June 21, 2020

Spring Dawn by Mèng Hào Rán (春曉, 孟浩然)









Spring Dawn

Mèng Hào Rán



In spring sleep, dawn arrives unknowingly,

I hear crying birds everywhere.

From the sound of the wind and rain last night,

I wonder how many flowers fell?




Mèng Hào Rán  (689-740) was a famous Tang dynasty poet. In his later years preferring the life of a recluse, when Mèng was not visiting friends at their posts along the Cháng Jiāng river (Yangtze), including his close compadre Wáng Wéi (for which he wrote several poems), he  would be writing poetry while immersed in nature, primarily at his family seat in South mountain (南山) or in his hermitage on Lù Mén mountain (鹿門山) where he briefly lived in retreat. Mèng is often referred to as a ‘landscape poet’, for his beautiful reflections and writings on the landscapes around him, especially the ones around his hometown, modern day Hú Běi province.

Another five character quatrain poem, this and my previous poetry post (Wáng Wéi’s Deer Fence), are a couple of the most popular poems in modern day China, which can be recited by memory by many Chinese folk. Archie Barnes in his Chinese through Poetry describes this simple poem eloquently, “It describes the process of waking up in four successive stages: first, unconsciousness; second, the awakening of sensory perception; third, the awakening of memory; and fourth, the awakening of rational thought, giving full daytime consciousness.”

June 15, 2020

Lù Zhái (The Deer Fence) by Wáng Wéi (鹿柴, 王维)









Lù Zhái (The Deer Fence) [3]

Wáng Wéi

In (this) empty mountain[4], no one is seen,

But only the sounds of others are heard.

On return, (sun)light enters the deep forest,

And once again, it shines atop the green moss.





This poem was written in the classic five-syllable quatrain form, which is the shortest of forms in Chinese poetry. How fitting that Wáng Wéi in his simple Buddhist, reflective tone would use this minimalistic style, requiring the reader to meditate on the characters, and visualize and conjure up their own ideas as to what the poet meant. Here, every character counts, and has the potential to hold a deeper meaning.


[1] Wang Wei (701-761) a Tang Dynasty poet was a devout Buddhist, having spent many years studying with his master Dao Guang. Wang’s poetry conveys beautiful imagery and his deep love of nature often using only a few characters, which were tinged with Buddhist themes throughout, showing the interconnections and relationships of all phenomenon in nature.

[2] Many commentators have said that ‘’ here is an alternate for ‘’ (reflection, shadow), however, I believe since 景 alludes to daylight and its resulting brightness this character makes more sense in the poem.  

[3] Lu Zhai is a place name, thought to be the location near Wáng Wéi’s cottage. This is in current Lán Tián county in Shǎn Xī province.

[4] Empty mountain (空山): The idea here is not simply of an ‘empty mountain’ or one devoid of any other humans or objects, as we know this is not the case, given that there is mention of a deep forest on this mountain. Although this may be what Wáng Wéi was alluding to, we can assume based on his Buddhist lens on the world, that the ‘empty ’ here was speaking to more of an ‘empty’ quality from the Buddhist perspective, the idea of a false or illusory nature of existence, and that all phenomenon have no reality.  As Lù Zhái was one of Wáng's retirement cottages, solitude may have been exactly what he was looking for and therefore the first definition also makes sense. This is the beauty of this style of poetry, as since we'll never know exactly what the poet meant, we can conjure up our own ideas and thoughts. 


June 14, 2020

The Classic Formulas (Jīng Fāng) System of Treatment Based on Pattern Identification By Féng Shì Lún

1.     What is Treatment Based on Pattern Identification

Pattern identification is a method in which (one) gathers disease responses and symptoms through the four diagnostic methods, and also uses Chinese medical theory to summarize and analyze (these responses) in order to distinguish the disease nature and location (and to have) a clear understanding of the disease signs. This is another step in elucidating the pattern involved, and this process is referred to as pattern identification. Determining treatment is essentially the use of medicinals in accordance with the pattern. The characteristic (of this process) is that both the patient and the doctor work together in gathering the symptoms (to obtain information), and the doctor, in accordance with Chinese medical theory, will summarize and analyze (these) to have a clear understanding of where these signs belong (information classification), in order to clearly define the pattern (treating the specific information), and use medicinals according to the pattern (information processing). This is the entire process involved in treating disease.
The pattern identification methods commonly used in Chinese medicine are: eight principles pattern identification, bowel and viscera pattern identification, qì, blood, liquids, and humors pattern identification, defensive qì and nutritive blood pattern identification, triple warmer pattern identification, channels and collaterals pattern identification, six conformation pattern identification, and so on. The Shāng hán lùn (傷寒論 Discussion of Cold Damage) specifically uses the six conformations pattern identification method.

