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Yin and Yang

The Chinese Character for QI looks like this

Vapor or steam

stands for vapor or steam

Uncooked rice

stands for (uncooked) rice

The roots of Chinese medicine

Date back several thousand years in mainland China. It is an empirically developed form of medical therapy and was influenced by neighboring cultures such as ancient India, Tibet and Persia, mostly in the field of herbal medicine. Chinese medicine is rooted within a philosophical concept of balance, the balance of Yin and Yang. Yin represents the shady side of a hill with all it's attributes and Yang represents the sunny side of a hill and it's attributes. Just as the sun continually moves ahead on it's course, so do the sunny sides and shady sides of a hill continually move. What was Yin will eventually become Yang and the opposite. Life force called "Qi" (pronounce: 'CHEE', 'CHI') flows through our bodies connecting the outside with the inside, ever seeking to achieve balance. The degree of balance generally represents the degree of our well-being, health and happiness.

This character may indicate that QI is as non-material as vapor and as material as rice. It also may indicate that QI is a non-material, subtle and moving substance (vapor) created by a material substance (rice) through a process of transformation (cooking). This process of transformation or cooking to produce QI can be easily observed inside and outside of our bodies: e.g. the cooking of food before we eat it and after we take it inside our body, digesting the food within, which also represents a cooking process and therefore production of QI). QI thus is produced everywhere within and without our bodies through a process of transformation and can take on many different forms in an almost fluid like way of continuous but controlled transformations.

Together with the theory of Yin and Yang, the Theory of the 5 Elements constitutes the basis of Chinese medical theory.

Water moistens, cools and descends, Fire is hot and blazes upwards, Wood is flexible and can be bent and straightened, Metal is hard and can be molded, Earth is nourishing/sustaining and permits sowing, growing and reaping. The 5 Elements also are represented within the stages of a seasonal cycle: Wood corresponds to spring and is associated with birth, Fire corresponds to summer and is associated with growth, Metal corresponds to autumn and is associated with harvest, Water corresponds to winter and is associated with storage, Earth corresponds to the change from one season to the next and is associated with transformation. As such, the 5 Elements generate sequences and movement, as well as qualities which are very important in Chinese medical theory.

The theory of Yin & Yang together with the 5 Element Theory demonstrate an evolution from superstitional forms of medicine toward a scientific approach to medicine. Nature as a macrocosm was observed to have various conditions such as heat, cold, damp, wind and dryness. The macrocosm is reflected in the microcosm of human health conditions.


Season spring summer season change autumn winter
Development birth growth transformation harvest storage
Climates wind heat dampness dryness cold
Directions east south center west north
YIN Organs liver heart spleen lungs kidney
YANG Organs gall bladder small intestine stomach large intestine urinary/ bladder
Sense Organs eyes tongue mouth nose ears
Tissues sinews/ tendons blood vessels flesh/ muscles skin bones
Emotions anger joy pensiveness/ thought grief/sadness fear
Sounds shouting laughing singing crying groaning
Tastes sour bitter sweet pungent salty
Color green red yellow white black/ dark blue
Function flexibility warming nourishing drying cooling/ moistening
Spirit Associated w/YIN Organs HUN ethereal soul SHEN mind-spirit-consciousness YI imagination/ concentration of the mind PO corporeal soul ZHI willpower
Theories of the 5 elements Chinese medical theory

These conditions in our environment affect peoples' systems directly such as:

  • dryness-affecting throat and lungs, possibly constipation
  • dampness-affecting conditions that involve swelling and blockage
  • The Chinese understood medicine as it related to their environment.

  • Acupuncture developed independently of Herbal Medicine

    Acupuncture theory is based on the HUANG DI NEI JING ("The Yellow Emperor's Classic of Chinese Medicine"), written anywhere between 2000 to 5000 years ago by the mystical author Huang Di-the Yellow Emperor (2697 BC). It is comprised of 81 treatises with some dating back to the 2nd century BC and is comprised of two books: the SU WEN ("Basic Questions") and the LING SHU ("Miraculous Pivot"). It is a compilation of different interpretations of the Yin/Yang paradigm by early authors leading to various theories and schools of thought brought together by Huang Di.

    The Huang Di Nei Jing includes theories of the 5 elements, yin and yang, zang-fu organ patterns, QI , Blood, and Body Fluids. It includes the 5 emotions and 6 external pathogenic influences as causes of illness. The Nei Jing offers acupuncture and moxibustion as the main therapeutic modalities in the treatment of disease. The Huang Di Nei Jing explains physiology and pathology , principles of diagnosis and the prevention and treatment of disease using the various schools of thought. It discusses the right way of living based on the rich philosophical history of China and introduces the Chinese meridian system including 300 points and a few herbs.

    The Yellow Emperor 2697 BC

    Herbal medicine has its roots in very ancient cultures but we can be certain that Herbal Medicine represents the Mother of medicine on our planet.

    The first Chinese materia medica, SHEN NONG BEN CAO ("the Divine Husbandman's Classic"), was probably written in the first century BC). The author remains unknown of this first Chinese classic devoted to Chinese Herbs alone. It lists 364 individual herbs and classifies them into three main groups: Superior grade herbs are common foods, their usage is to nourish life and such prevent disease. Middle grade are specific herbs used when there is disease, their task is to nourish constitutional types and they are not to be used for long-term treatment. Inferior grade are generally very harsh herbs able to expel disease and should be used only when truly necessary for very short periods.

    The SHANGHAN LUN ("Treatise on Febrile Diseases Caused by Cold") and the JINKUE YAOLUE FANGLUN ("Synopsis of Prescriptions of the Golden Chamber") are very important Classics of Chinese Medicine written some 1800 years ago by ZHANG ZHONGJING, a great medical scholar and physician of the Eastern HAN - Dynasty (25 - 220 BC).

    They provide important theories on the progression of disease in general through teaching the progression of disease caused by (externally contracted) cold and their treatment with classic Chinese herbal formulas. These texts provide the first Classics on herbal formulas and are a plentiful source of imagination and Chinese Medical theories. They are still used by students as textbooks in all colleges of Chinese Medicine as well as guidebooks by practitioners in the field.