Secondary Logo

Journal Logo

Special article

History of the Chinese Society of Dermatology: an overview

ZHANG, Jian-zhong; ZHANG, Xue-jun

Author Information
doi: 10.3760/cma.j.issn.0366-6999.2009.19.014
  • Free

The history of Dermatology in China can be traced back to the middle of the 19th century when missionary doctors from America and Europe introduced Western medicine to China and established several hospitals where dermatology either as a division or as a group in the department of medicine. At that time infectious skin diseases such as syphilis, leprosy and tinea capitis were most common diseases. It was reported that 50.6% of men had had venereal diseases. The discipline of dermatology was then called “Department of Dermato-venereology”.

Dr. John Glasgow Kerr (1824-1901) was the first recorded dermatologist working in China who established the earliest hospital in Guangzhou city in 1859 and trained many Chinese doctors. He published the first Chinese textbook of dermatology Manual of Cutaneous Diseases in 1874. Dr. James Laidlaw Maxwell (1873-1951) was another pioneer dermatologist. He came to China in 1901 and worked in several hospitals in Shanghai, Xiamen, Wuhan and other cities. He published his English textbook of dermatology in 1929 in Shanghai and introduced dermatology in China to western world. He contributed a lot to the control of leprosy in China. Dr. CHEN Hong-kang was the first Chinese dermatologist working in the Peking Union Hospital (established in 1921). Dr. JIAN Xian-qi established the Department of Dermatology in Peking University Medical School Hospital in 1920 and translated a Japanese textbook Dermatology and Venereolgy into Chinese. He was then nominated as the president of Peking University Medical School Hospital in 1929 and in that position until 1938.

The Chinese Society of Dermatology (CSD) was established in April 1937 and the first president was Dr. CHEN Hong-kang. Soon after that, the Second World War broke out and doctors all over China were involved in the 8-year War of Resistance Against Japan and the subsequent 3-year liberation war.

After the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949, dermatology in China began to develop rapidly. Dermatologists helped Chinese people in their struggle against skin diseases and venereal diseases. From the 1950s through the 1960s, CSD organized various training courses or programs for young dermatologists from all over the country that allowed a rapid increase on the level of dermatological science in China. Through the efforts of all Chinese dermatologists, a number of great achievements had been made including the successful control of venereal diseases, leprosy and tinea capitis.

In 1952, CSD had its second congress and elected its board members. Prof. HU Chuan-kui (1901-1986) was elected as president. He worked at that position until 1982. He devoted all his life to Chinese dermatology. He published the world-famous article “Cutaneous lesions associated with deficiency in vitamin A in man”, which has been included in several English textbooks of dermatology until today.1 It was the first disease reported by Chinese dermatologists in the world. For more than 30 years he had been the key leader of the CSD and he contributed to many achievements of the Chinese dermatology, including the control of venereal diseases, leprosy and tinea capitis, the establishment of the Chinese Journal of Dermatology (in Chinese) in 1953, the establishment of the Central Institute of Dermatology and Venereology in 1954. In 1964, he declared to the world the complete control of venereal diseases in China, which was regarded as a great achievement of the new republic.2 He donated nearly all his personal savings for setting up a foundation for dermatological research in Peking University and his body, as he decided in his will, was kept in Peking University School of Medicine for medical education.

Dr. Haide Ma (George Hatem, 1910-1988) was also a well-known dermatologist in China. He was born in the United States and came to China soon after graduation from Geneva Medical College in 1933. He joined the Chinese Red Army in 1936 and devoted all his life to the Chinese revolution. After the founding of the People's Republic of China, he played a very important role in the leprosy control in China. Chinese dermatologists will never forget such a respected international colleague.

Dr. LI Hong-jiong (1908-1993) and Dr. YANG Guo-liang (1899-2005) were two respected leaders of Chinese dermatology. Dr. LI Hong-jiong worked in Peking Union Hospital all his life and contributed a lot to Chinese dermatology. He published the first Chinese textbook Syphilology. Dr. YANG Guo-liang set up the department of Dermatology of Shanghai Huashan Hospital and trained hundreds of dermatologists in 1950s through 1970s.