2.    The Evolution of the Shāng hán lùn’s Treatment Based on Pattern Identification

Treatment based on pattern identification is also referred to as treatment based on pattern differentiation. The Chinese medicine use of formulas and medicinals to treat disease is a particularly traditional method, which has been put into practice for extensive periods of time by our ancestors through the ages to combat disease, and is summed up as a major extraordinary accomplishment. The earliest recording, which established and summarized these methods is found in the Decoction classic ().


3.     Discussion on the Six Conformations and Eight Principles

The Shāng hán lùn (傷寒論 Discussion of Cold Damage) used the six conformations as a method of division. Later commentators have stated that with the six conformations, one would only be confined to cold damage methods. In fact, the six conformations come from the eight principles (and are the) general principles behind (the treatment) of numerous diseases. In order to explain further, the following discussion will begin from the eight principles.

(1) Eight Principles [ ]

The eight principles refer to the exterior, interior, yīn, yáng, cold, heat, vacuity, and repletion. In actual fact, within the exterior and interior, there is also the half-exterior and half-interior, so really, they should be called the nine principles. However, the half-exterior, half-interior portion is usually discussed with the interior, so it is customary to simply refer to them as the eight principles.  I will now explain them in order.

The Exterior, Interior, and Half-Exterior Half-Interior: 
The exterior, interior, and half-exterior half-interior are essentially the location of a disease response.  The exterior refers to the exterior of the body, namely the skin, muscles, flesh, tendons, and bones, and anything, which constitutes the outer part of the body can be called the exterior.  If pathogenic factors accumulate and cause a reaction in this part of the body, we can call this an exterior pattern.  The interior refers to the inner aspect of the body, namely the esophagus, stomach, large intestine, and small intestine, and anything, which constitutes the digestive tract, is referred to as the interior. If pathogenic factors accumulate and elicit a response in this part of the body, this can be called an interior pattern.  The half-exterior half-interior portion refers to the exterior of the interior, and the interior of the exterior, which is namely the large space between the chest and abdomen. This is the location of all the organs and bowels, and is considered to be the half-exterior half-interior portion of the body. If pathogenic factors accumulate here and cause a reaction, this is called a half-exterior half-interior pattern.  It needs to be explained here that the exterior, interior, and half-exterior half-interior disease location responses are fixed, and regardless of what the disease is, (one needs to look at) the location of the disease response, whether it be in the exterior, interior, or half-exterior half-interior. In addition, two or even all three of these may sometimes appear simultaneously. It must also be emphasized that here when discussing disease location, it refers to the location of the response to the disease pathogens, and not to be mistakenly believed to be the location of the disease changes. That is to say, if there are pathological changes in the interior, but pathogenic factors have accumulated and caused a response in the exterior, this is referred to as an exterior pattern, and is also referred to as pathogens in the exterior or an exterior disease. For the same reason, even if a condition manifests with exterior symptoms, yet there is an accumulation of pathogenic factors with a response in the interior of the body, this is referred to as an interior pattern, for which it can also be said that pathogens are in the interior, or simply called an interior disease.

Yīn and Yáng: Yīn and Yáng refer to the nature of the pathological changes. Yīn has namely a yīn nature, and yáng a yáng nature. When a person contracts a disease, there will be a struggle between right (qì) and the pathogen. This will have not yet influenced any changes of bodily functions, and will particularly first make changes to metabolic functions. If this change is relatively abnormal, than it is called excessive, and if relatively normal, it is considered deficient. With excess, the body will correspond with and reflect hyperactivity, rising, and excited types of disease characteristics, which are referred to as a yáng pattern. With deficiency, the body will reflect decline, hypo-function, and inhibition types of deficient disease characteristics, which are referred to as a yīn pattern. 

