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?"
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."
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?"
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."
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?"
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.
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."
Di asked, "Would you discuss the principles of
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.
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
Di asked, "How do you treat deficiency and
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