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Proceedings of the 15th International Symposium on the
Comparative History of Medicine- East and West
August 26-September 3, 1990
Susono-shi, Shizuoka, Japan
Edited by
Ishiyaku EuroAmerica, Inc.
Division of Medical History, The 'Taniguchi Foundation
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History of Psychiatry (4th)
Public Health (5th)
History of Medical Education (6th)
History of Obstetrics (7th)
History of Pathology (8th)
History of Diagnostics (9th)
History of Therapy (lOth)
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History of Hygiene (12th)
History of Epidemiology (13th)
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The Comparison between Concepts of Life-Breath in East and West
Proceedings of the 15th International Symposium
on the Comparative History of Medicine-East and West
August 26-September 3, 1990, Susono-shi, Shizuoka, Japan
Division of Medical History, The Taniguchi Foundation
ISBN 1-56386-022-8
Printed in Japan
List of Contributors v
Foreword . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . vii
Pneuma, Qi, and the Problematic of Breath
Vital Breath (priifJ.a) in Ancient Indian Medicine and Religion
Daoqi- Existence Between God and Man
Concepts of Qi in Ancient China
The Life Philosophy of Ancient China and Qi
Animal Spirits and Eighteenth-Century British Medicine
Zhou Tian Gong or the Cosmic Orbit
"The Circulation of Qi in the Body"
The Interpretation of Qi According to Japanese Herbalists
"Two Theories of Etiology in Eighteenth Century Japan"
The Concept of Qi in Early Chinese Ophthalmology
Index ..................................................... 243
List of Contributors
(* home address)
Toshihiko HANAWA
The Oriental Medicine Research Center of the Kitasato Institute
5-9-l Shirokane, Minato-ku, Tokyo, Japan
Department of Chinese Literature, Daitobunka University
l-9-l Takashimadaira, Itabashi-ku, Tokyo, Japan
Wellcome Institute for the History of Medicine
183 Euston Road, London, NWI 2BE, United Kingdom
* 3-ll-15 Shimo-ochiai, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo, Japan
Jiirgen KOVACS
Institute of the History of Medicine, University of Munich
Lessingstr. 2, D-8000 Munich 2, Germany
Shigehisa KURIY AMA
Graduate Institute of the Liberal Arts, Emory University
Atlanta, Georgia 30322, U.S.A.
Liu Chang Lin
Institute of Philosophy, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences
No.5, Jianquomen Nei St, Beijing, 100732, China
Faculty of Letters, Osaka City University
Sugimoto-cho, Sumiyoshi-ku, Osaka
Research Institute for the Humanities, Kyoto University
47 Higashi Ogura-cho, Kitashirakawa, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto, Japan
Oriental Medicine Research Center, The Kitasato Institute
5-9-1 Shirokane, Minato-ku, Tokyo, Japan
Department of Medical History, School of Medicine
Juntendo University, 2-1-1 Hongo, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo, Japan
Kenneth G. ZYSK
Department of Near Eastern Languages and Literatures
Kevorkian Center for Near Eastern Studies, New York University
50 Washington Square South, New York, NY, 10012, U.S.A.
HE International Symposium on the Comparative History of
Medicine- East and West, sponsored by The Taniguchi Foun-
dation and held each autumn at the foot of Mt. Fuji, has recently
become well known through the series of published Proceedings (see
copyright page for titles.)
When Mr. Toyosaburo Taniguchi, on behalf of the Taniguchi
Foundation's Board of Directors, first urged the late Professor Teizo
Ogawa to undertake the planning of an international symposium that
would bring together promising young scholars from various coun-
tries to consider medical history in comparative ways, questions
immediately arose: whom to invite, from which countries, and
whether, after all, such a symposium would be successful. Yet for us it
was a wonderful opportunity.
The 15th symposium was held at the Fuji Institute of Education
and Training in Susono City, Shizuoka, from August 26th to Sep-
tember 3rd, 1990. The topic chosen was the Comparison Between
Concepts of Life-Breath in East and West and a total of eight papers
were presented, four by the Japanese, two from the United States, and
one each from United Kingdom, China. Each paper gave rise to
heated discussion and the symposium was very successful.
It is our continued hope that each of our symposia will contribute
to the aims of the Taniguchi Foundation as well as to the field of
medical history worldwide.
March 1994 YosiO KAWAKITA, M.D.
Chairman of the Organizing Committee
for the Taniguchi Symposium
Emeritus Professor of Chiba University
HIS symposium with the theme of "the comparison between
concepts of life-breath in East and West" was organized with the
intention of comparing the concepts of life-breath which are repre-
sented by pneuma of the ancient Greeks, prana of the ancient Indians,
and qi of the ancient Chinese. The reports and discussion over the
past five days has been very stimulating and I have acquired a great
deal of information and have gained many insights. I would like to
summarize what I have learned through this symposium and make
some comments.
As Dr. Kuriyama emphasized in his presentation, there are un-
deniable similarities and mutual correspondences between the three
concepts of pneuma, prana, and qi. Be that as it may, these concepts
cannot be carelessly interchanged. When these concepts are placed
within the framework of each culture and conceptual system, right
away one will find that they each link up with different elements to
compose an entirely unique network of assumptions (meaning).
Therefore, with these terms there are justifiable reasons for emphasiz-
ing the uniqueness and inconvertibility into other languages. It is a
given that in historiagraphical work one should attempt to under-
stand each culture and world view from within each culture. Without
this approach, we cannot arrive at a true understanding of various
cultures and world views. But at the same time, we must not lose sight
of the similarities and compatibilities which exist between these con-
cepts. Naturally, all cultures are a combination of a certain set of
elements. In my way of thinking, when cultures are viewed contempo-
raneously, in each period, all cultures possess all the various cultural
elements as a potential. Differences between cultures are nothing
other than differences in the combination of cultural elements which
have become manifest. In this regard, it is important to clarify in
what sense and contexts the concepts of life-breath are similar or
The concepts of life-breath, specifically that of pneuma, prana, and
qi, were all formed or elaborated in classical antiquity. This was
pointed out by Dr. Kuriyama, but this matter requires close attention.
Of course the origin of the concept of prana in ancient India far
predates the concepts of life-breath in Greece and China, but if we
view the period in which these concepts were systematized in medi-
cine, they can be considered to be roughly contemporary. This period
of classical antiquity was a time when humanity constructed and
systematized conceptual models for nature as well as for the universe,
and various theories of astronomy were created. In addition, human
beings began to reflect on their own thinking, and systems of logic and
geometry were developed. Simultaneously, in the realm of ethics and
religion, it was a period when standards of universal value were born
with figures such as Socrates, Jesus, Buddha, and Confucius.
That the concept of life-breath was formulated or elaborated in
this period of fermentation indicates that the awareness of man, which
had been directed externally toward nature or society, was beginning
to be turned inward to the self within, or the life within. In this way
the self, or the life of the self, became the object of man's inquiry and
endeavor of self-recognition. This self was not merely a passive recep-
tor, but a subject which recognized the whole of society and the
universe. To human beings the self became another world in itself,
which stood in contrast to the external world. This understanding led
man toward greater recognition and reflection on the self within. This
became the basis for the analogy of the macrocosm and the micro-
cosm and its mutual correspondence.
The concept of life-breath is not a relic of the past which only
existed among the peoples of classical antiquity. Just as the ethical
and religious models established in those times are still alive today
and are used to regulate some aspects of our life and society, concepts
of life-breath continue to persist in various forms today. And even
though these concepts are being modified or discounted altogether,
they have left a deep impression on our way of thinking as well as our
daily life.
The first example of this is the medical systems originating in the
classical period which have come down to us today in the form of
traditional medicine. These include Islamic medicine, Aryuvedic med-
icine, and traditional Chinese medicine. People benefiting from these
traditional medical systems cover a vast area of this globe from Africa
to East Asia, and a portion of the population in Europe and America
as well. The number of individuals receiving traditional medical
treatments may even surpass those who receive modern Western med-
ical treatments.
As the second example of the survival of the concept oflife-breath
is the religions which began in classical times that are still powerful
forces in society today. The Latin word which corresponds to the
Greek term pneuma is Spiritus. To the Christians, Spiritus was God
himself. In the teachings of Taoism, as we learned in Professor Mugi-
tani's presentation, the concept of qi plays the central role. Professor
Miura analyzed the history of the practices and techniques of circulat-
ing qi, which were developed in the context of Taoism, and he gave
an account of his personal experiences. In this manner, today these
techniques have become separate from religion and have become
exceedingly popular among the Chinese people as a way of developing
their body and mind. The concept of prana, of which Dr. Zysk clar-
ified the origins and development, also has a broad base of popular
support today which goes far beyond the bounds of asceticism.
The third example of the concept of life-breath surviving to this
day is that these concepts have left an indelible imprint in language
and the lives of people in certain regions. For instance, there is proba-
bly no other concept which has permeated into everyday use in the
East Asian languages as much as that of qi. Not a day goes by in
Japan without reference to the term qi in some context, and this is
probably the case in China and Korea as well. The European term
Spiritus, on the other hand, has in this modern age come to denote
liquor, which is consumed every night and causes intoxication.
The fourth example of the influence of the concept of life-breath in
this age is that the development of modern science and Spiritus were
related in some ways. As Dr. Jacyna reported, the animal spirits
theory, which was a derivative of Galenic concepts of life-breath was a
very powerful theory in eighteenth century English medicine, and it
also served a positive sociological function. Thus the animal spirits
theory of Descartes had a far reaching impact. Also, Newton's
concept of ether which pervaded the entire universe was another
expression of Spiritus. According to Newton, ether was the "senso-
rium of God," by which all activity in the universe was governed. The
concept of ether as subtle matter permeating everything and pervad-
ing the whole universe was finally laid to rest only in the beginning of
this century with the emergence of the theory of relativity.