Cold and Heat: 
Cold refers to a cold type of pattern, while heat refers to a hot type of pattern. If a patient reflects cold natured symptoms, then this is ultimately considered a cold pattern; if a patient reflects heat type symptoms, then this is referred to as a heat pattern. As was mentioned above in the explanation of yīn and yáng, cold is a reflection of deficiency, which belongs to yīn, therefore cold is also yīn, and heat is a reflection of excess, which belongs to yáng, so therefore heat must also be yáng.  However, cold and heat have characteristics of yīn and yáng, and if we generally say yīn, then indefinitely there must be cold, and if we say yáng, then there will indefinitely be heat. In instances of an absence of cold or heat in disease, this by no means indicates an absence of yīn or yáng.)

Vacuity and Repletion: 
Vacuity refers to a vacuous patient, while repletion refers to repletion of disease (factors). If a disease has not yet been resolved, and a patients’ energy is failing to sustain to some extent, the reflection of the body manifests a type of vacuous, debilitated state, which is typically referred to as a vacuity pattern. If the dynamics of the disease are advanced, and the patients’ energy is not vacuous, the body will manifest with disease characteristics of fullness and repletion, which would be referred to as a repletion pattern. From the aforementioned explanation, we are able to see that vacuity, repletion, cold and heat are similar, containing both yīn and yáng characteristics within them. When vacuity, repletion and cold intertwine with one another, there is still (either) yīn or yáng. For example, vacuity and cold are definitely yīn, but vacuity and heat is on the contrary yáng. Repletion and heat are most certainly yáng, however, repletion and cold would be considered yīn. In a yáng pattern it is possible to have heat, or repletion, or heat with repletion, no heat or no repletion, or even heat and vacuity. In a yīn pattern, we can have either cold, or vacuity, or vacuity with cold, no cold or no vacuity, or cold with repletion. This can be seen in the following chart.

(1) Six Conformations ()

The six conformations refers to the three yáng conformations of Tài Yáng, Yáng Míng, and Shào Yáng, and the three yīn conformations of Tài Yīn, Shào Yīn, and Jué Yīn. Although the Shāng hán lùn (傷寒論 Discussion of Cold Damage) refers to these as diseases, they are actually patterns, which come from the eight principles. I will now explain the relationships between them.

The so-called exterior, interior, and half exterior half interior, all reflect disease location, while yīn, yáng, cold, heat, vacuity, and repletion reflect the nature of the disease.  However, the manifestation of the disease nature must reflect the disease location, and the location of the disease will inevitably reflect the nature of the disease, therefore, without the nature of the disease, there is no location, and vice versa. Exterior, interior, or half exterior half interior patterns will always be accompanied by signs of either yīn, yáng, cold, heat, vacuity or repletion.  At the same time, yīn, yáng, cold, heat, vacuity, and repletion patterns will be accompanied by exterior, interior, or half exterior half interior signs. Therefore, regardless of whether it’s an exterior, interior, or a half exterior half interior pattern they will all be accompanied by various yīn and yáng signs and responses.  

Disease location and nature of the six conformations

Eight Principles
Disease nature
Six conformations
Disease location
Tài Yáng disease
Yáng Míng disease
Half exterior half interior
Shào Yáng disease
Tài Yīn disease
Shào Yīn disease
Half exterior half interior
Jué Yīn disease

The following are the representative lines from the Shāng hán lùn (傷寒論 Discussion of Cold Damage) for each of the six conformations with a small commentary.

“In Tài Yáng disease, the pulse is floating, the head and nape are stiff and painful, and there is aversion to cold” [line 1]

Commentary: Tài Yáng disease is an exterior yáng pattern. The characteristics signs of a Tài Yáng disease are a floating pulse, stiff and painful head and nape, and aversion to cold. With that being said, in any disease, whenever a floating pulse, a stiff and painful head and nape, and aversion to cold are seen, one can most certainly diagnose it as a Tài Yáng disease, thereby avoiding any errors.

“In Yáng Míng disease, the stomach domain is replete” [line 180]

Commentary:  Yáng Míng disease is an interior yáng pattern. The term ‘stomach domain is replete’ means that pathogens are full and replete in the stomach and intestines, and with palpation is hard with resistance and possibly painful on pressure. The general idea here is that any disease with a replete stomach domain, can definitely be considered a Yáng Míng disease.

“What are the external signs of Yáng Míng disease? Answer: generalized heat effusion, spontaneous sweating, and no aversion to cold, but aversion to heat” [line 182]

Commentary: The stomach domain being replete, is a Yáng Míng disease abdominal finding, and in addition there is also a Yáng Míng disease exterior pattern. Symptoms of generalized heat effusion, spontaneous sweating, and no aversion to cold, but aversion to heat exemplify the exterior pattern.  Any disease with these external signs can be diagnosed as a Yáng Míng disease.

