Wāng Áng and The Summary of Herb Properties

In the Western world, Wāng Áng 汪昂 (1615–1695) has remained little known author in the history of Chinese medicine. During his life, he was not well known even in China. He was not seen as one of the great scholars of his time, as he was mostly self-taught in the classics and most of his writings were collections and reorganizations of classical ideas. He based his medical works heavily on authors like Lǐ Dōng-Yuán 李東垣 (aka. Lǐ Gǎo 李杲 1180–1251), Lǐ Shízhēn 李時珍 (1518–1593) and Han-dynasty (202 BC–220 AD) texts like Huángdì Nèijīng Sùwèn 黃帝內經素問 and Huángdì bāshíyī Nánjīng 黃帝八十一難經 . Maybe it was his lack of higher education that made his works more easy accessible to the general public, lay practitioners and students of medicine.

In the history of medicine, Wāng Áng is often listed as a doctor, even though he wasn’t actually a practicing doctor, but a writer. Earlier in his life, he wrote commentaries and critiques of Confucian philosophy and later in his medical writings, he collected ideas from old texts, uniting ideas from different schools of thought and made his own synthesis based on them. He also made some poetic notions to ease remembering the herbal formulas.

His works became important later on and had an impact on the growing interest in channel tropism and classifications of herbs. In the modern times, his ideas might be criticized as too holistic, based on cosmological correspondences of colors, shapes, etc. instead of a time-tested actual record of medical properties.

Personally, I find it interesting to note how similar ideas were promoted in Europe around the same time. For example, Paracelsus (1493–1541), who has sometimes viewed as the father of toxicology, wrote lengthily about correspondences. Botanist William Cole (1626–1662) promoted the idea of divine signatures. These ideas probably had a role to play in thinking of Samuel Hahnemann (1755–1843) and the birth of homeopathy, where “like cures like” (similia similibus curentur).

In this article, I translate a part of a chapter from his most famous herbal book, Běncǎo bèiyào 本草備要. The chapter is Yàoxìng zǒngyí 藥性總義 or The Summary of Herb Properties. The chapter also represents the development and impact of earlier writings like Sùwèn 素問 (especially chapters 4, 5 and 22). As there have been some different and possibly confusing translations of tastes and their functions, I also try to provide some alternative meanings for the Chinese characters to broaden their meanings. These different meanings should be kept in mind while reading the translation. The term yào 藥 is translated here as medicine and herb. The concept yào also includes all the ingredients that is seen having any health related properties, like food, plants, minerals and animal products. Even modern medicines can be classified as yào.

The original chapter can be also found from Waseda University collection [1,2] or at Ctext.org.

The Summary of Herb Properties – Yàoxìng zǒngyí 藥性總義


When the medicine is sour, it belongs to the wood and goes to the liver.
The bitter belongs to the fire and goes to the heart.
The sweet belongs to the earth and goes to the spleen.
The pungent* belongs to the metal and goes to the lung.
The salty belongs to the water and goes to the kidneys.
These are the nourishment with the five tastes.

* 辛 mean pungent, stinging, hot and bitter taste. Some times it is translated as spicy and aromatic in Western texts.


The green medicines belong to the wood and go to the liver.
The red ones belong to the fire and go to the heart.
The yellow ones belong to the earth and go to the spleen.
The white ones belong to the metal and go to the lungs.
The black ones belong in the water and go to the kidneys.
This is the nourishment with the five colors.


Sour medications can retain1 and gather2.
Bitter can drain3, dry4 and harden5.
Sweet can supplement6, harmonize7 and slow down8.
Pungent can spread9, soften10 and force movement11.
Salty can reduce12 and soften nodules13.
Bland taste can facilitate urination14 and eliminate dampness15.
This is the usage of the five flavors.

  1. Sè 濇 means an astringent. It also means rough and uneven. It is also the same character that is used in pulse diagnostics and usually translated as choppy pulse.
  2. Shōu 收 mean to collect, gather, harvest and receive. It also means to stop and to restrain.
  3. Xìe 瀉 means to drain, leak, pour down, flow out. In medical context it is often seen as laxative property or diarrhea.
  4. Zào 燥 means to dry. It also means impatient or quick-tempered.
  5. Jiān 堅 means hard, strong, firm, rigid and reliable. It also mean to strengthen and fortificate.
  6. Bǔ 補 means to repair, restore, patch, mend and to fill. In medical context it means to reinforce, supplement or tonify.
  7. Hè 和 means harmony, peace, calm, to mix together or to unite with. It also means to be soft and flexible.
  8. Huǎn 緩 means slow, delay, unhurried, sluggish, relaxed and to stall. The term is also used for spleen pulse. When it is healthy it is proportionally relaxed, correct and full and strong, without being overfull or tense. In pathological context the term is used for being slow and/or too soft.
  9. Sǎn 散 means to scatter, disperse, break up, distribute and let out. It also mean to be break free or be at ease. The character is used in herbal formulas to denote medical powders.
  10. Rùn 潤 means to soften, moisten and soak. This property of pungent is often translated confusingly. It is often translated only as to soften. As taste relating to the metal element, pungent is seen as drying. But in medical context this character is also used to mean moistening and lubricating. In case of pungent taste, this lubrication is seen as result of spreading the moisture within the body and promoting the kidneys (metal is mother of water).
  11. Héng xíng 橫行 is translated here as forcing the movement. Héng means horizontal, perverse, unexpected and harsh. Xíng means to move, step and circulate. In case of using strong pungent herbs, the movement of qi is sometimes quite strong and can be bit unexpected. Like eating very hot chili.
  12. Xià 下 means under, below, down, downward and to descend.
  13. Ruǎn jiān 軟堅 has standard translation of soften nodules. Ruǎn means flexible, pliable, gentle and soft. Later in the translated chapter, it is said that the heart enjoys this softness or flexibility, but is harmed by huǎn 緩 explained earlier. Jiān 堅 is the same described earlier in note 5.
  14. Lì qiào 利竅 is often translated as promoting defecation and urination, but the term has many meanings. Lì means favorable, advantageous, beneficial and to promote. In acupuncture points it means good for something. Qiào means holes and orifices as in eyes, ears, mouth etc.
  15. Shèn xiè 滲泄 is most often translated as eliminating dampness or wetness. Shèn means to seep, ooze or soak through. Xiè means to leak, drip, disperse, reduce, vent, release, discharge and flow.