There are thus many difficult problems in doing a comparative
study of the concepts of life-breath. From a historical standpoint, they
span a time interval of three thousand years, from their origin in
classical antiquity up to the present. This includes the various phases
of transmission, dissemination, and alteration of these concepts as
they influenced man's perception as well as experience. These con-
cepts were a central theme in not only medicine, but in a broad
cultural sphere encompassing philosophy and religion. Therefore,
these concepts were not only the object of logical analysis, but some-
times became the subject of a common practice among people with
sacred beliefs. Studying the origins and early development of the
concepts of life-breath is an extremely complex task due to the paucity
or complete lack of documentation in many cases. Nevertheless, an
immense variety of theories and practices were developed in various
cultures based on these concepts. Often these concepts have to be
viewed within the context of certain religious or therapeutic practices
because they are inseparable from the experience of the practitioners.
Thus, instead of strict textual research, what is necessary is multi-
disciplinary approaches including anthropology, sociology, and
This subject was addressed by Professor Liu and Mr. Hayashi, by
focusing on the field of East Asian medicine in terms of its philosophy
and its relation to religion. Professor Mugitani and Professor Miura
discussed the extensive range of East Asian cultural features, of which
the concept of qi forms an essential core. In any one of these areas of
discussion, there is not only a problem of theories, but also that of
practice. Therefore, in addition to being the object of historical and
sociological analysis, this concept is the object of anthropological
studies. From an anthropological standpoint, we run into the prob-
lem of how to record and explain the experiences of those who main-
tain these belief systems.
A case in point is that there was a very interesting difference
between the reaction of the Western scholars and the scholars from
the East in regard to qigong, which was reported and demonstrated by
Professor Miura. The scholars from the Asia, who use the word qi on
a daily basis, even though they may not believe that such phenomena
are possible, took a sympathetic attitude with the view that it was at
least conceivable. Western scholars, on the other hand, seemed to
reject the whole notion outright.
In our discussion, the similarities and differences of prana, qi, and
animal spirits came up repeatedly, but the comparison of concepts of
life-breath in different cultures always raises more difficult questions.
When the similarities are emphasized, differences seem to appear.
And when the differences are emphasized, more similarities seem to
surface. Thus we were faced with a two headed monster. Dr.
Kuriyama, in his comparative study of concepts of life-breath- that
of pneuma in Greece and qi in China- found similarities and
correspondences within the context of historical development. But he
had to turn to what he considers another facet of the problem, which
is the issue of the marked difference in the perception of the body in
these cultures.
Dr. Hanawa, on the other hand, described how the concept of qi
and the path of qi in traditional Chinese medicine was radically
altered in eighteenth century Japan by the physicians of the Koho
School. This indicates that although the term qi is a common concept
contained in many words in both Japanese and Chinese, there are
some marked differences in the understanding of the term between
Japan and China. Here is another example of the problem of incon-
vertibility of concepts and terms between two different cultures.
Eight papers were presented in this symposium with a theme cov-
ering a wide range of areas and issues. Based on their specialties and
interests, the speakers selected and discussed various aspects of the
theme from different perspectives. I found the discussion enlightening,
stimulating, and interesting. Because of the limitation on time, I will
not make detailed comments on each paper, but instead I would like
to address the main theme of "the comparison between concepts of
life-breath in East and West." Since Dr. Kuriyama's paper provides
excellent direction in this respect, I would like to use his paper as a
guide in discussing the significance of the emergence of the concept of
life-breath in the history of mankind.
The concept of life-breath is a product of history. When mankind
reached a certain stage of development, there arose the need to solve
some basic conceptual problems. The ancient people came up with the
concept of life-breath in their efforts to solve these problems. It is
quite likely that early man realized that "breath equals life," through
personal experience. Nevertheless, this idea was conceptualized and
gained great significance only after certain stages of cultural develop-
ment had been reached. This stage in history is called classical antiq-
uity. There were many things in common between different cultures in
this period, such as the problems they faced, the approaches they took
to solve them, and the physical functions which people paid attention
to in solving these problems. Here we can see an underlying affinity
and parallelism in the concepts of life-breath among different cultures.
What were the major conceptual issues ancient people had to
grapple with? In line with the theme of this symposium, one was the
problem of self-recognition as an object in the macrocosm and as a
subject in the microcosm which recognized the macrocosm. Socrates
said "know thyself". Although his words may not suggest self-
recognition directly, they have a symbolic significance. The macro-
cosm was recognized as an existence with a consistent nature or regu-
larity, and the microcosm which corresponded to it was assumed to
have similar characteristics.
Wind served as the medium between the macrocosm and the
microcosm. For the microcosm, wind was breath. Dr. Kuriyama
stated that there was a transition from wind to breath, but I do not
agree with him. I think the discovery of wind as breath was actually
the rediscovery of wind. Ancient people began to perceive wind, not
just as divinities, but as something with a special significance to man.
Wind had three characteristics- regularity, irregularity or sporadic-
ity, and geographical local conditions or geographically localized
features. The recognition of the relationship of the macrocosm to the
microcosm, and the recognition of the self differed according to which
one of the three characteristics of wind were emphasized.
The regularity of wind symbolized the regularity of the macro-
cosm and the unity of the fundamental existence of the cosmos.
According to Dr. Zysk, ancient Indians clearly identified and concep-
tualized the characteristics of wind. To the ancient Indians wind was
good and represented life itself. According to Dr. Kuriyama, archaic
Greeks recognized that winds had localities and irregularities. Dr.
Kuriyama called this irregularity radical predictability. I am not sure
whether all ancient people understood the regularity of wind as radi-
cal predictability. I think their concept of wind was more closely tied
to the archaic Greeks' concept of fate or Miora. For the ancient
people winds determined modes of action, their mentality, and their
physique. At the same time winds could become a pathogen. The
ancient Chinese attached importance to all the features of wind, but
irregularity was considered to be the most important feature of wind
in Chinese medicine. Because winds can be unpredictable, irregular,
and could destroy the regularity and balance between the macrocosm
and the microcosm, they were considered to be pathenogenic.
The relationship between the macrocosm and the microcosm was
one of outside to inside. Wind, as it is, is an external phenomenon, but
the breath, which is also wind, is an internal phenomenon. As seen in
historical records in India and China, the passages to the inside for the
wind to become the breath was conceived as the seven or nine orifices
of the body. These are the seven or nine holes which open to the
surface of the body. It goes without saying that the nostrils and the
mouth are the most important openings for respiration. In China
there was early recognition of respiration through the skin, and this
had a large impact on the concept of the body as well as pathology in
Chinese medicine. When winds enter the body as breath, the body
becomes an entity which shares the essence of the macrocosm. The
issue of the concept of life-breath, which pervades both the micro and
macrocosm, and the interrelation between these two spheres came up
again and again in this symposium. It is clear from our discussion that
there are diverse and varied solutions possible for solving this concep-
tual problem.
The life-breath which entered and left the body through its open-
ings, especially the mouth and nose, was conceptualized as the subtle
matter or fluid which contained vital energy. And in Asia this energy
was thought to flow to every part of the body by way of some system
of channels. It was thought that this principle controlled the essential
life functions of the body such as respiration, circulation, digestion,
and elimination. Basically two types of practices can be considered to
have affected the formation of this concept: One is breathing tech-
niques and the other is therapy or treatment. These two may also be
referred to as religious practices and medical practice. Naturally great
difference arose in the concept of life-breath between the ancient
Greeks who did not have any breathing practices and the ancient
Indians and Chinese who practiced and recorded these in detail. In
this regard, the similarities between prana and qi have been raised
The role of medical practice in the conceptual development of
life-breath was not discussed or reported on very much in this sympo-
sium, but this should not be overlooked. For example, the unique
features of traditional Chinese medicine is in part a product of the
techniques of acupuncture and the theories which resulted from it.
The act of inserting needles in the body was thought to facilitate the
flow of qi where it was stagnant, to supplement qi where it was
deficient, or to drain it where it was excessive. This practice undoubt-
edly had a great i ~ p a c t in creating the unique features of the concept
of life-breath in China.
The last issue which needs to be addressed is the problem of the
relationship between the mind and the body. This problem is one
which remains unsolved to this day. It is gradually being clarified how
there are correspondences between psychological processes and
physiological processes. The very fact that there are said to be corre-
spondences, however, means that there are gaps between these pro-
cesses. I have my doubts as to whether t h i ~ problem can be solved by
science. The concepts of life-breath such as pneuma, prana, and qi
have played a decisive role in traditional societies as an approach to
solving the problem between the body and the mind. And even in
more modern medical thinking, they have served as a useful principle
to explain certain phenomena. The difference in the perception of how
the mind controlled and interfaced with the body was what lead to
differences in the perception of the body.
In conclusion I would like to thank all the participants, guests,
observers, and interpreters for making this symposium a wonderful
feast of ideas, and we are deeply indebted to the Taniguchi Founda-
tion for their generous support.