In addition, there were many other well-known dermatologists who contributed to the establishment and development of dermatology in China. It is impossible to write down all their names, just to mention a few that we should remember: Dr. DIAO Xin-de, Dr. MU Rui-wu, Dr. LIU Wei-tong, Dr. QIN Zuo-liang, Dr. YU Guang-yuan, Dr. DONG Guo-quan, Dr. ZHU Zhong-gang, Dr. ZHAO Bin-nan, Dr. YOU Jia-jun, Dr. WANG Guang-chao and Dr. CAO Song-nian, among other pioneering dermatologists.

In 1978, China opened its door to the outside world again and academic activities returned to normal. From 1978 till now, CSD has regularly held its board meetings and elected its board members. Well-known dermatologists who have served as presidents of the CSD (Board) are as follows: Dr. LI Hong-jiong from Peking Union Medical College (1982-1986), Dr. WANG Guang-chao from Peking University (1986-1990), Dr. CHEN Xi-tang from China-Japan Friendship Hospital (1990-1994), Dr. CHEN Hong-duo from China Medical University (1994-2006) and Dr. ZHANG Xue-Jun from Anhui Medical University (2006-now). From 2009 on, the CSD will take a new structure of leadership (President and President-elect), so that missions of the CSD can be carried on continuously. The first President-elect was Dr. ZHANG Jian-zhong from Peking University. Meanwhile, a number of well-known dermatologists had been key board members of CSD during past 30 years and contributed a lot to the development of Chinese dermatology, among them were Dr. LIU Fu-ren, Dr. YE Gan-yun, Dr. ZHANG Zhi-li, Dr. XU Wen-yan, Dr. MA Sheng-Qing, Dr. QIN Wan-Zhang, Dr. ZHAO Bian, Dr. FU Zhi-Yi, Dr. ZHU Xue-Jun and Dr. XU Shi-zheng. Without their contributions, we could not expect such a thriving discipline as we see now.

Today CSD ( is one of the most active societies under the Chinese Medical Association and is playing an important role in medical education, national and international academic exchanges, consultation for the government and other academic and scientific activities. At present, it has more than 20 000 members. Chinese dermatologists are now actively involved in clinical, teaching and research activities in dermatological science. It should be emphasized that the investigative dermatology in China developed rapidly in recent years. Grants for dermatological research are available at different levels. We are happy to see that the quality of research has improved and more than 400 papers cited by Science Citation Index (SCI) have been published during the past five years. Some work done by Chinese dermatologists had produced a global impact. For example, the function of Langerhan's cells, the findings of new genes for skin diseases and mechanisms of some skin diseases. Dr. CHEN Hong-duo in China Medical University made the important findings about the role of Langerhan's cell in the biophysiology of the skin.3,4 Dr. ZHANG Xue-jun and his colleagues from Anhui Medical University identified the cylindromatosis gene responsible for multiple familial trichoepithelioma and some candidate genes or loci for psoriasis and other genodermatosis.5,6 Dr. HE Chun-di and his colleague found a loss-of-function mutations of an inhibitory upstream open reading frame (ORF) in the human hairless transcript in Marie Unna hereditary hypotrichosis.7 Dr. YANG Yong et al8 from Peking University identified two missense mutations in SCN9A in a family and the sporadic patient with primary erythermalgia. Dr. ZHOU Cheng et al9 from Peking University found a new large deletion mutation in a Chinese family with Kindler syndrome. Also, Chinese dermatologists has made some findings on pathogenesis of psoriasis,10 lupus erythematosus,11,12 pemphigus13 and unusual skin infections.14 A number of papers have been published on the top international journals, such as Nature Genetics, The Lancet, The Journal of Immunology, etc. All these achievements have been highly praised and appreciated by colleagues from all over the world.

Professional, academic and scientific exchanges are an important function of the CSD. From 1978 to 2006, the CSD held its academic meeting every two years. From 2007 on, the meeting became an annual event. The number of participants of the meeting has been on the increase year by year. And more and more Chinese dermatologists have been able to study abroad and attend international meetings such as the American Academy of Dermatology annual meetings, European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology annual meetings and other international meetings. At the same time, more and more international colleagues have been invited to meetings organized by the Chinese dermatologists. The CSD hosted the 5th Fifth Asian Congress of Dermatology in 1998 and the 9th International Congress of Dermatology in 2004. In 2007, the CSD again successfully held the 8th International Congress of the International Society of Cosmetic Dermatology. In 2007, the CSD became a member of the International League of Dermatological Societies (ILDS).