“In Shào Yáng disease, there is a bitter taste in the mouth, dry throat, and dizzy vision” [line 263]

Commentary: Shào Yáng disease is a half exterior half interior yáng pattern. The characteristic symptoms for a Shào Yáng pattern are a bitter taste in the mouth, dry throat, and dizzy vision. Any disease with these characteristic signs could be diagnosed as a Shào Yáng disease.

“In Tài Yīn disease, there is abdominal fullness and vomiting, inability to get food down, severe spontaneous diarrhea, and periodic spontaneous abdominal pain. If purgation is used, there will be a hard bind below the chest” [line 273]

Commentary: Tài Yīn disease is an interior yīn disease. The characteristic symptoms of a Tài Yīn disease are abdominal fullness and vomiting, inability to get food down, severe spontaneous diarrhea, and periodic spontaneous abdominal pain. Any disease manifesting these characteristics can be diagnosed as a Tài Yīn disease. The abdominal fullness in a Tài Yīn disease is a vacuity type of fullness, which is quite different than the repletion fullness seen in a Yáng Míng repletion of the stomach domain disease. If one erroneously mistakes this for a repletion type of fullness and purges it, this will further increase the vacuity and cause a hard bind below the chest.

“In Shào Yīn disease, the pulse is faint and fine, and there is a desire only to sleep” [line 281]

Commentary: Shào Yīn disease is an exterior yīn pattern, which needs to be compared to a Tài Yáng pattern. Basically, if there is a Tài Yáng pattern with a faint and fine pulse, accompanied by a desire only to sleep, this can be diagnosed as a Shào Yīn disease.

Commentary: Jué Yīn disease is a half exterior half interior yīn disease. The symptoms which typically reflect a Jué Yīn disease are wasting thirst, qi surging upward to the heart, pain and heat in the heart, hunger with no desire to eat, and vomiting of roundworms after eating. Any disease seen with these symptoms can be considered a Jué Yīn disease. Half exterior half interior pattern cannot be purged, and it is especially strictly prohibited when they are yīn patterns. If one is not careful and erroneously uses purgation, then this will cause a calamity of incessant diarrhea.

1.     Summary of Treatment Principles

The so-called treatment principles are essentially the principle of determination of treatment based on six conformation and eight principles pattern identification.  I will now differentiate and give an account of these principles.

Tài Yáng disease: Because this is an exterior pattern, it is appropriate to effuse sweat, and not to purge nor cause vomiting. Formulas such as guì zhī tāng (Cinnamon Twig Decoction), má huáng tāng (Ephedra Decoction), and gé gēn tāng (Kudzu Decoction) are specific sweat effusing Tài Yáng disease formulas.

Shào Yīn disease: This is a type of Tài Yáng disease, and although they both belong to the exterior, for which sweating should resolve it, here sweat effusion must be combined with warm natured, stimulating medicinals such as fù zǐ (Aconiti Radix lateralis preparata), and xì xǐn (Asari Herba) in formulas such as guì zhī jiā fù zî tāng (Cinnamon Twig Decoction plus Aconite), má huáng fù zǐ gān cǎo tāng (Ephedra, Aconite Accessory Root Tuber and Licorice Decoction), and má huáng fù zǐ xì xīn tāng (Ephedra, Aconite Accessory Root Tuber and Asarum Decoction). These are specific Shào Yīn sweat effusing formulas.

Yáng Míng disease: When heat has bound in the interior and the stomach domain is replete, it is appropriate to purge it. However, when there is (simply) heat and no repletion (in the stomach domain), it is appropriate to simply clear heat. A typical purging formula would be one of the chéng qì tāng (Order the Qi Decoction) formulas, and bái hǔ tāng (White Tiger Decoction) to clear heat. If there is repletion in the chest, it is appropriate here to cause vomiting and not to purge using a formula such as guā dì sǎn (Melon Stalk Powder).

Tài Yīn disease: With interior vacuity and cold obstruction, only warming and supplementation is warranted. The promotion of sweat, vomiting and purgation are all contraindicated. Formulas such as lǐ zhōng tāng (Regulate the Middle Decoction), and sì nì tāng (Frigid Extremities Decoction) are typical Tài Yīn warming and supplementing formulas.