October 1994 KEIJI YAMADA
Pneuma, Qi, and the Problematic of Breath
Graduate Institute of the Liberal Arts
Emory University
Atlanta, Georgia 30322
propose in this essay to explore the implications of what is perhaps
the most remarkable feature of classical Eurasian medicine. I mean
the centrality, in very different cultural traditions, of strikingly similar
ideas. The notion of pneuma figured at the core of traditional Euro-
pean discourse on the living body; the notion of qi similarly defined
the pivot of medical analysis in China. But the two notions also
shared a close conceptual affinity. Indeed, early European mission-
aries identified qi as simply the Chinese name for what Greek physi-
cians had called pneuma; and until recently, both pneuma and qi were
routinely rendered into English by the same term: "breath."
My essay focuses on two questions. The first concerns the mean-
ing of this affinity. How are we to interpret the fact that Greek and
Chinese physicians, who presumably had no contact with each other,
shared, nonetheless, central intuitions about the secret of human life
and activity? What, if not mere coincidence, does the similarity
between pneuma and qi signify?
My second query probes how this puzzling similarity relates to the
profound dissimilarity opposing Greek and Chinese conceptions of
embodiment. Given, that is, the pivotal importance of pneuma and qi
in Greek and Chinese medicine, and given the parallels between these
key concepts, how is it that the two traditions reached radically dis-
parate conclusions about the nature and workings of the human
body? Did European and Chinese ideas about the body diverge de-
spite the affinity between pneuma and qi? Or must we ultimately trace
the germs of divergence back to nuances differentiating pneuma from
qi, Greek breaths from Chinese breaths?
Both these questions have application beyond the study of Greek
and Chinese medicine. Historians of Ayurveda might interject here,
and quite rightly, that the issues I raise with regard to pneuma and qi
can and should be extended to the notion of prlina and the Indian
analysis of embodiment. 'l Anthropologists, for their part, could no
doubt make parallel claims for concepts of body and "vital breath" in
many of the cultures they study. This is why the questions merit
attention: they represent particular expressions of a general and fun-
damental problematic. Any truly comparative history of the devel-
opment of medical thought must wrestle, on the one hand, with the
significance of the widespread fascination with breath, and investi-
gate, on the other hand, the relationship of this shared fascination to
the astonishing diversity of somatic conceptions. Together, these
issues constitute what I call the problematic of breath.
But here we come to a peculiar fact. The problematic which I
assert to be critical to the history of medicine has hitherto gone unex-
plored. Detailed accounts exist tracing the evolution of pneuma;
l and
there are excellent histories of the development of qi.
l But no studies
have addressed the comparative concerns on which this essay focuses.
One reason for this, clearly, lies in the preoccupation of traditional
historiography with what I would call local histories- with, first and
above all, the history of Western medicine (often implicitly, and of
course, falsely equated with the universal history of medicine), and
then with the histories of Chinese, Indian, and Islamic medicine
studied in isolation. Questions fundamental to a comparative under-
standing of medical history have not been pursued because the pursuit
of such comparative understanding has itself remained on the histori-
ographic periphery. But there are also more specific explanations.
Those who have recognized similarities between pneuma and qi
have almost invariably observed at the same time, as I myself have
just done, an affinity between these two ideas and the Indian notion of
prana. But whereas I mentioned it to indicate the potential scope of
my puzzles, most scholars in the past have construed the intercultural
reach of these affinities in precisely the opposite way: they have taken
it to bespeak the self-evident naturalness of the fascination with
breath. Thus, in the conclusion of Hiraoka Teikichi's classic study on
qi, we are simply told that the shared insight expressed by qi,pneuma,
and prana "arose naturally" (shizen hassel) from common human
l The ubiquity of pneumatic analysis mirrored the inevita-
bility of the inference that respiration was requisite to life. The affinity
between pneuma and qi was only to be expected.
, It was no cause for
Recent Western scholars of Chinese medicine and philosophy
have also failed to find any mystery in the relationship between
pneuma and qi- but for a contrary reason. Stressing the complexity
and cultural distinctiveness of the idea of qi, Manfred Porkert, Paul
Unschuld, Nathan Sivin, and Benjamin Schwartz have all insisted on
the inadequacy of pneuma, breath, or any other Western concept to
capture the Chinese term's philosophical range and nuances.
l In con-
trast, then, to those scholars for whom the similarity between pneuma
and qi was unproblematic because it was considered natural, and
taken for granted, contemporary Western Sinologists, in their enthu-
siasm for cultural difference, have simply not recognized any signifi-
cant similarities.
Needless to say, I find neither stance satisfactory. I believe that the
affinity between pneuma and qi is neither trivial nor illusory, but a
compelling historical puzzle; and I am convinced, more generally, that
the problematic of breath will prove crucial to the comparative recon-
struction of medical history. But as the preceding remarks indicate,
this position is not widely shared. In addition, therefore, to seeking
answers to my two questions I shall strive to defend the questions
themselves. And in fact, this defense represents the essay's primary
task. My answers are intended as much to articulate the meaning and
importance of the problematic of breath, as to resolve it.
What does it mean that classical Greek and Chinese physicians
shared certain core intuitions? And how do these shared intuitions
relate to the very different conceptions of the body that developed in
Greek and Chinese medicine? In what follows I hope to elucidate not
only why these questions are worth asking, but also why, if we are to
grope beyond local histories of Western medicine and Chinese
medicine toward a history of medicine tout court, asking them is
A final note. I have chosen in this. essay not to treat Greek and
Chinese materials evenly, but rather to weight my discussion toward
the former. This bias will be especially marked in the second half, but
it appears in the first half as well. My motivations have to do in part
with considerations of length: full treatment of both the Chinese and
Greek materials would have required a longer paper; but I have
chiefly taken into consideration the fact that the many of the other
symposium papers take up ideas of body and qi in China and Japan,
whereas this is the only one to deal in some depth with the cultural
context of pneuma.
By late Greek and Roman antiquity it was virtually impossible to
speak of human beings and the cosmos in which they lived without
reference to pneuma or its Latin descendent, spiritus. For physicians
like Galen, the smooth coursing of pneuma throughout the body was
essential to consciousness, perception, and action, and disruptions in
its flow accounted for afflictions ranging from minor twitches and
dizzyness to epilepsy and paralysis. For philosophers like Plutarch
and Cicero, pneuma was the substance common to both the stars and
the human soul, and this connaturality explained the possibility of
prophecy. And for Christians like Origen and Augustine, spiritus
was nothing less than the expression of divine essence: "God," the
Gospels taught, "is spirit (pneuma)."
But pneuma was not always so ubiquitous in European discourse.
Homer "the teacher of the Greeks," did not use the term even once-
and this, despite the crucial role assigned to respiration in Homeric
Hesiod too makes no mention of pneuma. We first
encounter the term in a fragment of the pre-Socratic Anaximenes
(d. 504 B.c.); but fifth century (B.c.) authors still invoke it sparingly:
pneuma occurs once in Pindar, just 6 times in Herodotus' Histories, 8
times in the plays of Sophocles, and 9 times in the Peloponnesian war
Interestingly, and I shall return to the significance of
this point shortly, in 21 of these 24 occui:ences pneuma refers not to
breath but to wind. Generally speaking, the later we move in time the
more often we encounter the term- and the less frequently it occurs
in the sense of wind. We see this in philosophy, for instance, as we go
from the dialogues of Plato (53 references) to the works of Aristotle
(732 references), and in medicine, as we shift from the Hippocratic
writings (431 references) to the treatises of Galen (1,786 references).
The history of qi in China follows a similar pattern. While Chinese
works of the Han Dynasty (206 B.C.-A.D. 220) invoke qi incessantly,
and with reference to nearly every conceivable topic, he earliest clas-
sics, such as the Spring and autumn annals, Book of poetry, Book of
documents, and Book of change, do not use the term at all.
The first
work to mention qi, the Analects of Confucius (551-479 B.C.), refers to
it a mere 4 times. A century and a half later, we find it slightly more
visible: it appears 19 times in the classic associated with Confucius'
disciple Mencius (371-289 B.c.), and 39 times in the work of Mencius's
contemporary, the Daoist philosopher Zhuang Zi (4th c. B.c.). But it is
especially in the following two centuries, in syncretic treatises such as
the Lushi Chunqiu (85 references), Huai Nan Zi (105 references), and
Guan Zi (180 references), that qi becomes a leitmotif of Chinese reflec-
tion on the world.
These numbers are, of course, crude indicators, and their precise
interpretation would require that we adjust for such factors as the
length and concerns of particular texts, the size of an author's extant
corpus, and most importantly, the shifting meanings of terms. But
crude as they are, they suffice to illustrate an important point: they
expose the inadequacy of any explanation that would trace the affinity
between pneuma and qi back to prehistoric intuitions of vital breath.
For such explanations fail to account for the most basic similarity
between the two notions: they fail to explain why pneuma and qi
emerged as cultural keywords not in some distant and primitive past,
but in classical antiquity, among the most sophisticated Greek and
Chinese thinkers. While frequencies of usage alone obviously can tell
only part of the story, they do show, and quite unequivocally, that far
from mirroring the infancy of abstract thinking, fascination with
pneuma and qi expressed rather the culmination of mature philoso-
phical reflection in Greece and China. It is after Homer and the Five
Classics, and indeed, after Plato and Confucius, that pneuma and qi
flourished as cultural leitmotifs.
How, then, should we interpret their comparatively late surge into
prominence? To answer this, we need to turn from bare frequencies of
citation to the meanings of the cited terms. And here I come to one of
my principal contentions: the most revealing similarity between
pneuma and qi lay not in their conceptual congruence, or at least not
just in that, but in the way the two notions evolved. The histories of
pneuma and qi shared a common pattern, and it is especially in this
shared historical trajectory that we discover the deeper affinities bind-
ing the two notions.
