Classical Chinese Medicine

Classical Chinese Medicine vs Traditional


Chinese medicine, along with acupuncture and herbal medicine, has developed over thousands of years but the root, source and philosophy have remained the same. The beginning of the Chinese revolution (“Xinhai Revolution”) and the establishment of the Republic of China at the beginning of the 20th century brought a change to the philosophy of Chinese medicine and the many things that represented the traditional Chinese culture were destroyed. This was all done in an effort to bring the ways of the Western World to China, greatly impacting the role of Chinese medicine and its philosophy. Once Western medicine made its first appearance in China, an attempt was made to outlaw the practice of Chinese medicine entirely.

With the rise of Mao Tse Tung and the Communist party in the mid 1960’s, Chinese medicine was pushed out of the new People’s Republic of China. Those who practiced Chinese medicine were forced to flee China leading to a severe shortage in medical doctors and medical care (one medical doctor per 100,000 people) and leaving the citizens of China in great need of medical assistance. The urgent need for medical care opened the doors for the reinstatement of Chinese medicine into China, leading Mao Tse Tung to declare acupuncture and Chinese medicine a national treasure. Chinese medicine Masters were asked to return to China to rebuild the practice of Chinese medicine and to train more doctors very quickly. These new practitioners were trained in a very short period of time which led to the deterioration of Chinese medicine’s original depth and philosophy. For every group of symptoms or syndromes, a formula of acupuncture points were chosen in a way that would match the practice of Chinese Materia Medica but didn’t match the practice of acupuncture as it was known before. This new form of Chinese medicine was labelled “Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)”, a form of traditional medicine often lacking the knowledge, theory and philosophy amassed and used for thousands of years prior. It would not be wrong to say that “modern” Chinese medicine is approaching the ways of the west as a pragmatic scientific materialism, and has lost its way as a “Marxist natural science”.

Theory of Classical Chinese Medicine

One of the main theories lost was one called, WU YUN LIU QI5 Movements 6 Energies – more commonly known as Celestial Stems Terrestrial Branches or simply Stems and Branches and is based on Chapters 66-71 of the SU WEN – “The Inner Cannon of the Yellow Emperor.”

According to the Stems and Branches theory, a person is a reflection of the universe; a microcosm of the macrocosm. Therefore, the same rules at work in nature, which control and affect the cosmos, are also represented in the person and therefore affect her/him.

One of the things that affect the universe as well as the person is time, explained within this theory as a quality of Qi/energy. This quality is divided by year, month, day and hour.

Within Stems and Branches, the quality of energy is divided into 10 heavenly stems and into 12 earthly branches.

Other considerations within classical Chinese medicine are: gender, the number of acupuncture points chosen to treatment and its meaning, the needling technique and the time and length of treatment, and more.

10 Heavenly Stems

The 10 stems are created by the shape and form of the planets at a specific time. In other words, the 10 stems represent the energy that is created in heaven by the shape and form of the stars and planets. This energy is reflected on earth and is affected by it. Cosmologists today recognise that the mass of a planet has the ability to bend the “fabric” of space and time, impacting its relationship with other objects in space. For example, the moon, while in the orbit of the earth, has an impact on the tides of our planet. Other effects are as simple and well-known as day and night, the four seasons, and so on. In the same way, the shape and form of the stars and planets which create the 10 stems affect the person.

The shape and form of the planets at the moment of one’s birth create a kind of energy that is reflected on earth and therefore affects it and the person born. At the moment of birth we are affected by so many things: the first touch, the first breath, the first smell, the first noise, and all the other firsts we experience when we enter the world, etc. We are also affected by the movement and gravity created by the planets surrounding earth and the Qi they create. That energy, together with our genes and our place of birth, will create the person’s constitution, character, mental and physical state, strengths, and weaknesses.

The most significant effect of the stems will be the year of birth and the month, but the day and hour are also important. The stems relate to the solar cycle, and therefore it is relative to the year and the day.

12 Earthly Branches

The 12 branches relate to the moon, the month and the hour. The number 12 represents every phenomenon in nature (12 months, 4 seasons with each divided by 3: a beginning, a middle/peak, and an end [4 x 3], 24 hours in a day[12 x 2], 60 minutes in an hour[12 x 5], and so on). In accordance with the branches, in our body there are 12 main organs and 12 main meridians (12 channels of bodily energy).

Each of the 12 branches represents a different state of yang energy.

These 12 branches are the “answer” of earth to heaven. They correspond to the stems and create a complete and unique energy for that specific time.

Each branch is represented by an animal, organ, time of day, and element. The transition from branch to branch is similar to the flow of the YING QI; the flow of energy from one meridian to the next. We can see that flow through the Chinese clock. (See Table 1)

In this sequence, each organ belongs to a different element, called the organ’s “deep energy”. This “deep energy” can help us understand the different functions and actions of the organs and the relationships between them.

Four Pillars

The stem and branch of the year, month, day and hour are known as the “four pillars”. The “four pillars” created at the moment of birth create an astrologic / cosmologic energetic map, a kind of “heavenly weather” that helps us understand one’s tendencies in physical, emotional and mental aspects, as well as strengths, weaknesses, and constitution. It’s important to remember that Chinese medicine at its purest form is a preventive medicine and views complete health not just as an absent of pathology but as an active process that maximizes physiological, emotional, and spiritual function.
The information given by the four pillars can help and direct the practitioner in their work to tone, balance and harmonize the patient and to decide which energies to channel to best treat disease and sickness. In addition, the four pillars are helpful when practitioners are devising a plan for preventing future illness and maintaining a healthy balance in the body.

“DAO DE JIND”, The Book of Dao, chapter 25:

“Man follows the earth.
Earth follows the heaven.
The heaven follows the Dao.
The Dao follows only itself.”

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