All medicines have either cold, hot, warm or cool qi.
They are sour, bitter, sweet, pungent or salty in taste.
Qi is yang, taste is yin.
Strong qi is yang within yang, and mild [qi] is yin within yang.
Strong flavor is yin within yin, and mild [flavor] is yang within yin.
Mildness of qi causes release and dispersion; strong [qi] causes heat or warming.
The intensity of the taste discharges, lowers and drains. The mildness [of taste] opens.
Pungent and sweet disperse and are yang.
Sour and bitter can induce emesis or purgation and are yin.
Salty taste can cause emesis or purgation and is yin.
Bland taste can remove dampness and is yang.
Light and clear lifts and floats being yang.
Heavy and turbid sinks and descends being yin.
Yangqi produces the upper openings.
Yinqi produces the lower openings.
Clear yang spreads to the couli.
Turbid yin passes to the five zang-organs.
Clear yang strengthens the four limbs.
Turbid yin passes through six fu.
This is yin and yang.


All light and hollow medicines are floating and rising.
The thick and concrete sink and lower.
The mildness of flavors lifts and gives birth. It is like spring.
The mildness of qi descends and gathers. It is like autumn.
The strength of qi floats and grows. It’s like summer.
The strength of taste sinks and stores. It’s like winter.
The harmony of flavors transforms and completes. It’s like earth.
The strong qi and mild flavor is floating and rising.
The strong flavor and mild qi is sinking and lowering.
When qi and flavor are both strong, they can float and sink at the same time.
When qi and taste are both mild, they can cause rising and falling at the same time.
Salty does not lift up.
Pungent and sweet do not lower.
Cold does not float.
Hot does not sink.
This is the right way of ascending and lowering, floating and sinking.


Lǐ Shízhēn says:
That which is rising, lead it with salty and cold to sink into the lower burner.
That which is sinking, lead it with wines to float up, all the way to mountain top.
Just as from the root things rise, from the branches things fall. Young rise upward – ripe [fruits] fall
downwards. Just like ascending and descending in things, it is the same in men.


All medicinal plants have their roots in the soil.
Their upper part lift and rise up, while the lower part go down and make it sink.
The seedling [rises] from the root and the tips of the roots go down into the ground.
The branches of the medicinal plant reach four borders.
The peel reaches the skin.
The heart and sprouts of the plant go into the zàng and fǔ organs.

When the substance is light, it lifts and goes to the heart and lungs.
Heavy ones go down and go to the liver and kidneys.
The hollow ones bring to the surface, and the heavy ones go inside and sink in.
Dry and dusty go to the area of qì. Soft and moist go to the area of blood.

This is the way of up and down, internal and external. Everything is the same everywhere.


All herbs with color green, sour taste and having qi of rancid smell naturally belong to the wood. They enter foot jueyin ie. liver and foot shaoyang ie. gallbladder meridians. (The liver and gallbladder are biǎo-lǐ/external-internal. The gallbladder is jiǎmù – 1st heavenly stem wood; the liver is yǐmù – 2nd heavenly stem wood.)


Those with red color, bitter taste and having qi of burnt smell naturally belong to the fire. They enter hand shaoyin ie. heart and hand taiyang ie. small intestine meridians. (The heart and small intestine are biǎo-lǐ. The small intestine is the 3rd heavenly stem fire and the heart is 4th heavenly stem fire.)


Those with yellow color, sweet taste and having qi of sweet smell naturally belong to the earth. They enter foot taiyin ie. spleen/pancreas and foot yangming ie. stomach meridians. (The spleen and stomach are biǎo-lǐ. The stomach is the 5th heavenly stem earth and the spleen is 6th heavenly stem earth.)


Those with white color, pungent/spicy taste and having qi of fishy smell naturally belong to the metal. They enter hand taiyin ie. lung and hand yangming ie. large intestine meridians. (The lung and large intestine are biǎo-lǐ. The large intestine is the 7th heavenly stem metal and the lung is 8th heavenly stem metal.)


Those with black color, salty taste and having qi of rotten smell naturally belong to the water. They enter foot shaoyin ie. kidney and foot taiyang ie. bladder meridians. (The kidneys and bladder are biǎo-lǐ. The bladder is the 9th heavenly stem water and the kidneys are 10th heavenly stem water.)


Every zang-organ match one fu-organ. All fu-organs belong to yang and therefore they are 1st, 3rd , 5th, 7th and 9th heavenly stems. Every zang-organ belong to yin and therefore they are 2nd, 4th, 6th, 8th and 10th heavenly stems.


Among the 12 meridians, there are also hand jueyin xinbao/pericardium and hand shaoyang sanjiao/triple heater which cannot be controlled [directly with medicines]. These meridians connect to foot jueyin and shaoyang. Jueyin masters and controls blood. Herbs that enter liver channel and area of blood, also enter to the pericardium. The shaoyang controls qi. The herbs that enter the gallbladder and area of qi, also enter to the triple heater. Mingmen is the ministerial fire. That which scatters and moves to the gall bladder, triple heater and pericardium also enter to the mingmen and also enter three heaters. Various herbs enter to several meridians.

Summary of reinforcing and reducing [methods] of the five elements 五臟補瀉之義


Liver suffers from irritation* (blood dries and suffers from irritation). It is important to use sweet taste to loosen it. Liver wants to spread (as the wood likes orderly and freely reaching movement). Or hastily use bitter to scatter it. Bitter can reinforce the movement. Sour can drain it. (Scattering is to tonify [movement] and astringent is to drain it down.)

* 急 means impatience, irritation, anxiousness, restlessness and hastiness. It also mean pressingly important or have to do something.


Heart suffers from [too much] softness. (Softness can dissipate it). It is important to use sour to gather it. Heart likes flexibility. Quickly use salty to flex it. Salty refills it. (Water can conquer fire and fire descends to join the kidneys and reinforce it by helping to it be in proper state.) Sweet can drain it.