At the end of this trajectory is the phenomenon that placed
pneuma and qi at the hub of Greek and Chinese medical discourse: the
intensive invocation of pneuma and qi to articulate inner life. Hellenis-
tic physicians called upon pneuma to help explain the pulsing of the
arteries, the contraction of muscles, the warming and cooling of the
body, the perception of objects. Alert wakefulness presupposed a
certain pneumatic tension (tonos), and as the tension lapsed one
slipped drowsily into slumber. Similarly, disparities of strength, the
swerve from despair to hope, explosions of anger and desire, all were
rooted in modulations of pneuma. Chinese physicians, for their part,
imagined qi rising in anger, sinking in fear, and dissipating in depres-
sion. Qi protected the body against noxious influences, provided nour-
ishment to its parts, and revealed itself in the pulsing so central to
diagnosis. To describe all the movements and transmutations of qi
was to describe nothing less than the infinite nuances of lived life.
Pneuma and qi suffused the cosmos, of course, and changes within
the body/self, of course, were not unrelated to changes outside of it,
Indeed, one of the functions of pneuma and qi was to provide a
language to speak of their interconnection. But I want to emphasize
the refinement and complexity of the analysis of inner change both
because it dominates Hellenistic and Han medical discourse, and
because we are apt to take it for granted. Because it is consonant with
our own conception of medicine, it seems perfectly natural to us that
physicians in late antiquity should have been mesmerized by the
intricacies of inner change. But if we tum back to the origins and early
history of pneuma and qi, we do not find, as we might expect, simply a
more rudimentary and undifferentiated understanding of the life
within. We enter a different universe.
In early Greek usage, in the tragedies, for instance, of Aeschylus,
Sophocles, and Euripides, and in the histories of Herodotus and
Thucydides, pneuma refers first and above all to wind. "Winter comes
by sharp winds" (chalepou gar ek pneumatos eisi cheimon) repeats the
chorus in Aeschylus's Suppliant maidens;
l "The wind's course veers,"
(methistatai de pneumata) says Euripides's Creusa of fate's shifting
l To be sure, the sense of breath is not unknown. Aeschylus
speaks, for instance, of a "mare's nostril breath"/
l and Euripides of
the "sweet breath of children" .
) But in the fifth century such usage is
the exception rather than the rule.
Physicians, of course, do mention pneuma with reference to respi-
ration, and Hippocratic treatises commonly describe the various
breathing patterns (pneuma puknon, rapid breath, pneuma araion,
intermittent breath, etc.) displayed by their patients. But even in
medicine, pneuma often means wind. Indeed, a distinctive charac-
teristic of Hippocratic writings- and in this the contrast with later
Hellenistic medicine is quite marked- is precisely the crucial role
played by the study of winds in the study of medicine.
Consider, for instance the opening of the well-known Hippocratic
journal of medical observations, Epidemics I:
There was much rain in Thasos about the time of the autumnal equinox
and during the season of the Pleiads. It fell gently and continuously and
the wind (pneuma) was from the south. During the winter, the wind blew
mostly from the south; winds from the north were few and the weather
was dry. On the whole the winter was like springtime; but the spring was
cold with southerly winds and there was little rain. The summer was for
the most part cloudy but there was no rain. The etesian winds were few
and light and blew at scattered intervals.
The intense wind-consciousness manifest in these lines typifies
what can be found in many other writings traditionally admired as the
core of the Hippocratic Corpus. Major works like Airs, waters, places,
On regimen, On the sacred diseases, and Aphorisms all express the
conviction that subtle shifts of seasonal winds powerfully influence
the dynamics of health and sickness. Epileptics seizures, we learn, are
apt to occur "at any change of wind, especially when it is south-
erly".17l A damp winter with southerly winds followed by a dry spring
with northerly winds, tends to produce miscarriages, dysentery, dry
opthalmia, and catarrhs.
) "If the summer is dry with northerly
winds, and the autumn wet with wind in the south, the winter brings a
danger of headaches and gangrene of the brain."
l No physician
could afford to ignore consequences like these. The first two topics
Airs, waters, places required the Hippocratic disciple to master, there-
fore, were, on the one hand, "the effect of each of the seasons of the
year," and on the other hand, "the warm and cold winds, both those
which are common to every country and those peculiar to a particular
locality. "
) Without prior reflection upon the seasons and winds, it
was impossible to understand the body and its affiictions.
I emphasize Hippocratic attention to winds for two reasons. The
first is that it closely parallels what we find in ancient China. Just as
pneuma as wind preceded pneuma as inner breath, the notion of wind
(feng), as numerous Japanese scholars have pointed out, was the
immediate conceptual ancestor of qi.
l Indeed, among late Warring
States thinkers, and even in the Han medical classics, winds and qi
were often invoked interchangeably. Thus, Wang Chong glosses wind
as qi;
l and conversely, chapter 75 of the Ling Shu will explain, "What
is meant by healthy qi (zhengqz) is healthy wind (zhengfeng)"
Moreover, Chinese physicians shared with their Hippocratic counter-
parts a vivid awareness of wind's potential dangers. Winds, the Chi-
nese medical classics warn, cause sneezing, sore throats and head-
aches, tics and cramps, dizziness and numbness. And that is just the
beginning. "Wounded by wind" (shangfeng), an individual burns with
fever and retches without cease; "struck by wind" (zhongfeng), a per-
son could suddenly drop comatose. Winds inspire madness. Winds
kill. Whereas we now would not invoke it to explain any of our
illnesses, early Chinese physicians discerned wind's influence every-
where. "Wind is the chief of the myriad diseases," the Neijing con-
cludes at one point;
) and elsewhere, "Wind is the origin of the
myriad diseases. "
In the early development of medicine, then, both in Europe and in
China, winds haunted the imagination. Curiously, however, histori-
ans have forgotten this. This is my second reason for insisting upon
pneuma as wind. Scanning the index to Garrison's Introduction to the
history of medicine, we find that the term "wind" is not even listed;
and this also holds true for other standard surveys of medical
history- those of Sigerist and Castiglione, Neuburger and Acker-
) In traditional narratives of medical history, winds appear at
best as a peripheral detail, and more often do not figure at all.
Similar indifference characterizes even studies specifically devoted
to pneuma. In his classic survey of the evolution of the notion, Ver-
beke does not once mention the association of pneuma and wind; and
for their part, monographs and articles on medical pneumatology,
such as Wellmann's classic Die pneumatische Schute, and Jaeger's
"Das Pneuma im Lykeion"
) all concentrate on inner breaths, on
pneuma as it traveled around and functioned within the body.
There is an important history lesson here. Verbeke emphasized the
"spiritualization" of pneuma over the course of antiquity, how, that is,
the material breath of physicians like Alcmaeon was transformed into
the immaterial spiritus of later Christian thinkers. But the preceding
remarks on historiography tell of another, even more decisive evolu-
tion: pneuma, which in early writings was intimately linked to wind,
gradually came to be conceived primarily in terms of changes within
the body. It was as inner breath that pneuma became a cultural idee-
de; and it was as inner breath that pneuma received its most familiar
articulations. The great Hellenistic physicians, from Herophilus
through Galen, evince little trace of the wind-consciousness so reso-
nant in the Hippocratic treatises. The historian's indifference to
winds, in other words, mirrors the results of history itself.
Comparing pneuma and qi, then, we see that the histories of these
notions share two basic features. The first is the early and close asso-
ciation with wind; the second is a drift away from winds and toward
the intensive articulation of inner breaths. These two features consti-
tute what I see as the most essential affinity between pneuma and qi.
And they lead to two questions: 1. What did the early attention to
winds signify? and 2. What is the meaning of the turn away from
winds toward the life within?
Winds in archaic Greece and China were divinities to whom pray-
ers and sacrifice were offered, and whose moods human beings sought
constantly to divine. As such, the imagination of winds in both cul-
tures is rich in mythic and iconographic suggestion.
) But two themes
loom especially large in the classical age. One is the notion of envi-
ronmental influence; the other is the idea of radical contingency.
As I noted above, Airs, waters, places describes a wide range of
afflictions inspired by different winds. But it also speaks of more
general transformations. Thus, those who live in districts exposed to
northerly winds, we are told, will be
sturdy and lean, tend to constipation, their bowels being intractable but
their chests will move easily ... Such men eat with good appetites but
they drink little . . . These men live longer than those I described
before ... Characters are fierce rather than tame.
By contrast, those living in areas exposed to winds "from the quarter
between north-east and south-east, have loud and clear voices,
and ... are of better temperament and intelligence than those exposed
to the north. "
) Winds, in other words, determine not only the afflic-
tions that a people will suffer, but their physique and mentality as
well. The pathological impact of winds was just one aspect of their
comprehensive influence.
Again, it is not difficult to discern analogous intuitions in China.
The influential science of geomancy, fengshui (literally, "wind and
water"), offers perhaps the best-known manifestation of the convic-
tion that we cannot separate the study of geography from the study of
winds, and that geography is destiny. But equally suggestive is the use
of the same term feng to refer not just tQ winds, but to songs- or
perhaps more aptly, "airs". The title of the first section of the Classic
of Odes, Guofeng, "Airs of the states", reflects at least in part the belief
that rulers could diagnose a people by the songs they sang. The Han
Dynasty historian Si Ma Qian recounts how when the sage Jicha
heard the songs of Zheng and Chen, he became upset and foretold
from them the downfall of these states.
l As the Lushi Chunqiu sum-
marized it, "One hears the music [of a state] and knows its customs
(/eng). ,34)
We could also translate this last passage as, "One hears the music
of a state and knows its mood (/eng). "
l Feng encompassed not just
the songs that people sang, but their psychology and mores as well.
