Chinese New Year Dog, Cannabis History in China
The oldest known written record on cannabis use comes from the Chinese Emperor Shen Nung in 2727 B.C. Ancient Greeks and Romans were also familiar with cannabis, while in the Middle East, use spread throughout the Islamic empire to North Africa. In 1545 cannabis spread to the western hemisphere where Spaniards imported it to Chile for its use as fiber. In North America cannabis, in the form of hemp, was grown on many plantations for use in rope, clothing and paper.
The Chinese also relied on hemp for warfare. Due to its strength and durability Chinese archers made bowstrings from hemp. Because these hemp bowstrings were stronger than the enemy's bamboo ones, the Chinese arrows could fly further. This was a large advantage in war. In fact, hemp was so important that Chinese monarchs allocated large portions of land specifically for growing hemp the first war crop.
So, the Chinese used the hemp plant for rope, clothing, bowstrings, paper and of course, medicine. The ancient emperor, Shen-Nung (c.2700 B.C.), is known as the Father of Chinese Medicine. Because he was a good farmer and concerned about his suffering subjects, he looked to plants for cures. According to legend, Shen-Nung tried poisons and their antidotes on himself and then compiled the medical encyclopedia called, Pen Ts'ao. The Pen Ts'ao list hundreds of drugs derived from vegetable, animal and mineral sources. Among these drugs is the plant cannabis, "ma."