Spleen suffers from dampness. One needs to use bitter to dry it. Spleen likes slowness. (Easiness and calmness.) You need to eat sweet to loosen it. Sweet reinforces and bitter drains it.


The lungs suffer from rising rebellious qi. (When fire increases it hurts metal.) Quickly eat bitter to drain it. Lungs like to gather so it is important to eat sour to gather. Sour can nourish it, pungent can drain it.


The kidneys suffer from dryness. Quickly eat pungent to moisten it. The kidneys like hardness, so it is important to eat bitter to harden it. Bitter can fill it, salty can drain it.


This is the correct way of filling and draining five zang-organs.

Indications of six excess and healing them 六淫主治之義


When there is excess of wind inside, heal it with pungent and cool. Assist with bitter and sweet. Sweet loosens and bitter scatters it. (Wind belongs to the wood, pungent is metal and metal can conquer wood. So heal with pungent and cool. In too much pungent there is a fear of injuring the true qi, therefore you need to assist with bitter and sweet. Bitter overcomes pungent and sweet tonifies qi. Wood has nature of quickness and sweetness can slow it. Wood likes to flow freely and pungent can [help to] scatter it.)


When there is excess heat inside, heal it with salty and cold. Assist with bitter and sweet. Sour gathers it, bitter scatters it. (Water overcomes fire. So heal by salty and cold. Sweet overcomes salty. This is why assisting with [sweet] to prevents excess [of salty]. You need to use sweet and bitter to prevent excess of salty as it also drains hot qi and assists true [qi]. In excess heat the sour gathers it. In fire stagnation the bitter sends it out.)


When there is excess damp inside, heal it with bitter and hot. Assist with sweet and bland. Bitter dries it and bland leaks it out. (Dampness is the earth qi, bitter and hot can dry it. Bland taste benefit the orifices and went out the dampness. Use sour to as wood can manage [proper function of] earth.)


When there is excess of fire inside, heal it with salty and cold. Assist with bitter and pungent. Sour gathers it. (Ministerial fire respects fire and can be treated with salty and cold. Pungent can provide moisture and sour can astringe it. Bitter can leak the heat otherwise it can ascend due to its nature.)


Where there is excess dryness inside, heal it with bitter and warm. Assist with sweet and pungent. Bitter can lower it. (Dryness belongs to metal and bitter belongs to fire. Fire overcomes metal. Therefore can be healed with bitter and warm. Sweet can soften/relax, pungent can moisten and bitter can lower. This is why they are assisting.)


Where there is excess cold inside, heal it with sweet and hot. Assist with bitter and pungent. With salty pours it down, with pungent moisten it and with bitter harden it. (Earth can control water. Hot can overcome cold. Bitter and pungent are both hot. In cold disease where there is heat, salty drains it. When there is dryness inside, pungent can moisten it. Bitter can drain heat and firm the kidneys. Draining the center can reinforce.)


This is how six excess can be healed, each with proper method. Therefore the nature of herbs should be clearly understood and their use be justifiable.


The five zang-organs of man correspond to five phases/elements: metal, wood, water, fire and earth. Child and mother produce each other. The classics* says: In depletion reinforce the mother, in repletion drain the child.

*Nánjīng chapter 69.


It* also says: A child can cause the repletion of the mother. The kidneys are the mother of the liver. The heart is the child of the liver. So what enters the liver also enters the kidneys and heart. The liver is the mother of the heart. The spleen/pancreas is the child of the heart. So what enters the heart also enters the liver and spleen. The heart is the mother of the spleen and the lungs are the children of the spleen. So what enters the spleen also enters the heart and lungs. The spleen is the mother of the lungs, the kidneys are the children of the lungs. So what enters the lungs also enters the spleen and kidneys. The lungs are the mother of the kidneys and the liver is the child of the kidneys. So what enters the kidneys also enters the lungs and liver. This is the mutual generation of the five phases/elements and the true meaning of the relationship between child and mother.

* Nánjīng chapter 75.


Sour damages muscles (astringents contract the muscles). Pungent overcomes sour.
Bitter damages qi (bitter can leak out qi). Salty overcomes bitter.
Sweet damages flesh. Sour overcomes sweet.
Pungent damages skin and body hair (scatters and disperses còulǐ). Bitter overcomes pungent.
Salty harms blood (salty can leak fluids*). Sweet overcomes salty.
This is the meaning of restrictions on five phases.

* 滲泄 might also be seen as two words. They could mean soak and leak. In connection with the blood and veins, this leaking and soaking might be understood as swelling. When too much salt is consumed, the body retains heightened sodium levels. This leads to an increased amount of fluid outside of the cells and causes swelling. Also if one has venous insufficiency where the valves of the veins are weakened, the blood flow back to the heart becomes inhibited. This eventually causes the (lower) extremities to become swollen and enlarged. Similar swelling can also be caused by vascular diseases. In TCM the veins are connected to the heart, which is controlled by the kidneys associated with the salty taste. However, this expression is usually translated as causing diuresis, which might be incorrect translation. There is also the matter of salty taste itself. It does not mean salt, but the taste which can be found in many foods and herbs.


Sour affects the muscles. When the muscles have disease, one should not eat too much sour. The muscles receive the sour and [the sour] can produce muscular spasm and stiffness.


Bitter affects the bones. When the bones have disease, one should not eat too much bitter. The bones receive bitter and fullness of yin produces heaviness and makes harder to move.


Sweet affects the flesh. When the flesh have disease, one should not eat too much sweet. The flesh receives sweet and obstructs the movement of qi and the abdomen becomes greatly swollen.


Pungent affects the qi. When the qi has disease, one should not eat too much pungent. The qi receives pungent and scatters [the qi] giving rise to the emptiness [syndromes].


Salty affects the blood. When the blood has disease one should not eat too much salty. The blood receives salty and it coagulates, becoming uneven* and the mouth becomes dry. (Salty can leak fluids – jīn yè)

* See 澀 sè explained in connection with properties of different tastes.


These are the prohibitions of the five diseases.