Airs, mood, and customs all expressed the dynamics of a locality.
They were all, that is, manifestations of local wind. The fengsu of a
region referred to the customs and lifestyle of its people; but the term
reflected the intuition that local psychology was inspired, quite liter-
ally, by the air the people breathed.
l The geography and environ-
ment of a region, itsfengtu (literally, "wind and earth"), referred also
to regional mores. In all this we are not far from Aeschylus who
meditated on "the spirit (pneuma) of place."
Winds thus form and transform the manners of a people, the
shape of their bodies, the turn of their minds. But winds themselves
are ceaselessly changing. This is the second motif defining the classical
imagination of winds- their radical contingency, their propensity to
arise, abate, and shift directions suddenly and unexpectedly. In Greek
tragedy, winds often express the vagaries of fortune, the breath of the
gods altering the fate of individuals. In Euripides' Suppliant women,
for example, Theseus teaches,
Fools! Be instructed in the ills of man.
Struggles make up our life. Good fortune comes
Swiftly to some, to some hereafter; others
Enjoy it now. Its god luxuriates.
Not only is he honored by the hapless
In hope of better days, but lucky ones
Exalt him too, fearing to lose the wind (pneuma).
The pneumatic character of life makes all happiness fragile, all secur-
ity tenuous. At any moment a "veering change of wind (pneuma)"
may transform fortune into misfortune.
This is perhaps one key to wind's hypnotic hold, the sense that
within its mysterious shifts lay the secret of the world's transforma-
tions. 'Wind," as the Chinese commentators would gloss it, "is altera-
tion" (jeng, hua ye). To Theseus' query about how war could arise
between two traditionally friendly states, Oedipus explains,
Most gentle son of Aegeus! The immortal
Gods alone have neither age nor death!
All other things almight Time disquiets.
Earth wastes away; distrust is born.
And imperceptibly the wind (pneuma) shifts
Between a man and his friend, or between two cities.
For some men soon, for others in later time,
Their pleasure sickens; or love comes again.
Lovers awaken one morning to discover passion inexplicably van-
ished; imperceptibly, close friends become twisted with distrust; rains
plentiful for years suddenly dry up; and overnight a peaceful people is
swept away by the thirst for blood. To imagine winds is, in no small
part, to meditate on the obscure dynamics of such everyday happen-
ings. Not surprisingly, therefore, winds, even as they ceased to be
gods, always retained close ties to divination. Si Ma Qian records how
at dawn of the first day of the year the king scrutinized the direction of
the wind, and divined from this the nature of the upcoming year.
Southerly winds meant drought, northerly winds rain, easterly winds
epidemics, westerly winds wars.
Similarly, Wang Chong tells of how
the directions and timing of winds were used to foretell the shifting
moods of the people, and even individual prosperity and famine.
The intertwining of these two themes- the power of wind to
shape human beings and their lives, and wind's radical unpredicta-
bility- is aptly illustrated by Plato:
As for what is known as the art of medicine, it also is, of course, a form
of defense against the ravages committed on the living organism by the
seasons with their untimely cold and heat and the like. But none of their
devices can bestow reputation for the truest wisdom; they are at sea on
an ocean of fanciful conjecture, without reduction to rule. We may also
give the name of defender to sea captains-and their crews, but I would
have no one encourage our hopes by the proclamation that any ofthem
is wise. None of them can know of the fury or kindness of the winds, and
that is the knowledge coveted by every navigator.
Just as the sea captain attempts to defend his ship against shifting
winds, so the doctor seeks to defend the body against the ravages of
untimely climate. The analogy is not random. In the Statesman, Plato
again refers to seamanship and medicine together, equating the
former with inquiry into nautical practice, and the latter with inquiry
into "winds and temperatures. "
) The first concern of the physician,
in other words, is with weather and climate; but weather and climate
hinge on inscrutable winds. This dependence on winds, common to
both physicians and seafarers, results in a shared consequence: it
establishes an irreducible core of contingency in medicine and naviga-
tion. It prevents both from becoming true sciences. For winds cannot
be truly known.
These remarks hint at one possible interpretation of the develop-
ment of pneuma and qi. We can situate the shift away from winds-
the evolution from pneuma-wind to pneuma-breath, fromfeng to qi-
in the framework of the rise, in both Han China and Hellenistic
cultures, of medicine as a systematic science. Certainly, neither the
Nanjing nor the works of Galen reveal the sense of tentative incomple-
tion expressed by Plato: Qin Yue Ren's treatise presents medicine as
an established system, governed by the regular, albeit complex work-
ings of the yin-yang dialectic, and the cycle of the five phases; and
Galen's understanding of medicine, as Temkin has observed, is of a
knowledge organized on the model of Euclidean geometry.
) These
are sciences founded on fixed certainties, not protean contingencies.
Which is to say that they are not founded on winds. Essential to
the systematization of medical knowledge was a fundamental shift in
the object of knowledge, a reorientation of focus from inscrutable
winds to the knowable- at least such was the presumption- body.
Today, it seems axiomatic that the science of medicine should
above all be a science of the body. But in the earliest Chinese texts, the
Shang oracle bones, the peculiarities of an individual's somatic condi-
tion were no more relevant to understanding a fever or a toothache
than they would have been for explaining why one's crops were de-
stroyed in a storm. The fact that an affliction happened to attack the
body was incidental. The vengeful spirits who brought sickness could
just as easily have inflicted drought and famine. Consequently, neither
diagnosis nor therapy had specific connection to the body: medicine
was the art of identifying and expulsing noxious intruders.
The medicine of the Han classics, by contrast, was a science
founded on intensive scrutiny of the body. And by this I mean not
only that Han Dynasty physicians carefully traced the flow and modu-
lations of qi in the body, and its transfigurations in sickness, but also,
and more importantly, that they made inner disruptions ultimately
responsible for sickness. Not that external influences became irrele-
vant. Far from it. But fundamental to Neijing medicine was the idea
that no disease could arise without predisposing weaknesses in the
individual, and conversely, that without inner regularity health could
not endure. It was a medicine in which destiny lay within the self.
As for early Greek ideas of medicine, we need not go back to the
afflictions wrought by the Homeric gods. Even Plato, as we've
observed above, could still identify medicine with defensive tracking
of unknowable winds; and treatises such as Epidemics, Regimen, and
Airs, waters, places confirm the aptness of Plato's description as a
characterization of Hippocratic concerns. The idea of founding medi-
cine upon the study of the dissected corpse, and indeed the very idea
of anatomy was a post-Hippocratic innovation.
But to speak merely of a shift of attention from winds to the body
would be to miss the real point. For the true significance of the move
from external influences to inner breaths consisted precisely in the
sharp demarcation of inner from outer. What the emergence of
pneuma and qi as cultural leitmotifs signaled, in fact, was nothing less
than the historical creation of the body.
As exemplified most recently by Michel Feher's Fragments towards
a history of the human body,
l it is quickly becoming a commonplace
among anthropologists and cultural historians that the body must be
approached not as a self-evident or natural given, but as a historically
constructed reality. We can distinguish; however, two separate,
though related strands in the constructionist stance. One builds upon
the observation that people in different periods and cultures have
constructed the body very differently. Most of the flourishing
contemporary literature on the body has been devoted either to the
philosophical elaboration or historical instantiation of this point. A
second, far less developed strand of constructionism originates in the
realization, adumbrated early on by Bruno Snell, that the very notion
of the body is itself a product of history.
l Thus, following up on
Snell, Jean-Pierre Vernant reminds us that the archaic Greeks had no
way of talking about "the body" as we commonly think of it today.
They used soma to designate the corpse as an object of lamentation,
demas to refer to a person's stature, chros to describe skin and com-
plexion, and melea to talk of the limbs.
l But they had no term for
"the body" as an objective and self-contained reality.
It is with regard to this second issue of the historical emergence of
the notion of the body that I believe the problematic of breath proves
especially revealing. For it suggests an alternative to the conventional
equation, adopted even by Vernant, of the emergence of the body
with the rise of anatomy.
A world governed by winds, as we have seen, is a world in which
the fortunes and misfortunes of human beings, their health and sick-
ness, and indeed the very shape of their limbs and their thoughts, is
moulded by outside forces, and swept along in greater and ever-
shifting currents of change. Conversely, the move away from winds
toward inner breaths- the core affinity between pneuma and qi-
expressed, I suggest, emerging intuitions of internal autonomy and a
distinctly individualized mode of change. And it is in terms of this
twofold intuition that I think we must conceive of the historical crea-
tion of the body.
It may seem obvious that the creation of the body presupposed
the emergence of a sense of separate identity, a distinction between
inside and outside. What may be less obvious, however, and I think
this is the crucial lesson of the history of pneuma and qi, is that this
experience of difference, the spatial disjunction of inside from outside,
was inseparable from the realization that time is not an all-
encompassing unity, but subject to local privatization. Human beings
could change in rough synchrony with cosmic change. But they were
not locked into cosmic rhythms, and for better and for worse, they
slipped easily into idiosyncratic cadences. Underlying the creation of
the body, I want to argue, was the experience of the person as a locus
of temporal dislocation. Inside opposed outside by a different pace of
My thesis, in short, is that the surge into prominence of pneuma
and qi and the crystallization, in both Greek and Chinese cultures, of
the autonomous body/self, were two sides of the same development;
and that development is the discovery of temporal pluralism. The
essence of both winds and inner breaths was change. But despite the
conceptual and genetic connection between the two, breath's rise to
prominence was predicated on its difference from wind, on the recog-
nition of alternate modes of change. It is from this recognition, I
suggest, that the history of the body begins.
