The Preservation of Health from the Yellow Emperor's Classic



HUANG Di asked, "Of all things under heaven, nothing is more precious than human beings. People are dependent on the nourishment and fortification of heaven and earth, water and food, and the essence of the universe to grow and prosper, according to the laws and changes of the seasons. This is true from royalty to the commoners. Every single person, without exception, has a desire to preserve his or her health. However, most people, throughout their lives, are plagued by disease in one form or another. Many times an illness begins when one is unaware of an imbalance that has subtly begun. This allows a pathogen to accumulate and degenerate the body, progressing to the point where it penetrates the level of the bones and marrow. Often at this level it is too late. It is my sincere desire to alleviate people's sufferings. Can you advise on how best to do so?"

                Qi Bo replied, "Let me answer you with some examples. Salt stored in a container gradually seeps a fluid. This is the qi of the salt draining. A string on an instrument, on the verge of breaking, will display a brittle, high-pitched dying sound. A tree with shallow roots, although its branches and leaves are abundant, eventually will wither because its inside is empty. Certainly, when humans manifest conditions similar to these, we are told of severe damage to the internal organs. Because the skin, flesh, qi, and blood have become damaged and drained, it will be difficult to rejuvenate the person, even with the intervention of acupuncture, herbs, and moxibustion."

                Huang Di said, "I have sympathy for the suffering of patients. But sometimes I hesitate and am unsure. After my treatments, patients occasionally get worse. However, I do not have a better way of treatment. Other people observing me may think I lack compassion. How do you advise me?"

                Qi Bo answered, "Every individual's life is intimately connected with nature. How people accommodate and adapt to the seasons and the laws of nature will determine how well they draw from the origin or spring of their lives. When one understands the usefulness of the ten thousand things in the universe, one will be able to effectively utilize them for the preservation of health. The universe is comprised of yin and yang. The human being has the twelve channels. Nature exhibits hot and cold seasons; the human being has deficiency and excess. When one can manage the polarity changes of the universe, assimilate the knowledge of the twelve channels, and obey the rhythms of the four seasons, one will have clarity and not be confused by any disorder. Grasping the shifts of the eight winds and the transformation of the five elements, and understanding these in the context of a patient's health, you will gain insight into the truth. You could even disregard the obvious manifestations of the patient and attain, through the aforementioned, a transpiercing vision."

                Huang Di asked, "The physical being of the human being cannot be discharged from the influence of yin and yang. In regard to various energy conditions of the universe, the ancient books have categorized on earth the nine continents and the four seasons. The moon waxes and wanes and days are long and short; in terms of the myriad things under heaven, it is impossible to completely measure and categorize the variations and changes. Within the human body, there are also many changes. What kind of method or framework can I use to understand and apply these principles of change?"

                Qi Bo replied, "The principles of the five elements would help you understand all transformations in the universe. For example, metal can cut down wood; water can put out fire; wood can penetrate earth; fire can melt metal; earth can contain water. These transformations can be applied to the myriad things of the universe. In acupuncture one applies the same principles. In this way, one can bestow benevolence upon all people.

                "There are five requisites for an effective practitioner. Most physicians ignore these five edicts. First, one must have unity of mind and spirit, with undistracted focus. Second, one must understand and practice the Tao of self-preservation and cultivation. Third, one must be familiar with the true properties and actions of each herb. Fourth, one must be proficient in the art of acupuncture. Fifth, one must know the art of diagnosis. When one follows these five edicts one will be effective. With acupuncture one can tonify the deficient and sedate the excess. But if one can observe the yin and yang laws of the universe and truly apply their essence to treatment, the results will be even better. This is like a shadow following a form. There is no secret here. It is that simple."

                Huang Di asked, "Would you discuss the principles of acupuncture?"

                Qi Bo answered, "The key to acupuncture is first of all to concentrate and focus. You must perceive the deficiencies and excesses of the organs, the variations of the three divisions of the body, and the nine pulses. Then you can administer acupuncture. You must also be able to detect whether the authentic zany pulse appears. This will allow you to determine if there are terminal tendencies of the zang, if the internal states match the external states. One cannot depend strictly on the appearance of the patient. One must emphasize the profound reading of the channels, blood, and qi in order to properly treat.

                "Patients themselves can be categorized into excess and deficiency. When one encounters the five deficiencies, one must not be careless in the treatment. When one encounters the five excesses, one must not give up easily. In general, when it is time to withdraw the needles, pull them out quickly. Do not allow the time of a blinking eye to elapse. In therapy, one's every movement must be in concert; acupuncture should be smooth and even; the mind should be calm, the heart at ease. Observe the traveling of the qi with acupuncture to determine the best time to remove the needles. The arrival of qi, although not visible to the eye, is as if a flock of birds has converged. When the qi is leaving, it is as if all the birds in a flock have scattered simultaneously. You cannot find a trace of them. Thus, when acupuncturing, if the qi has not arrived, one should retain the needle as if one has drawn a bow in the ready position. As soon as the qi has arrived in the proper proportion, quickly remove the needle as if the arrow is being released."

                Huang Di asked, "How do you treat deficiency and excess conditions?"

                Qi Bo replied, "When treating deficient conditions, use the tonification method. When treating excess conditions, use the sedation method. The important thing is to make sure that the qi in the channels arrives. You must grasp the moment. Regardless of how deep or shallow the point, or whether it is distal or proximal, when acupuncturing you must focus your qi and your shen or spirit as if facing an abyss one thousand feet deep. Everything must be done with delicate care. When manipulating the needles with your fingertips, you should handle the needles as if handling a fierce tiger. Focus all your attention."


From the Yellow Emperor's Classic, p298, Chap 80