Shào Yáng disease: In half exterior half interior patterns, the appropriate method of treatment is to harmonize and resolve. Promoting sweating, vomiting and purgation are all unnecessary. xiǎo chái hú tāng (Minor Bupleurum Decoction) and huáng qín tāng (Scutellariae Decoction) are prototypical Shào Yáng harmonizing and heat resolving formulas.

Jué Yīn disease: Although this is also a half exterior half interior pattern, for which harmonizing and resolving are appropriate, this must be combined with warm, strengthening medicinals. Chái hú guì zhī gān jiāng tāng (Bupleurum, Cinnamon Twig, and Ginger Decoction) and wū méi wán (Mume Pill) are typical formulas for this pattern.

Cold and Heat: In cold patterns, warming medicinals should be used to expel cold such as gān jiāng (Zingiberis Rhizoma), fù zǐ (Aconiti Radix lateralis preparata), and wū tóu (Aconiti Kusnezoffi Radix) in combination with specific formulas. In heat patterns, cool and cold medicinals are used in order to eliminate heat such as huáng qín (Scutellariae Radix), zhī zǐ (Gardeniae Fructus), huáng lián (Coptidis Rhizoma), and shí gāo (Gypsum fibrosum) in combination with specific formulas.

Vacuity and Repletion: In vacuity patterns it is appropriate to use strengthening medicinals in order to supplement insufficiency. Sweat promoting, vomiting, and purgative medicinals are all contraindicated. Formulas such as zhì gān cǎo tāng (Honey-Fried Licorice Decoction), lǐ zhōng tāng (Regulate the Middle Decoction), and shèn qì wán (Kidney Qì Pill) are all used to supplement vacuity. In repletion patterns, sweat promoting, vomiting inducing, and purgation are all methods, which are utilized to thoroughly attack and eliminate pathogenic factors. Examples of attacking repletion formulas would be má huáng tāng (Ephedra Decoction) and dà chéng qì tāng (Major Order the Qi Decoction).

Case Example:

Guì Zhī Jiā Gé Gēn Tāng (Cinnamon Twig Decoction plus Kudzu)

On December 10, 1965 a twenty one-year-old female presented at the clinic. Yesterday she had contracted a common cold manifesting with symptoms of headache, dizziness, sweating, aversion to cold, weak pain in her shoulders and back, and a tight obstructive pain in the left side of her neck on rotation towards the left. She had a thin white tongue coating, and her pulse was floating and slightly rapid.

A floating, slightly rapid pulse, thin-white tongue coat, aversion to cold, sweating, and headaches signify a Tài Yáng wind strike pattern. Shoulder and back pain, and neck pain on left rotation of the head signify a gé gēn tāng (Kudzu Decoction) pattern. The dizziness indicates that the exterior has not yet been resolved, with upward surging of qì.

Comprehensive analysis: This is a Tài Yáng wind strike pattern with simultaneous stretched stiff nape and back, seen in a guì zhī jiā gé gēn tāng (Cinnamon Twig Decoction plus Kudzu) formula presentation.

guì zhī (Cinnamomi Ramulus) 10g
bái sháo (Paeoniae Radix alba) 10g
shēng jiāng (Zingiberis Rhizoma recens) 10g
dà zǎo (Jujubae Fructus) 4 pieces
zhì gān cǎo (Glycyrrhizae Radix preparata) 6g
gé gēn (Kudzu Radix) 12g

Results:  After taking 1 package of the formula, her symptoms decreased, and after 2 more, her symptoms had completely resolved.

May 30, 2020

Kē Qín on Xuán Fù Dài Zhě Shí Tāng from the Collected Writings on Renewal of the Discussion of Cold Damage (伤寒来苏集)

“In Cold Damage which has resolved following sweating, purging or vomiting, [but there is now] a hard glomus below the heart and belching which will not resolve, Xuán Fù Dài Zhě Shí Tāng (Inula and Hematite Decoction) governs.”

(Shāng Hán Lùn clause 161) 

In cold damage, cold damages the heart. Now if sweat is effused, or one is purged or made to vomit, heart qi will become majorly deficient, and exterior cold will exploit this deficiency and bind below the heart. Heart qi will be unable to descend and instead ascend upwards resulting in noise [belching]. The sovereign [medicinal] governs the manifestation of this fleeing. Belching is the sound of pain. It cannot be referred to as sound, but should be named qi. Qi follows the sound and is seen on the outside.  