多食酸,則肉胝 而唇揭(脾合肉,其華在唇,木克土,胝音支,皮濃也)。

From eating too much salty, the blood vessels coagulate, weep (alternative character for choppy) and [there is] discoloration. (The blood vessels correspond the blood. The heart is in connection with the blood vessels. Water overcomes fire.)

From eating too much bitter, the skin withers and the body hair fall. (The lungs are in connection with the skin and body hair. Fire overcomes metal.)

From eating too much pungent, the muscles contract and the nails wither. (The liver is in connection with muscles. The nails are surplus of muscles. It is the metal conquering wood and pushing down the livers joyful distribution [of qi]. Even as pungent can supplement the liver too much causes harm.)

From eating too much sour, the flesh thickens and the lips peel. (The spleen is in connection with the flesh and flower in the lips. Wood overcomes earth. To thicken means the limbs and skin thickens.)

From eating too much sweet, the bones becomes diseased and the hair fall off. (The kidneys are in connection with the bones and they flower in the hair. Earth overcomes water.)

These are the damages caused by the five flavors.


Herbs have [their] substances. They have a shape, nature, qi and material substance. They enter certain meridians. As they have shapes, they reflect similar things. Liánqiào* resembles heart and enters the heart. Lychee seed resembles kidneys and enter the kidneys.

They have their own nature. If it is like wood, it enters the liver. If it is like water, it enters the kidneys. If it is moist, it enters the blood region. Dry enters the qi.

The origin of heaven is related to the above. The origin of earth is related to the below. This is because the qi seeks what is similar. If qi has sweet smell it enters the spleen. If qi has burnt smell it enters the heart. It is because their substance is similar. When using top of the herbs, it enters the head. The trunk of the herb enters the body. The branches enter the limbs. The bark moves to the skin. If [the herb] has red flowers or the herbs juice resembles the blood it enters the blood.

This is the natural logic and thus the idea can be grasped.

* Forsythia suspensa, which is commonly called weeping forsythia or golden-bell.

Sun Simiao and Preserving Shén and refining Qì

Sūn Sīmiǎo (孫思邈)Sūn Sīmiǎo (孫思邈) is one of the best known of ancient Chinese doctors. According historians Sūn Sīmiǎo lived between 581-682. Legends however tell that he lived more than 140 years and his body did not decay after his death. When he was buried his body was light as plain clothes.  He, like many other great doctors, was also alchemist and scholar of classical Daoist scriptures like Dàodéjīng (道德經) and Yìjīng (易經).

Today every student of Chinese medicine knows his name and at least two of his works – Essential Prescriptions Worth a Thousand in Gold (千金要方 Qiānjīn Yàofāng) and A Supplement to Prescriptions Worth a Thousand in Gold (千金翼方 Qiānjīn Yìfāng). These works are both huge 30 volume writings combining knowledge from many classics. They are still in use today. The influences of Buddhist medicine coming from India during early Tang-dynasty are also visible in these works and his other writings. The knowledge Sūn Sīmiǎo collected was so vast and important that he became known as King of medicines (Yàowáng 藥王) and temples were later built in his honour.

Like many other great scholar doctors he also wrote about alchemy and ways of preserving life. One of these writings is Inscription of Preserving Shén and refining Qì (Cúnshén liànqì míng – 存神錬氣銘) which is found in Daoist Canon (DZ 834). Today many scholars and doctors consider these texts as mere wishful thinking. Regardless the truth studying them give us great deal of information about the philosophy and world view of the most skilled doctors in past and helps us to understand and follow their thinking through the classics.

Note: While reading the following translation please bear in mind that the Heart also means Mind, Shén is usually translated as spirit and Líng is could be roughly translated as the Great Spirit or Numinous.

孫思邈 – 存神錬氣銘

Sūn Sīmiǎo – Cún shén liàn qì míng

Inscription of Preserving Shén and refining Qì


Human embodiment is dwelling place of Shén and Qì
If Shén and Qì are stored the embodiment is tranquil, strong and healthy
If Shén and Qì disperse the embodiment dies
If one desires to support the embodiment [one must] first calm Shén and Qì
The Qì is mother of Shén, Shén is the child of Qì
If Shén and Qì are whole the life is long and there is no death


If one desires to calm Shén one must refine Yuánqì
[When] Qì is within embodiment
The Shén is peacefully in Qìhǎi
[When] Qìhǎi is full and overflowing
The Heart is calm and Shén is settled
If [Shén] is settled and not dispersing
The embodiment and Heart are concentrated and tranquil
Tranquility peaks to being settled completely1
The embodiment is maintained years everlasting
Always dwelling at the source of Dao and one naturally becomes a Saint

1. (定倶 term comes from Buddhist sources and is usually translated as Samadhi)


Qì is connected to condition of Shén, Shén is connected to wisdom and destiny (Mìng)
Destiny residing within [constantly] maintained embodiment unites with True nature
[Thus one obtains] age equal to Sun and Moon and Dao is obtained
According the inscriptions of refining Qì if one wishes to learn this technique


First the cereals must be renounced and Heart must be placed to Qìhǎi
Store Shén in Dāntián and collect the Heart to tranquillize [its] anxieties
When Qìhǎi is whole one is naturally satisfied
In concentrated Heart cultivation 100 days [bring] small accomplishments
Three years [bring] great accomplishments
First one enters five states [of mind] and then one can go through seven stages


Shén and Líng transform and change exiting and submerging freely
Steep cliffs or thousands miles, leave or staying without hindrances
If Qì does not disperse Qìhǎi fills to overflowing
[When] Shén is still in Dāntián, the embodiment and Heart are always constant
Naturally returns the [youthfulness of] colors to facial features and stature
The embodiment changes to immortal
The hidden and obvious [reveal their] natural origins
One understands hundreds of transformations of Líng
This is called Passing through the world
[One is then] entitled as True person (Zhēnrén)


Heaven and Earth are like his years, sun and moon like his lifespan
With this way one does not [need to] swallowing Qì or saliva nor is it exhausting or painful
[When] needs to eat one just eats, [when] requires rest one sets to rest
Naturally and spontaneously without blocking and without obstacles
Five states and seven stages [all happen by] entering the womb and fixing the contemplation
Student of Dao starts with five states