To clarify the relationship between interiority and change let me
now turn to the difference between Greek and Chinese bodies.
That Greek and Chinese conceptions of the body did differ, and
differ radically, is exemplified by two illustrations from two represent-
ative works of later Chinese and European medicine- the Shisi jing
fahui by the Yuan Dynasty physician Hua Shou (Fig. 1), and Andreas
Vesalius' Fabrica (Fig. 2). As we compare the illustrations side by side,
Figure I Figure 2
"lacunae" in one and the other are obvious: the precisely articulated
muscles, so painstakingly detailed in the Vesalian man, are conspicu-
ously absent in Hua Shou's figure; and indeed, traditional Chinese
medical vocabulary contained no equivalent for the notion of muscle.
Fascination with musculature was a peculiarly Western phenomenon.
Conversely, the points and interconnecting channels mapping out the
acupuncture man corresponded to nothing in Vesalius's vision of the
body. Indeed, they could not, for they were invisible, and no Chinese
physician would have maintained otherwise. When, therefore, Euro-
peans in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries first began to
explore the medical literature of China, the descriptions of the body
they encountered struck them like accounts of an imaginary land-
"Phantastical," as one English physician would put it, "Absurd,"
would judge another.
What do such remarkable differences signify? And what is their
relationship to the notions of pneuma and qi? The analysis in the
previous section already informs us of what must be the general form
of our answer. Insofar as both figures represent bodies, they both
must distinguish, on the one hand between an outside and an inside,
and they must, on the other hand, tame contingency. It must be in the
way they fulfill these conditions that they differ.
* * *
As I explained in the introduction, I shall focus primarily on the
Greek side ofthe question. Specifically, I want to pursue the origins of
the muscular body as a puzzle that illuminates essential features of
Greek embodiment. Let me begin, nonetheless, with a brief sketch of
how the Chinese acupuncture man represents a body.
Intimations of ties between acupuncture and winds surface
already in the very term for acupuncture points - xue, literally, "cav-
erns" or "holes". Most immediately, the term suggests a congruence
between acupuncture points and the sites of geomancy, the science of
"wind and water"; for geomantic sites too, like the crucial sites of the
body, were known by the same term xue.
l) This common appellation
in turn most likely derived from myths tracing the origins of winds to
the earth's hollows and openings: legend had it that winds arose when
the feng bird emerged from the wind-cavern (fengxue) in which it
lived, and subsided when it returned to the cavern.
) Implicit in the
term xue, in other words, was a conception of the body in which qi
streamed in and out of strategic orifices in the skin, just as winds
streamed in and out of the hollows and caverns of the earth.
Attention to xue, however, formed just part of the scrutiny which
Chinese physicians concentrated on the body surface. The classical
texts of Chinese medicine place extraordinary weight on details which
from the contemporary Western perspective might seem trivial-the
color and lustre of the skin, it thinness or thickness, and above all the
density and condition of the pores.
) Loose and open pores, we are
frequently told, pose a potentially fatal liability. It is through them
that unseasonal winds pour into the body and give rise to catastrophic
afflictions. Conversely, one may encounter such winds, the Neijing
insists, but as long as the pores are tight then these dangers will be
unable to harm one. If the lustre and color of the skin- two key
diagnostic signs- displayed the vitality within, thick skin and firm
pores protected against invasion from without. By demarcating the
inside from the outside, the skin defined the body.
The isolationism implicit in closed pores is a major theme in
Chinese reflection on the body. Among _other things, it underlies
many techniques of yogic respiration and efforts to achieve immortal-
ity: longevity requires scrupulously safeguarding the regularity of
inner breaths from outer chaos. The classic medical texts, however,
also advocate the opposite stance, whereby illness is attributed pre-
cisely to the uncoupling of inner from cosmic rhythms, and health is
restored only through harmonization of inner and outer. The reasons
for this apparent contradiction are too involved to discuss here. For
our purposes, it suffices to underline the two assumptions shared by
advocates of both isolationism and harmonization, namely, 1. that the
critical balance of health pivots on the opposition of regular and
chaotic change; and 2. that the skin constitutes the border between
inside and outside.
This demarcation, I want to stress, represents more than a com-
monsensical identification of topological boundaries. It reflects the
identity of the Chinese body as an entity defined by mediation
between regular and irregular change, and the privileged role of the
pores as a critical locus of mediation, as the microstructure of human
connection to cosmic time.
Neither of the above assumptions applies to the Greek body. The
critical temporal distinction is not between irregular and regular
change, but between ongoing changes and new initiatives, between
natural processes and human actions. The border separating inside
from outside lies not at the surface of the skin, but rather at the fuzzy
contours surrounding the reach of the will. To see this, let us consider
last the origins of Greek muscularity.
* * *
Figure 3
Figure 4
Figure 5
Figure 6
My starting point is an apparent conflict in the historical evidence.
On the one hand, figural representations of the body in the ancient
world invite us to envisage an almost timeless fascination with muscu-
larity. The reliefs on these Mesopotamian cylinder seals (Figs. 3, 4),
for instance, seem to evince a well-developed awareness of muscula-
ture already at the end of the second millenium B.c. And certainly in
discussing the Parthenon metopes of the fifth century B.c. (Figs. 5, 6),
historians of Greek art have not hesitated to speak of the sculptor's
deft moulding of muscles.
On the other hand, linguistic representations of the body tell a
different story. The term muscle appears not at all in the Homeric
epics, nor can it be found in the Greek historians or dramatists. Plato,
whb was born after the completion of the Parthenon metopes, refers
frequently in his Timaeus to the body's flesh and sinews, but does not
mention muscles even once. Muscles do appear in the Hippocratic
treatises, but remarkably rarely. Even in those Hippocratic works
where one might expect the most detailed attention to musculature,
such as the treatises on Surgery and on Fractures, the preferred term is
not muscles but flesh. In a pattern mirroring that found in India and
China, the Greek author of Fractures thus speaks of "bones, tendons,
and flesh"
l rather than "bones, tendons, and muscles", and he cau-
tions those treating the arm that the "fleshy growth" (sarkos epiphysis)
over the radius is thick, while the ulna is almost fleshless. Nowhere in
the Hippocratic Corpus do muscles receive more than fleeting men-
tion, and nowhere are they explicitly distinguished from the general
notion of flesh.
This disparity between the visual and the verbal representations of
the body leads me to one observation and two questions. The obser-
vation is that the ripples articulating the bodies of classical Greek
sculptures cannot be straightforwardly identified as muscles. While we
today might look upon these figures and think of them as muscle-
bound, it is almost certain that those who created them would not
have described them in this way.
This is not, I want to stress, a quibble about terms. It is rather an
observation about the historical complexity of muscle-consciousness.
Clearly, we would like to say that the artists who moulded the
contours of the Parthenon reliefs were already aware of the body's
muscularity in some sense, even if they didn't speak of muscles. But in
what sense? If not muscles, what did early Greek artists think they
were depicting by the bulges and ripples of their athletes and warriors?
This is my first question.
My second and principal question concerns the origins of the
muscle concept. Sometime between the Hippocratic treatises and the
works of Galen, the traditional language offlesh and sinews becomes
inadequate for Greek discourse on the body. It becomes essential to
refer to muscles. Whereas the plural mues, or muscles, appeared just
14 times in the entire Hippocratic Corpus, it figures over 460 times in
Galen. Or, to use another index, in Hippocratic treatises references to
flesh outnumber mentions of muscles by nine to one; by Galen's time,
they are about equal. What accounts for this shift? What change in
the understanding of the body prompted Hellenistic physicians to
focus so intensively on a notion that previously had by physicians
been invoked only rarely, and by laymen not at all?
My two questions, then, concern the basic issues of continuity and
change. We cannot speak of muscularity as a timeless given; we must
pursue it historically, as a notion that at once unites and separates
Galen's dissections and the metopes of the Parthenon. What is the
relationship between the sinuous contours which the classical artist
presented to the eye, and the muscles which the Hellenistic physician
detailed in words? It is in the framework of this problem that we must
seek the origins of the muscular body.
* * *
I have already alluded to what may appear to be the obvious
answer. I mean the rise, in the Hellenistic period, of Greek anatomy.
According to this solution, Hellenistic physicians spoke specifically of
muscles rather than generically of flesh, because they, in contrast to
their Hippocratic predecessors, probed below the surface of the skin,
and distinguished individual muscles from each other. The continuity
and discontinuity between classical and Hellenistic representations of
the body, in this account, reduces to degrees of visual acuity: early
artists saw the same structures that later anatomists saw, but vaguely
and incompletely, whence the general term flesh, whereas the latter
perceived the complex plurality of muscles with the precision made
possible only by the advent of dissection.
This account has much to recommend it. It explains, most imme-
diately, why discourse on muscles flourished only relatively late in the
history of Greek medicine; and it provides, more generally, an elegant
solution to the comparative problem with which we began the paper:
the uniqueness of European fascination with musculature can be
attributed to the uniqueness of the European anatomical tradition.
Moreover, Galen's extensive descriptions of what particular muscles
look like, and how and where they are attached to bones and other
parts of the body, seems to confirm the important role played by
dissection in the articulation of musculature.
