different. Hence not every medicine can work for everyone. Everyone had a specific weakness and medicine that fits him.
This illumination got only firmer when he took his second wife at the age of 35. She (who was also Mrs. Kim) was an outgoing and energetic person. Possibly an opposite of First Mrs. Kim. Later, Je Ma kept developing his Four Constitutional Medicine and became famous as a doctor. He also took lots of disciples in who would be our (current KM students of Korea) mentors.
Although everyone knows that no pain means no gain, we all seek an easy path to our problems. However, there can never be an 'easy' life. Pain and suffering are everywhere and we all must face it. Observing Lee Je Ma, maybe it's not the pain that matters. Maybe it's what we do in the aftermath that matters.