1. State: Heart has lots of movement and peace is minimal
[In mind] thoughts, green colours and 10 000 things
Conditions come and go without continuity
Jealous, anxious, considering and measuring like a wild horse is the usual human Heart


2. State: Heart has very little peacefulness but lot of movement
[When] regulating movement one enters to peace but Heart disperses and escapes often
[Mind] is difficult to control or suppress and direct it to [this] method
Here the pursuit for Dao begins


3. State: The Heart moves and is still equally
Heart is peaceful and seem directed
Heart in general is peaceful and scattered in equal amounts
[One is able to ] use Heart for the method
Gradually consciousness adjusts and becomes skilled [using the method]

第四時 心靜多動少

4. State: Heart has lots of peace and little movement
The Heart is collected and more and more skilled in [technique]
The movement is right away directed with it
One is truly focused to the present
If [concentration is momentarily] lost then [focus is] immediately obtained


5. State: The Heart has unified direction and is pure and calm
Then doing is not doing and [even] emotional blows don’t move
[Dān]tián has gathered Heart deeply and steadfastly the scattered has made to set
This already completed ones place is clear and one enters to the seven stages
Making use of [method] one naturally obtains [Dao] without obstructions!


1. Stage: Old diseases dissolve
The embodiment becomes light and the Heart joyful
[When] Inside man the Heart is meditative Shén is tranquil and Qì is peacful
Four big (elements) are married and six passions are in profound peace
The Heart is peacefully suspended [over] circumstances and embraces unity and protects the center
Joyfully happy about every new day
This is called “Obtaining Dao”


2. Stage: Crossing over normal limits
One’s appearance returns to younger outlook, form is joyous and Heart is in peace
One opens to Líng and has [all] penetrating vision
Change [your] residence, leave [your] country, select place and settle down
Associates and relative who [once] had known one, no longer recognize him


3. Stage: Prolonging life years to thousand
This is called immortality
Traveling all famous mountains, flying and moving freely
Azure servants follow as guardians, jade women are singing praises
Rising and walking vaporous rosy clouds, green mists offer its support


4. Stage: Refining the embodiment to Qì
Qì revolves [ones] embodiment with light [and one] is called True Human (Zhēnrén)
Appearing and disappearing (living and dying) freely
Brightness and light naturally shines and day and night are constantly illuminated
One can travel all caves and palaces or attend all immortals immediately


5. Stage: Refining Qì to become Shén
One is called Spirit-human (Shénrén)
Transforming and going freely and doing and using without exhaustion
One has power to move Qián and Kūn (Heaven and Earth)
Move mountains or empty the seas


6. Stage: Refine Shén and uniting it with color (substances creating the body)
[One] is called Perfected man (Zhìrén)
[Being] Shén already one connects to Líng
Color and form are not fixed
They respond to moment by changing
And [one] reflects other beings with his shape and form


7. Stage: Embodiment transcends outside material
One distances oneself outside all normal order [of the world]
Together with Jade Emperor of Great Dao reside in Líng-realm
Saints and wise assemble spreading the greatest truth of Mother Nature and universal Líng
There is nothing that could not be reached
Cultivation culminates at the root of Dao
10 000 ways all end here and this is called The Ultimate


People of this age study Dao less [each] day and cannot [obtain even] the first stage
How could they obtain universal Líng?
Ruled with maintaining their stupidity and sentimentality
Only preserving and holding on to their filth and material [wealth]
Four seasons turn and change, their shapes distort and color (body) grows weak
Their substance declines and [they] return to the emptiness
To call this obtaining Dao is absurd!

細詳留意 必獲無疑
賢達之人 逢斯聖矣

These Daoist techniques of embryo-breathing and fixed contemplation keep Shén and halt form
[These] were transmitted orally and not written in language
Having the virtue to meet the Perfected man and this teaching
[One must] be very precise and throughout to keep the idea
These must be learnt without doubts.
Man worthy of attainment will meet this Saint

Chinese Medicine and different approaches to Autoimmune diseases

Definition of autoimmune diseases

Autoimmune diseases are diseases where immune response is attacking ones own organs or tissues. It can affect small area or make itself known throughout the whole body. There are at least three classes of autoimmune diseases that are based on different immunological factors.
First class is cytotoxic hypersensitivity where antibodies bind to ones own cell surfaces and are recognized as the enemy. This can happen for example because foreign chemicals or antibodies bind to cells. This class can include autoimmune diseases born after infections, environmental exposure to chemicals, medicines or injected antibodies like with vaccines.
Second class contains autoimmune diseases where minimal immune complexes cannot be cleared by macrophages and they travel into cell walls. Common areas of deposit of these antibodies are joints, walls of veins and skin. This class include systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and autoimmune response triggered by mold.
Third class is cell mediated immune reaction where helper T cells and monocytes or macrophages try to defend against intracellular pathogens. This kind of immune reaction is normal reaction to mycobacteria, fungi and some parasites. This can also happen with tumors. When this becomes autoimmune reaction this can form diseases like Celiacic disease, Crohn’s disease and psoriasis.
Some autoimmune diseases can be combinations of above and some common autoimmune diseases like Sjögren’s syndrome and spondyloarthropathy do not even fit to any of these categories.
Medical research is finding that many common diseases could in fact be autoimmune diseases. The current list of suspected autoimmune diseases is much longer than list of accepted autoimmune diseases.
The causes of autoimmune diseases are being debated. Commonly it is accepted that some forms have genetic tendency/risk like rheumatoid arthritis, psoriases and diabetes mellitus juvenilis. Some are triggered by environmental factors like toxins or even by medication or vaccinations. Stress seems to be main trigger for some diseases like multiple sclerosis, Addison’s disease, Sjögren’s syndrome and spondyloarthropathy.
The treatment to these diseases by Western Medicine is basically suppressing the immune system. This is usually done by medications and rarely with surgery like thymectomy in myasthenia gravis. Western medicine is quite powerless to do anything, except momentarily easing the symptoms.
View of modern Chinese medicine is quite similar to Western medicine when it comes to autoimmune disease. It concentrates on using modern science to break down the causes and to track down the underlaying root of the problem to cellular level. The treatments are sometimes based on herbal medicine that are selected either from long history of use for similar symptoms or more recent research of biologically active molecules found from plants. Acupuncture and moxibustion are mostly used for symptoms like pain.