The CSD has enjoyed very close relations with dermatological societies in other countries. The “China-Japan Joint Meeting of Dermatology” is a good example. This joint meeting started in 1988 and totally 10 joint meetings have been held in the past 20 years.15 In 2008, the CSD and the Japanese Dermatological Association (JDA) celebrated the 20th anniversary of this joint meeting. Meanwhile, the CSD, the JDA and the Korean Dermatological Association agreed to merge the China-Japan Joint Meeting of Dermatology and the Japan-Korea Joint Meeting of Dermatology into one meeting. The name of this meeting is Eastern Asia Chin Med J 2009;122(19):2258-2260 2260 Dermatology Congress (EADC). The first EADC will be held in Fukuoka, Japan in October 2010. In 2011, the World Congress of Dermatology will be held in Seoul, Korea. And in 2012, the 9th Asian Congress of Dermatology will be held in Hong Kong, China. We believe that there will be more participants from the mainland of China to participate in those meetings, as they will be big gatherings of the dermatologists from Asia, as well as from other parts of the world.

China's economy has been developing rapidly in recent years and we believe that Chinese dermatology will continue to develop more rapidly in the future and will contribute more to the development of global dermatological science.


1. Frazier CN, Hu CK. Cutaneous lesions associated with deficiency in vitamin A in man. Arch Intern Med 1931; 48: 507-514.
2. Hu CK, Ye GY, Chen XT. Control and clearance of syphilis in China. Chin Sci Bull (Chin) 1965; 6: 503-510.
3. Chen HD, Raab S, Silvers WK. Influence of major-histocompatibility-complex-compatible and incompatible Langerhans cells on the survival of H-Y-incompatible skin grafts in rats. Transplantation 1985; 40: 194-197.
4. Chen HD, Ma CL, Yuan JT, Wang YK, Silvers WK. Occurrence of donor Langerhans cells in mouse and rat chimeras and their replacement in skin grafts. J Invest Dermatol 1986; 86: 630-633.
5. Zhang XJ, Huang W, Yang S, Sun LD, Zhang FY, Zhu QX, et al. Psoriasis genome-wide association study identifies susceptibility variants within LCE gene cluster at 1q21. Nat Genet 2009; 41: 205-210.
6. Zhang XJ, Liang YH, He PP, Yang S, Wang HY, Chen JJ, et al. Identification of the cylindromatosis tumor-suppressor gene responsible for multiple familial trichoepithelioma. J Invest Dermatol 2004; 122: 658-664.
7. Wen Y, Liu Y, Xu Y, Zhao Y, Hua R, Wang K, et al. Corrigendum: Loss-of-function mutations of an inhibitory upstream ORF in the human hairless transcript cause Marie Unna hereditary hypotrichosis. Nat Genet 2009; 41: 762.
8. Yang Y, Wang Y, Li S, Xu Z, Li H, Ma L, et al. Mutations in SCN9A, encoding a sodium channel alpha subunit, in patients with primary erythermalgia. J Med Genet 2004; 41: 171-174.
9. Zhou C, Song S, Zhang J. A novel 3017-bp deletion mutation in the FERMT 1 (KIND1) gene in a Chinese family with Kindler Syndrome. Br J Dermatol 2009; 160: 1119-1122.
10. Man XY, Yang XH, Yao YG, Zheng M. Immunolocalization and expression of vascular endothelial growth factor receptors (VEGFRs) and neuropilins (NRPs) on keratinocytes in human epidermis. Mol Med 2006; 12: 127-136.
11. Ding M, Zhang JZ. SSB peptide and DNA co-immunization induces inhibition of anti-dsDNA antibody production in rabbits. Chin Med J 2008; 121: 227-230.
12. Lu Q, Wu A, Tesmer L, Ray D, Yousif N, Richardson B. Demethylation of CD40LG on the inactive X in T cells from women with lupus. J Immunol 2007; 179: 6352-6358.
13. Wang L, Bu D, Yang Y, Chen X, Zhu X. Castleman's tumours and production of autoantibody in paraneoplastic pemphigus. Lancet 2004; 363: 525-531.
14. Gao TW, Li CY, Zhao XD, Liu YF. Fatal bacteria granuloma after trauma: a new entity. Br J Dermatol 2002; 147: 985-993.
15. Chinese Society of Dermatology and Japanese Dermatological Association. History of friendship - In celebration of the 20th anniversary of China-Japan Joint Meeting of Dermatology. Beijing, 2009.

Chinese Society of Dermatology; Langerhan's cells; genodermatosis

© 2009 Chinese Medical Association