But the appeal to anatomical experience has one basic weakness.
By approaching muscles simply as objects of visual apprehension, this
account neglects precisely that feature most characteristic of the new
discourse on muscularity: whereas flesh referred primarily to the
visual and tactile perception of somatic bulk, Hellenistic physicians
invoked muscles to analyze the body's movements. Muscles were not,
in other words, just flesh perceived with enhanced perspicuity; they
were organs endowed with a specific and unique function.
The nature of this function is already adumbrated in the early
Hellenistic period. According to Galen, Herophilus classed muscles
along with nerves and tendons among the "nerve-like" (to neurodes)
parts of the body, and opposed these nerve-like parts to the heart and
the arteries. Now to us this opposition may seem a bit puzzling, not
least of all because we think of the heart as a muscle.
, But for
Herophilus, the opposition expressed one crucial distinction: whereas
the pulsations of the heart and arteries lay beyond our control, the
motions of the nervelike parts lay were subject to intentional choice
(prohairesis). What distinguished muscular activity, in other words,
was its voluntary character.
This brings me to the core of my argument. To state my thesis
first, I suggest that we must seek the origins of Western fascination
with musculature not only in the history of how the body was appre-
hended from without, as an anatomical object, but also in the history
of how Europeans came to embody themselves from within, as voli-
tional agents. The emergence of muscles as a topic for intensive dis-
course and investigation, I submit, reflected the culmination of a long
evolution in Greek thinking about personhood, and the emergence of
the concept of autonomous will.
We see this most clearly in Galen. There are, Galen determines,
some somatic processes that go on without our attending to them, and
we cannot directly influence them even if we wished. Such is the case
with digestion and pulsation. But there is also an important class of
activities, such as walking and talking, which hinge upon our desires
and intentions. We can choose to walk faster, or slow down, or stand
still. We can alter the cadence of our speech. We can do all this
because we have, in addition to the stomach, and intestines, and
arteries, these special organs called muscles. Muscles, in Galen's
definition, "are the organs of voluntary motion. "
) Their activities
express the impulses of the soul. It is muscles that allow us to choose
the pace and character of our actions. And it is this choice that at once
distinguishes voluntary actions from involuntary processes, and gives
proof of our status as genuine agents.
For us, who have long ago inherited the idea of will as an essential
component of personhood, the connection between volition and mus-
cularity may seem trivial. What I am arguing, however, is that in
tracing the crystallization of the concept of muscle, we are also, and
not coincidentally, tracing the crystallization of notions of an auto-
nomous psychic will. This is why Galen's treatise on the motion of
muscles, De motu muscu/orum, is as much an exploration of the
conundrums of action and attention as it is an exposition of muscular
function. It mirrors the inseparability, in Hellenistic medicine, of
interest in muscularity and the analysis of agency. Galen, as I said,
defines muscles as the organs of voluntary motion. But this definition
immediately gives rise to a whole host of puzzles. How can we
explain, after all, the man who sings in drunken stupor, or walks in his
These actions obviously require extensive use of many mus-
cles. Yet those who perform them seem to have no consciousness of
performing them. Nor is the puzzle restricted to quirks like sleepwalk-
ing. It arises in the most quotidian activities. Thus, the philosopher
who, deep in reflection, walks from Piraeus to Athens may have no
recollection of the road, or of attending to his arms and feet. And
people absorbed in conversation or debate often display mannerisms
of which they seem quite unaware. The way in which the soul wills
our actions, Galen admits, is not always transparent.
Nonetheless, Galen insists- and for us this is the crucial point-
he insists upon the dominating presence of psychic volition in the
body. Human activity cannot be assimilated to natural motions like
the pulsing of the arteries; there is a soul that acts, and acts constantly
in the body's activities. Our attention, to be sure, is spotty. We are
acutely aware of doing certain things; others we may have no recollec-
tion of having done at all. But even the mere acts of sitting or stand-
ing, Galen argues, even, that is, apparent non-activity, engages what
he terms the tonic action of muscles. It is the active tension of a host
of muscles that allows us to sustain a given posture. Muscular
engagement is psychic engagement.
But psychic engagement is pneumatic engagement. Though Galen
pronounces himself agnostic on the question of whether the soul is
identical with pneuma or something other, he is unequivocal about the
necessity of pneumatic presence for all action. Indeed, the very notion
of"tonic action" derives from the Stoic analysis of human psychology
in terms of modulations of pneumatic tension.
Fully to appreciate the significance of these views it is useful to
contrast them to the very different conception of embodiment found
in earlier Greek history. We may recall, for instance, how Homer's
Agamemnon blames his tragedy not on any personal decisions or
actions, but on ate, a distinctly impersonal clouding of the mind.
This is not, as E.R. Dodds points out, a self-justifying evasion, but a
reflection of the fact that the Homeric Greeks had no concept of a
unified personality, or, for that matter, a unified notion of body.
Similarly, Jean-Pierre Vernant explains that the Homeric body is not
an isolated and independent entity, shut up in itself, but
is fundamentally permeable to the forces that animate it, accessible to the
intrusion of the vital powers that make it act. When a man feels joy,
irritation or pity, when he suffers, is bold or feels any emotion he is
inhabited by drives ... which, breathed into him by a god, run throufh
and across him like a visitor coming from the outside. (My italics.tt
Vernant's remarks focus on the conception of the body in archaic
Greece. But in conjunction with the preceding observations on will
and muscles in Hellenistic medicine, they suggest a possible interpre-
tation of why, even in classical times, extensive figural representation
of what we think of as muscularity was not accompanied by a dis-
course of muscles. The bulging swells which knot the limbs and torsos
of mythical beasts and heroes (Fig. 8) may signal a wide range of
qualities- passion, strength, courage, beauty. But in interpreting
these signs we must keep in mind the long Greek tradition that saw
courage and strength and all the virtues of heros not as personal
qualities deriving exclusively from an inner self, but as marks of the
favor of the gods, results of the influx of divine energies. To be sure,
by the fifth century B.c. and Periclean Athens, we are beginning to
enter a different world. By the end of the century Socrates will have
advanced a radically new conception of humanity, one which posited
the existence of a unitary and immortal core known as the soul. But
this idea will take some time to spread and mature. And in any case
the imprisoned Socratic soul is still a far cry from the volitional agent
of Galen's sleepwalker. It is itself a divine visitor in a strange land. It is
not an embodied person. Full consciousness of muscles would have to
await the consciousness that muscles were fully one's own.
The Stoic philosophers, as is well-known, were the greatest pro-
moters of pneumatic analysis. But they were also the first to develop
the idea of oikeiosis, the process of self-recognition by which personal
identity is ultimately achieved.
l What I am suggesting is that these
two facts are perhaps not unrelated, and that the emergence of ideas
of pneuma went hand in hand with the experience of an active life
driven not by outer winds or divine influences, but by changes interior
to and defining the self.
l) See George William Brown, "Prana and apana," Journal of the American
Oriental Society XXXIX, l04ff; Arthur H. Ewing, "The Hindu conception of
the functions of breath: A study in early Hindu psycho-physics," Journal of the
American Oriental Society, 22 (1901), 249-308; N.H. Keswani, ed., The science
of medicine and physiological concepts in ancient and medieval India (Thompson
Press, Faridbad, Haryana (India), 1974).
2) Gerard Verbeke, L'evolution de Ia doctrine du pneuma: Du stoicism a saint Augus-
tin (Desclee De Brouwer, Paris, 1945); Max Wellmann, Die pneumatische Schute
bis auf Archigenes in ihrer Entwicklung dargestellt (Wiedmannsche Buchhand-
lung, Berlin, 1895); Werner Jaeger, "Das Pneuma im Lykeion," Hermes (1913),
3) Onozawa Seiichi, Fukunaga Mitsuji, and Yamanoi Yu, Kino shiso: ChUgoku ni
okeru shizenkan to ningenkan no tenkai (Tokyo daigaku shuppan kai, Tokyo,
1978); Kuroda Genji, Kino kenkyu (Tokyo bijutsu, Tokyo, 1977); Hiraoka
Teikichi, Enanji ni arawareta kino kenkyu (Risosha, Tokyo, 1968). For brief
English language accounts, largely dependent on these Japanese sources, see
Benjamin Schwartz, The world of thought in ancient China (Harvard University
Press), and Nathan Sivin, Traditional medicine in contemporary China (Center
for Chinese Studies, the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, 1987).
4) Hiraoka, Enanji, 4 5 ~ 5 1 .
5) A similar, though slightly more sophisticated view appears in Kano Yoshimitsu,
"lsho ni mieru kiron," in Onozawa Seiichi, et al., eds., Kino shiso, 308-309.
6) See Manfred Porkert, The theoretical foundations of Chinese medicine; Paul
Unschuld, Medicine in China; Nathan Sivin, Traditional medicine in con-
temporary China; Benjamin Schwartz, The world of thought in ancient China.
7) John, 4, 24.
8) Homer does, however, use the cognate term,pnoie. On respiration and Homeric
psychology see R.B. Onians, The origins of European thought about the body, the
mind, the soul, the world. time, and fate (Cambridge University Press, 1951 ),
Chapter IV.
9) All frequencies for Greek texts are based on searches performed on the Thesau-
rus linguae graecae: Canon of Greek authors and works (Oxford University
Press, 1986) with the IBYCUS computer.
10) Kuroda, Kino kenkyu, 21-52.
II) Kuroda, 51-52.
12) Suppliant maidens, 166-167.