Traditional Chinese medicine and autoimmune disease

In ancient text there seems to be accounts of rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease like Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis and many other autoimmune diseases. In most cases presented in classics we cannot possibly know what the disease truly was. From short list of symptoms we do not know if the disease was for example lyme borreleosis or multiple sclerosis, or was it non-autoimmune form of arthritis or rheumatic one. What we know is some of the methods diagnose and treat. And in some cases we even know the results… if we can trust our sources.

Traditional Chinese medicine still relies old form of diagnosis done by looking, asking, listening, smelling and taking pulse. The diseases are then differentiated using for example eight principles and Zangfu-theory. The diagnosis and treatment will depend on school and expertise of the practitioner. The most commonly used diagnostics and treatments are based on Zangfu, Five phases, Bi&Wei-syndromes and Wind-syndromes. One of the best books with this approach is Treating Autoimmune Disease With Chinese Medicine written by Wanzhu Hou, Guangpi Xu and Hanjie Wang (ISBN 978-0-443-06974-1).
To illustrate this approach we take an example from the book. According the authors the aetiology and pathology of Systemic lupus erythematosus can be presents to be caused by one or all of the following:

The Systemic lupus erythematosus can be differentiated by symptoms to following main categories:

The book prescribes different points and herbs for possible treatment and includes couple of case studies.
In light of element theory most of the autoimmune diseases have characteristics of various degrees of Yin deficiency, heat and phlegm (turbid dampness). This approach works greatly to relieve the symptoms and sometimes this can provide a cure for disease itself. In many cases of autoimmune diseases this approach only works to relieve the symptoms. In many cases this relieving symptoms is already very great achievement. For example in multiple sclerosis the myelin is destroyed in relapse phases and if this relapse can be shorten or stopped the amount of damage to nervous system is minimized and the body has time to recover during remissions. This can slow down or even stop the advancement of multiple sclerosis and at least the symptoms during the relapse are eased.

Explaining autoimmune disease with Shānghán lùn by Zhāng Zhòngjǐng

张仲景 - Zhāng Zhòngjǐng (150 — 219)

张仲景 – Zhāng Zhòngjǐng (150 — 219)

The classics like Shānghán lùn (Treatise on cold damage), Sùwèn and Língshū are more concentrated on our energetic structures and their reson

ance with cosmic forces than classification of symptoms to elementary correspondences. These classics describe how the pathogenic factors travel in our systems and how the diseases patterns develop and change. These theories, especially Shānghán lùn theory, are usually used to

explain acute diseases with emphasis of cold pathogen. The energetic structures and possible ways the disease may develop apply also to other diseases.

In chapter 6 the Sùwèn explains how the three Yang and three Yin together make six continuous looping channels. The 31th chapter explains how a cold disease develops and travels through this channel system. The Shānghán lùn uses this six channel theory from Sùwèn and explains symptoms and principles of healing in much greater depth. The depth of the six channels are, from superficial to deeper, Tàiyáng (small intestine and bladder channels) → Shǎoyáng (sānjiāo and gallbladder channels) → Yángmíng (large intestine and stomach channels)→ Tàiyīn (lung and spleen channels) → Juéyīn (xīnbāo and liver channels) → Shǎoyīn (heart and kidney channels). The disease progresses through these levels usually in different order. The primary order of progression in Shānghán lùn is Tàiyáng → Shǎoyáng → Yángmíng → Tàiyīn → Shǎoyīn → Juéyīn (1) . After getting to Juéyīn the disease may even result in death. The difference between the depths and progression order is due channel pathways. The disease advances from Tàiyáng to foot portition of Shǎoyīn (kidney meridian). From kidney meridian it travels to Juéyīn ending up to Xīnbāo – or hand/yang portion of Juéyīn. In English literature the Xīnbāo is commonly translated as Heart protector or Pericardium. Xīnbāo is intimately connected to the Heart and true Heart-channel. We have to remember that what is commonly called as the Heart-channel is in fact only a superficial branch of the true Heart meridian. The real Heart-channel lies deep with and cannot be pierced and have no points on it. This is also the reason why the Heart channel is not mentioned in oldest of texts and why the Xīnbāo-channel was sometimes called the Heart-channel. It is said that if the pathogens could get into True Heart-channel the Shén or spirit would leave and death would follow. So the True Heart channel is protected by Xīnbāo.

In regards of autoimmune diseases these theories of depth and progressions provide few very interesting points. The Shǎoyáng (Sānjiāo and gallbladder) is the axis of all Yang channels. Diseases in this level are considered to be in between states. They are not fully internal nor external. They have characteristics of moving and changing. They can manifest as shaking, chills, intermittent fevers, uncomfortable breathing and constantly changing pains. Gallbladder channel is responsible of peripheral nervous system and is connected also to Marrow. Marrow in Chinese medicine also includes spinal cord and brain. The master or meeting point of all Marrows lays in gallbladder channel (GB 39). Sānjiāo connects the brain to the three Dantian. It is also deeply connected to harmonious working of all endocrine glands which control the hormonal balance of body. Shǎoyáng is the harmonizing axis of all Yang channels that are responsible of all activity of body
The Juéyīn is more connected to the Liver, Detoxification, Blood, tissues, body and form. The Xīnbāo portion is also connected to thymus responsible for “educating” the T-Cells which plays key part in adaptation of immune system. It is the utmost Yin. If this level gets affected the Yin becomes disharmonious and cannot transform to Yang. This can cause deformity and dysfunction of tissues. In more serious level the separation of Yin and Yang can happen, meaning death.
The autoimmune disease can be seen as breaking of this fundamental harmony. In classics these states are seen as result of diseases that were not fully healed. In Western medicine it is also accepted that certain prolonged diseases can trigger autoimmune response. And even improper use of medicals (like antibiotics) can cause autoimmune diseases like Crohn’s disease (2).
This theory also applies to other diseases arising from foreign chemical entering the body. Recently in Finland there has been cases of narcolepsy caused by swine flu vaccinations(3). Even though the narcolepsy is not considered autoimmune disease the cases seem very similar in the eyes of Chinese medicine diagnostics as the Shǎoyáng is responsible for harmonizing the activities of Yang channels. The Sānjiāo and Gallbladder channels are often used to treat diseases of brains and more generally the whole nervous system. The points from gallbladder (ie. GB38) and Xīnbāo (ie. XB8-9) channels are used for example to treat penicillins induced allergic reaction. The gallbladder channel and its corresponding Zang-organ liver are responsible for muscle and tendon level of body, the very same depth the vaccines are injected into. The liver belong to the Juéyīn-level and is responsible for detoxifying the body.