Xuán Fù Huā 3 liǎng

Gān Cǎo 3 liǎng

Rén Shēn 2 liǎng

Bàn Xià half a shēng

Dài Zhě Shí 1 liǎng

Shēng Jiāng 5 liǎng

Dà Zǎo 12 pieces


Use one dou of water for the above 7 ingredients, and boil until 6 shēng remain. Remove the dregs, and simmer again until 3 shēng remain. Take 1 shēng warm, three times daily.


This formula is shēng jiāng xiè xīn tang with huáng qín, huáng lián, and gān jiāng removed, and xuán fù huā and dài zhě shí added. In a heart qi deficiency a xiè xīn tang [formula] should not be taken, and can therefore be controlled with this formula. The heart governs the summer, and xuán fù huā reaches its end stage in the summer. Its salty flavor can supplement the heart, soften hardness, and disperse bound qi. Bàn xià grows at the beginning of summer, and its acrid flavor can scatter pathogens, disperse glomus, and move bound qi. Dài zhě shí is endowed with the fire of the south, which enters and frees the heart, scatters hard glomus, and settles the deficient counterflow. The sweetness of rén shēn, gān cǎo, and dà zǎo assist xuán fù huā in draining deficient fire, while acrid shēng jiāng assists bàn xià in scattering bound water. This will result in the dispersal of the hard glomus, and the elimination of belching. If huáng qín and huáng lián are used to drain the heart, how can one protect subtle yang from not being extinguished?

Kē Qín (柯琴), courtesy name Yùn Bó (韵伯) (1662 – 1735) was a Qīng Dynasty Shāng Hán Lùn (傷寒論 Discussion of Cold Damage) scholar, from Cí Xī county in Zhè Jiāng province. A prolific writer, Kē authored several books in his time and was a large proponent of the ‘school of formula types’ (方类证派), famously saying,  “Patterns are differentiated from the conformations, therefore the pattern is named after the formula (证从经分,以方名证).”




May 8, 2020

Zé Xiè from Zhāng Zhì-Cōng’s Běn Cǎo Chóng Yuán (本草崇原)

Zé Xiè from Zhāng Zhì-Cōng’s Běn Cǎo Chóng Yuán (本草崇原)

The Qi and flavor of Zé Xiè are sweet, cold and non-toxic. It treats wind, cold, damp impediment, difficult lactation; [it] nourishes the five viscera and boosts qi and strength, makes one plump and healthy, and disperses water. Taken for extended periods of time, the ears and eyes will become sharp and bright. It reduces hunger, extends the years [life], lightens the body, brightens the complexion, and [gives one] the ability to walk on water. [1]

Zexie is a water medicinal, which is sweet and cold. It is able to ascend the qi of water-yin upwards and nourish center earth. It governs the treatment of wind, cold, damp impediment, by initiating the water-fluids in the lower body, which then from center earth irrigate the muscles, interstices and skin. Breast milk is the fluid of the middle burner, so by the nourishment of water-fluids in center earth, it is able to treat difficult lactation. The five viscera receive the essence of food and grains, and since zexie flows and pools in center earth, it can therefore nourish the five viscera. The kidneys are the unyielding official, whose water essence supports the upper, and therefore boosts qi and strength. By irrigating the muscles and interstices from center earth, [zexie] is able to make one plump and healthy. Water qi first ascends then descends, therefore [zexie] disperses water. The sharpening and brightening of the ears and eyes after being taken over an extended period of time are the result of water assisting fire. Decreasing hunger and extending the years is due to water nourishing the earth. Lightening the body and brightening the complexion is due to the outward flow of water. With [giving one] the ability to walk on water, it can be said that [when one’s] ears and eyes are sharp and bright, and hunger is reduced, the years are extended, the body is lightened, and the complexion is bright, [they feel as if] they can walk on water!

[1] This last line is very interesting and can be translated and interpreted a couple different ways. The first translation, which is the most common interpretation and the one that makes sense according to later commentaries, is “the ability to walk on water.” Based on Zhāng’s reasoning it makes the most sense. However when first reading the line from the Běn Cǎo, I read it as “[zexie] is able to move water upwards.” This is a common function of the plant and the justification used for many of the positive effects experienced from taking this medicinal, therefore it would make sense. As there is no actual commentary found after the original entry, it’s impossible to know for sure what Shén Nóng meant with this string of characters.

