Ono Ranzan (小野蘭山)

Ranzan ONO (September 13, 1729 - April 5, 1810) was a great scholar of herbalism in the Edo period. His real name was Motohiro, common name was Kinai, azana (Chinese courtesy name) was Ibun, and pen names were Ranzan and Kyuhoshi. He is frequently called the Japanese Carl von Linné. He came from Kyoto. His disciples included Genpaku SUGITA, Kenkado KIMURA, Yokusai IINUMA, Buncho TANI, Kinsai SAKURADA, Toyobumi MIZUTANI, Koki MITANI, Ekisai KARIYA, Rissen YOSHIDA, and Morinae YAMAMOTO (the adoptive great-grandfather of Gombei YAMAMOTO, Prime Minister in the Taisho period).

His real surname was Saeki. He started studying herbalism at the age of 16 under Joan MATSUOKA, his father's teacher. It is said that he had an excellent memory and never forgot what he once heard of. Unexpectedly, less than two years later, Joan died, and after that he ended up studying herbalism by himself. Meanwhile, Ranzan was confronted with a difficulty. The problem was that until then herbalism in Japan had been based on a book called "Compendium of Materia Medica" written by Shizhen LI, which was introduced from China, and the theory was inapplicable to some animals, plants and minerals indigenous to Japan. Therefore, Ranzan tried to establish Japanese herbalism by actively going into mountains and woods to observe life there.

At the age of 25, he opened a private school, Shuhoken, in Marutamachi, Kyoto, where he taught many students. It is said that the herbalism Ranzan developed came to be extensively known, which attracted pupils from all over Japan, and more than 1,000 people graduated from his school.

On March 7, 1788, when Ranzan was 60 years old, the Great Kyoto Fire of the Tenmei period occurred. As his private school, Shuhoken, was destroyed by fire, Ranzan escaped to the house of his student, Rissen YOSHIDA. Due to that great fire, his students were scattered, and Ranzan, having some time to spare, spent his time writing literary works on his study.

At the age of 71, he moved to Edo by the order of the bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun) to become an instructor in the medical science school. From 1801 to 1805, he gathered herbs traveling around many provinces. In 1803, at the age of 75, he completed a series of books on his study, "Compendium of Materia Medica Enlightenment." It was a great 48-volume work describing 1,882 kinds of herbs published separately over three years, and ended up the largest herbalism book in Japan (Philipp Franz von Siebold later obtained this series and praised Ranzan as Carl von Linné of the East).

He died on January 27, 1810. He was 82 then.

Ranzan left behind writing about the origin of the word, Hotaru (firefly). Hotaru appeared as early as the time of Nihonshoki (Chronicles of Japan), written in a few different characters in the book, but the origin of the word is uncertain. Ekiken KAIBARA suggested that 'Hotaru' came from 'Hi-ga-taru' (Sparks fly off), while Ranzan wrote that its origin was 'Hoshi-ga-taru' (Stars fall).