  1. In Sùwèn chapter 31 this order is Tàiyáng → Yángmíng → Shǎoyáng → Tàiyīn → Shǎoyīn → Juéyīn.
  2. http://gut.bmj.com/content/early/2010/10/21/gut.2010.219683.short
  3. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/healthnews/9171414/Swine-flu-vaccine-linked-to-sleeping-disorder.html

Emotional causes and Xīnbāo-theory of doctor José Luis Padilla Corral

心包絡經In clinical practice of Chinese medicine the patients are interviewed quite throughly. Practitioners quite often note how the diseases are triggered after prolonged emotional stress culminating in emotional turmoil . In clinical work this seems to be much more evident and common than the modern medical studies seem to indicate. It seems that it sometimes takes about 2-6 months after the worst peak in turmoil before the disease begins to manifest its first symptoms. The earlier beginning is however sometimes evident in patients dreams in few days. This delayed onset of symptoms can be one reason for statistic inaccuracies.
Some of the best treatment protocols for this kind of autoimmune disease have not been based on five elements but upon Xīnbāo-channel. Best Xīnbāo-channel based treatments that I have tried were developed by Dr. José Luis Padilla Corral. They are mostly based on idea of Xīnbāo and problems of identity and not being able to “follow ones own Heart”. Many times our minds, expectations, cultural conditioning and feelings “fight each other” creating “civil war” inside. According him this condition within body is one of the main reason for autoimmune response. His treatments utilized points from Xīnbāo and Gallbladder. His later treatment patterns used acupuncture and moxibustion to points like Bl22, Xb7, Du 10-11 plus selections very similar to those in Treating Autoimmune Disease With Chinese Medicine. In many cases both of the treatments based on Corral view have proven very fast and effective. The points in his later protocol however rise many thoughts in everyone familiar with Xiānghǔo lùn (Treatise on Ministerial fire).

Autoimmunity and Sānjiāo



Even though some of the autoimmune diseases are usually born with similar histories sometimes there seemed to be no relationship to previous symptoms or diseases. In these cases no amount of treatment with Five phases theory is enough to really extinguish the fire. The flames of inflammation always return sooner or later. If we wish to go deeper we need to take closer look to the root of the channels.
Sānjiāo is a peculiar channel or system. In relation to yuán points it is said in Nanjing 66:
“Under the navel and between the kidneys is moving qi. It is the life and fate of man. It is the root and source of 12 channels. That why they are called yuán (points). The Sānjiāo is the peculiar envoy of yuánqì. It is master of passages moving three qì. It channel passes in five Zàng and six fǔ. Yuán (origin) is the honorary title of Sānjiāo. Therefore [the points] where it stays seated are called yuán[-points].” (1)
The place between the kidneys and under the navel is the dantian or Mìngmén. Sānjiāo is the origin or source of all other meridians. Mìngmén is the ministerial fire. Zhū Dānxī (1280-1358) in his book Xiānghǔo lùn or Treatise on Ministerial wrote that “Only fire is twofold. [One] is called sovereign fire that is human fire; [The other] is called ministerial fire that is heavenly fire ”(2).
The ministerial fire as it is “born from Nothingness it holds [its] seat of behests. Because its movements are clearly visible we speak of ministerial [fire]”(3).
This is one of the ancient “secrets” now almost totally forgotten. For many the Sānjiāo is just a strange channel without much use save the local pain. The cosmology and the classics however explain the whole structure of human being stemming from Mìngmén through this ministerial fire. It is the fire of life in human being. The Xiānghǔo lùn further explains “[If] the Heaven were without this fire it could not give birth to beings. [If] Humans were without this fire they could not be born (or live).” (4)

So what does this fire mean for autoimmune disease? Zhū Dānxī explains how “fire stirs by expectations (wàng)”. This term wàng has lot of meanings. It means expectations, presumption, but also being false, double faced, pretentious, being full of oneself, absurd and disordered. This wàng is the reason for our stress. In modern world the most stress seems to come (according patients) from work, social relationships and also from within family. It can be that one is forced to act differently from ones feelings or own just have to repress the conflicting desires. Sometimes it is the hopeless dream one has had never courage to live. In many times these hope create false patterns of behavior, feeling and reacting as a way to cope with the tension inside.
This fire once aroused “transforms and changes without measures. It simmers and boils true Yīn. [When] Yīn is empty there is disease [after] yīn is exhausted there is death”(5). As the Sānjiāo is the source and root of all the channels the fire spreads to the other channels and starts acting as “the enemy of yuán qì” as it is expressed in Sùwèn. Zhū Dānxī quotes classics and commentaries and explains briefly how the different disease are born because of this fire.
This explains one one point technique that has proven the most effective in autoimmune treatments, the moxibustion of Sānjiāoshū (BL 22). You may wonder why to use moxa for fire but in this case it is using a human fire to sooth the heavenly fire as presented in Sùwèn. This usually cuts the process but you get lasting cure one needs to add points to release “expectations and pretenses” or wàngs according their nature.