April 19, 2020

Zhāng Zhì-Cōng on Bái Zhú

Bái Zhú from Zhāng Zhì-Cōng’s Běn Cǎo Chóng Yuán (本草崇原)[1]

The qi and flavor of Bái Zhú are sweet[2], warm, and non-toxic. [It] treats wind, cold, damp impediment, dead flesh, tetany, jaundice; stops sweating, expels heat, and disperses food. Make into fried cakes. Long-term consumption lightens the body, extends the years, and relieves hunger.

Bái Zhú’s qi and flavor is sweet and warm, and is abundant in fat and fluids. It is a medicinal for harmonizing and regulating spleen-earth. A major medicinal for treating wind, cold, damp impediment, Sù Wèn chapter 43 [‘discussion on impediment’] says “When the qi of wind, cold and damp all arrive together, they merge and result in impediment.” The taste of Bái Zhú is sweet and its nature is warm, for it supplements and boosts spleen earth; when earth qi moves, then the qi of the flesh moves externally to the skin and internally to the channels and vessels, therefore, impediment due to wind, cold and damp can be treated. The spleen governs the flesh, and (Bái Zhú) treats dead flesh, by moving spleen qi. In addition, the spleen governs the four extremities, and in tetany, the four extremities are strong but in disharmony. The color of the spleen is yellow; in jaundice the body and the eyes are yellow and the earth is deficient. Bái Zhú supplements the spleen therefore both tetany and jaundice can be treated. Stopping sweating (is achieved) through (the medicinals effect in assisting) the earth in overcoming dampness. Expelling heat refers to the expelling of deficient heat of spleen-earth. For dispersing food, (Bái Zhú) helps spleen-earth transport and transform. Fried cakes are made as it is said that Bái Zhú is rich in fats and can therefore treat dryness of spleen-earth. When made into cakes the flavor is sweet, warm and its nature is to enrich and moisten, thereby harmonizing and settling earth qi. As a result, the body is lightened, the years are extended and hunger is relieved.

Cāng Zhú (addendum)   

Bái Zhú is superior to Cāng Zhú. When one desires to supplement the spleen then use Bái Zhú. If one desires to move the spleen, then Cāng Zhú is used. If both these functions are desired, then both can be used in combination. So for example, ‘to supplement more and move less, use Bái Zhú more and Cāng Zhú less’, while to ‘move more and supplement less, use Cāng Zhú more and Bái Zhú less.’[3]
The Běn Jīng does not differentiate between Cāng or Bái (Zhú). Master Zhāng (Zhòng-Jǐng) in his Shāng Hán Lùn always used Bái Zhú, while in his Jìn Guì Yào Lüè used Chì (Red) Zhú[4]. It is only when arriving at Táo Hóng-Jǐng’s Míng Yī Bié Lù (Additional Records of Famous Physicians) that the two are differentiated, with key information on both Chì and Bái Zhú. Chì Zhú is Cāng Zhú, and its function and use is slightly similar to Bái Zhú, as it relates to the main treatments in the Běn Jīng. However, Bái Zhú is sweet and Cāng Zhú is bitter; Bái Zhú stops sweating while Cāng Zhú promotes sweating, therefore the reference to stopping sweating in the original text should be removed and not recorded! Later commentators say that Cāng Zhú is bitter, but in actual fact it is sweet and slightly bitter.

[1] Note that the original text contains more information on the identification, harvesting and processing of the herbs, however, I have opted to merely translate the clinically relevant information from the text, so this translation is by no means a compete rendering of the original work.
[2] It’s interesting here that Zhāng went ahead and changed the entry from the Shén Nóng Běn Cǎo Jīng referring to Bái Zhú as sweet, where the original text considered the medicinal bitter. He does go onto to say “The Běn Jīng refers to this medicinal as bitter, Táo Hóng-Jǐng calls it sweet, Zhēn Quán considers it sweet and acrid, while Zhāng Gǎo refers to it as bitter and sweet. If collected in the summer, the plant is more acrid and less sweet; if collected in the winter, it is more sweet and less acrid, while more bitter if collected any other time.” It is clear from this passage that Zhāng sides with Táo on this one.
[3] Rhythmic mnemonics have been a major feature of Chinese medicine to aid in increasing memorization and therefore the recall of long passages or complex bits of information. The nature of the Chinese language is as such that one can contain an enormous amount of information in just a few characters.
[4] Chi Zhu (赤术) is an alternate name for Atractylodes root, and in this text refers specifically to Cang Zhu.