  1. 《黃帝八十一難經 六十六難》 臍下腎間動氣者,人之生命也,十二經之根本也,故名曰原。三焦者,原氣之別使也,主通行三氣,經歷於五藏六府。原者,三焦之尊號也。故所止輒為原。
  2. 《朱丹溪相火論》 惟火有二,日君火,人火也。日相火,天火也。
  3. 《朱丹溪相火論》 生於虛無守位稟,因其動而可見,做謂之相。
  4. 《朱丹溪相火論》 天非此火不能生物,人非此火不能有生。
  5. 《朱丹溪相火論》 火起於妄,變化莫測,無時不有,煎熬真陰,陰虛則病,陰絕則死。

Hypothesis about Autoimmunity, Earth changes and the Sun

During past decades the autoimmune diseases have become more and more common. This might be due our own actions of poisoning our environment and food, increased use of vaccines and medications that are rarely properly prescribed. But still this does not explain all the cases. In modern times we also have much more freedom for self expression and less burdens from moral restrictions. How could the Sānjiāo and theory of ministerial fire explain the increase?
Zhū Dānxī referred ministerial fire as heavenly fire that is needed to give birth to the living things. This fire is the sun. Dàoshū (Daozang 1017 道樞) explains: “Man stands between Heaven and Earth in accordance of life. This is called Mìng (fate). [When] man is arriving as an embryo his kidney first receives it form. Then grows [others of the] five Zàng (organs). Therefore kidney is Mìngmén, The left [kidney] is Shǎoyáng that is like Heaven and Sun. The right is Tàiyīn, Earth and Moon. [Kidneys] are the Tàijí of the whole body, the ending sentence and the beginning of persons life.”(1)

Zhēnyī jīndān jué – Zhēnyī secrets of golden elixir (真一金丹訣) written by Wáng Chángjí (王常集) during Sòng-dynasty. It explains: “Channels are distributed up and down, left and right, throughout and everywhere. At the left there is a channel united with left kidney. It belongs to yīn, it is Moon and master of Water. Its number is one. At the right there is one channel united with right. Root of man before his birth in right kidney is Mìngmén. It belongs to yáng and is like Sun. Sun is master of three Hún and its color is red. It is fire. Fire suppresses Yuángōng (Palace of the Origin). Its number is seven.”(2)

In classical texts the human body is sometimes compared to Earth and it is being influenced by the sun, seasons and winds. The term Qì also means weather and air. Currently our sun has again shown increase in activity. The Earths magnetic fields has undergone changes and its magnetic poles have started moving with increasing speed. The earthquakes and volcanoes are experiencing up-ticking and the weather has given us a display of serious “anomalies”. It is being argued if this is man made phenomenon or if it is part of a normal cycle that modern man is yet unaware of. In either case the earth is undergoing changes in many levels and the whole nature humankind included has to adapt to these changes.

Graph showing solar activity events

The graph showing solar activity events. For more information please see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_variation

The Sun and Mìngmén in man are thought as fire of life. When this fire becomes highly active it burns through us like the spark of evolution and change. This fire acts in Shāoyáng level and can easily make some aspects like immune system overactive, especially if there is no balance within and there is lot of those “expectations and pretenses” (wàng). If it can pass through unobstructed it changes and transforms us and helps us to adapt. Zhū Dānxī quoted Zhōuzǐ (周子) and Zhūzǐ (朱子) and told how “the sages were fixed in their centers, were truthful, humane and righteous and mastered stillness”(3). If one “acts as Tao was his Heart and master of body then his human heart always hears(4) his destiny. This is truly the proper way to deal with the fire!”(5)

  1. 《道樞》人受天地之中以生,所謂命也。人之就胎,其腎先受形焉,次之以生五臟,故腎為命門者也。其左為少陽,為天,為日;其右為太陰,為地,為月,是一身之太極判而始生者也。
  2. 《真一金丹訣》 經分上下,左右衝通,左有一經,連左腎,屬陰為月,主水,數之一也;右有一經連於右腎,本男先生於右腎,為命門,屬陽為日,日、王三魂,色赤為火,火鎮元宮,數之七也。
  3. 《朱丹溪相火論》 圣人定之以中正仁義而主靜。
  4. Tīng (听) means to listen, hear and obey.
  5. 《朱丹溪相火論》比使道心常為一身之主,而人心每听命焉。 此善處乎火者。


Treating Autoimmune Disease With Chinese Medicine written by Wanzhu Hou, Guangpi Xu and Hanjie Wang (ISBN 978-0-443-06974-1)
Notes from Autoimmune Diseases lectures held by Gandul Saris-Sauri, Neijing-school May 20-21 2006.

Additional sources for those interested in connection between Sun, ionosphere, magnetosphere and earthquakes:

Induction magnetometer, http://www.haarp.alaska.edu/cgi-bin/scmag/disp-scmag.cgi
Digisonde Scaled Data, http://www.haarp.alaska.edu/cgi-bin/digisonde/scaled.cgi
HAARP VHF Riometer, http://www.haarp.alaska.edu/cgi-bin/riometer/riom2_sel.cgi
Ionospheric Map, http://www.ips.gov.au/HF_Systems/6/5
Integrated space weather analysis system, http://iswa.gsfc.nasa.gov/iswa/iSWA.html
Solar dynamics, http://sdo.gsfc.nasa.gov/data/
Space weather, http://spaceweather.com/
Seismic monitor, http://www.iris.edu/seismon/
University of Delaware: Bartol Research Institute – Neutron monitor program,
GNSS and Ionospheric Scintillation, http://www.insidegnss.com/node/1579
SWMF (Magnetosphere-Ionosphere) Real-time run, http://ccmc.gsfc.nasa.gov/cgi-bin/SWMF_RealTime_browse.cgi
Plot of solar cycle 23 and 24 sunspot data, http://www.nwra.com/spawx/ssne-cycle2324.html

A statistical study on the effect of earthquakes on the ionosphere, based on the subionospheric LF propagation data in Japan, http://hal.archives-ouvertes.fr/hal-00318154/

Physical mechanism of the action of solar activity and other geophysical factors on the state of the lower atmosphere, meteorological parameters, and climate, http://iopscience.iop.org/1063-7869/36/7/A09/pdf/1063-7869_36_7_A09.pdf (not free!!!)