13) Euripides, Ion, 1501-1509:
Fate drove us hard in the past,
Just now oppressed us again.
There is no harbor of peace
From the changing waves of joy and despair.
The wind's course veers.
Let it rest. We have endured
Sorrows enough. 0 my Son,
Pray for a favoring breeze
Of rescue from trouble.
For more on winds and fate, see below.
14) Seven against Thebes, 463.
15) Medea, 1074.
16) Epidemics, Book I, l.
17) Sacred disease, 14.
18) Aphorisms III, 12. See also Airs, waters, places, 9.
19) Airs, waters, places, 10.
20) Airs, waters, places, l.
21) The notions of seasonality and winds were, moreover, often interrelated.
According to another Hippocratic text, Peri physon (On breaths), "Wind is the
cause of winter and summer." See Axel Nelson, Die hippokratischen Schrift 'Peri
physon': Text und Studien (Uppsala, 1909). The role of winds in On regimen is
discussed by Carl Fredrich, "Die vier Bucher Peri diates," in his Hippokratische
Untersuchungen (Berlin, 1899; reprinted Arno Press, New York, 1976), espe-
cially pp. 159-167.
22) Hiraoka, Enanji, 48; Akatsuka, "Kaze to miko," 442.
23) Lunheng jiaoshi, 220. Cf. also the Huai Nan Zi, Chapter 7: "Blood and qi is wind
and rain."
24) Yibu quanshu, VII, 5312.
25) Suwen, Chapter 42. See also Hua To, Zhongzang jing, "Lun zafeng zhuang."
26) Suwen, Chapter 3. The claim is hyperbolic and cannot be taken literally. The
Neijing and later Chinese physicians explained the origins of disease in many
different ways. (See S. Kuriyama, "Changing concepts of disease in East Asia,"
in K. Kiple, ed., The Cambridge history and geography of disease (Cambridge
University Press, forthcoming)). At the same time, it is undeniable that wind
enjoyed a unique and privileged status in Chinese etiological analysis.
27) A fact which implies, if we take indices at face value, that Garrison deemed
winds of lesser significance than say "window-tax".
28) Henry E. Sigerist, A history of medicine, 2 volumes (Oxford University Press,
1951 (Vol.l) and 1961 (Vol. 2)); Arturo Castiglioni, A history of medicine, 2nd
edition (Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1947); Max Neuburger, History of medi-
cine (London, 1910); Erwin Ackerknecht, A short history of medicine (Ronald
Press, New York, 1955). It is worth nothing that the History of Chinese medicine
(Tientsin Press, 1932), by K. Chimin Wong and Wu Lien-Teh, also fails to list
wind in its index of subjects.
29) See note 2 above for references.
30) Akatsuka Kiyoshi has examined in detail the evidence for the mediation of
shamanistic spirits who were associated with the cardinal winds in "Kaze to
miko," (Winds and shamans) in his ChUgoku kodai no shukyo to bunka (Kado-
kawa shoten, 1977), 415-442. On wind cults in Greek religion see Kora Neuser,
Anemoi: Darstellung der Winde und Windgottheiten in der Antike (Giorgio
Bretschneider, Rome, 1982), and Roland Hampe, Kult der Winde in Athens und
Kreta (Sitzungberichte der Heidelberger Akademie der Wissenschaften,
Philosophisch-Historische Klasse, 1967, Bericht 1).
31) Airs, waters, places, 4.
32) Airs, waters, places, 5.
33) Vol. iv, p.Sff; also Zuo zhuan Xiang, 29th year. Confucius similarly objected to
the lewd songs of Zheng, and worried about its pernicious effects on people
elsewhere (Analects XV, 10).
34) Lulan, "Yin chu."
35) Sir John Davis thus translates Guofeng as "Manners of the different states".
"The poetry of the Chinese," Transactions of the Royal Asiatic Society, May,
1829; cited in James Legge, The Chinese classics, Vol. IV: The She King.
36) See the "Geographical Gazette" of the History of the Han dynasty, Chapter 12
of the Suwen also discusses the impact of local geography on health.
37) Aeschylus, Suppliant maidens, 28.
38) The suppliant women, 549-554. See also Lucretius, De nat, 5, 1226.
39) Aeschylus, Seven against Thebes, 707-708.
40) Sophocles, Oedipus at Co/onus, 607-615.
41) Shiji, Tianguan shu.
42) Wang Chong, Lunheng jiaoshi, I, 650-651.
43) Plato, Epinomis, 976a-b.
44) Statesman, 299b.
45) Owsei Temkin, Galenism: The rise and decline of a medical philosophy.
46) See Kuriyama, "Changing concepts of disease."
47) S. Kuriyama, "Rethinking the history of anatomy. The origins of Greek dissec-
tion." Shryock Medal Prize Paper (AAHM), 1986.
48) Michel Feher, ed., Fragments for a history of the human body, 3 volumes (Zone
Press, 1989).
49) Bruno Snell, The discovery of the mind in Greek philosophy and literature (Dover,
1982), 5-7.
50) Jean-Pierre Vemant, "Dim body, dazzling body," in Michel Feher, ed., Frag-
ments for a history of the human body, Part One (Zone, 1989), 20-22.
51) See Kuriyama, "Pulse diagnosis in Greek and Chinese traditions," in Yoshio
Kawakita, ed., History of diagnostics. Proceedings ofthe 9th International Sym-
posium on the Comparative History of Medicine-East and West (Taniguchi
Foundation, 1987), 57-59.
52) Huai Nan Zi, Chapter 6.
53) See for instance, Lingshu Chapters, 38, 47.
54) Fractures, II. See also Aristotle, Parts of animals, II, viii.
55) For that matter, the earlier Hippocratic treatise on the heart also speaks of the
heart as a muscle. See De corde (Edited text in Mnemosyne, 51, 1923, 50ff.).
56) Galen, De motu muscu/orum, in C.G. Kuhn, Galeni opera omnia, Volume IV,
367-464, This definition opens the work.
57) De motu, II, 4 (K. IV, 435ft).
58) De motu, II, 5 (K. IV, 440ft).
59) See C.S. Sherrington, "Note on the history ofthe word tonus," Contributions to
medical and biological research, dedicated to William Osler, I (1919).
60) See E.R. Dodds, The Greeks and the i"ational (University of California Press,
1951), 5.
61) Jean-Pierre Vernant, "Dim body, dazzling body," 29.
62) G.B. Kerford, "The search for personal identity in Stoic thought," Bulletin of
the John Rylands University Library, 55 (1972), 177-196.
Vital Breath (Priif)a) in Ancient Indian
Medicine and Religion
Department of Near Eastern lAnguages and Literatures
Kevorkian Center for Near Eastern Studies, New York University
50 Washington Square South, New York, NY, 10012, U.S.A.
OST of us who are immersed in a modern technological world
will pass any given day without giving the slightest thought that
we engage in the process of respiration; whether we are awake or
asleep, we inhale and exhale countless times a day. Breathing is an
aspect of our human existence which simply goes unnoticed except by
a few who have chosen to make it a part of their special field of
investigation or who recognize its importance in achieving ever
greater and higher spiritual and mental states.
Humankind did not always have such an indifferent attitude
toward what is perhaps the most vital of all bodily functions. As we
shall see, the ancient Indians paid particular attention to respiration
and made the process a focus of religious concern and practice. In the
minds of the early Indians, respiration was the single indicator of
mobile life, assuring longevity (&yus), and what humans breathed was
at once the motivating force of both the cosmos and human existence.
This cosmic wind was mankind's vital breath (prar.za), the unique
manifestation of a person's immortal soul.
The word prar.za is a derivative noun from the Sanskrit verbal root
an, "to breathe," plus the nominative suffix a, and the prefix pra,
"before," "in front," so that its primary meaning is "the breath in
front," or the inhaled air. When prlifJ.a is combined with its opposite
apiina (apa+an+a), "the breath away," i.e. exhaled air, the process
of respiration is indicated. Observation of the vital function of these
two aspects of respiration eventually led Indians to a conceptual
understanding and codification of bodily breaths or winds and their
operations in the human organism. PriiTJ.a took on the character of
vital breath, inhaled air in the process of respiration, and the principal
wind in the upper part of the body, on which all other breaths
depended. Apiina was the exhaled air in the process of respiration, and
the essential wind in the lower part of the body.
The principal concern of this essay is to trace the evolution of
ancient Indian pneumatology by concentrating on prlifJ.a and the
different bodily winds from the Veda through the texts of classical
Indian medicine or iiyurveda and Yoga. It demonstrates that a unified
doctrine of wind developed in the Vedic literature, and thereafter the
original principles of breath served as the basis for elaboration in two
distinct directions: The development in medical circles of a physiology
of breath, and the advancement among the practitioners of Yoga of
the physiology of respiration and techniques of arresting the breath-
ing process\ Subsequently, the individuality of these schools of
thought broke down and Yoga borrowed from the ayurvedic thinkers
knowledge concerning breath and bodily winds. The following chart
shows the evolution of ancient Indian pneumatology:
Early Veda
Later Veda
/ ~
Ayurveda Yoga
The single most important aspect binding the various stages of its
evolution is asceticism. Focusing on the ultimate principle and its
manifestation in the human body, ascetics stove to understand com-
pletely the operation of the cosmic wind when it entered the human
body, then systematically codified and gradually recorded in Indian
technical and scriptural literature a comprehensive knowledge of bodi-
ly breath and respiration. To trace the development ancient Indian
pneumatology, let us turn first to the early Veda.
It is generally acknowledged that the San:zhitiis of the Siima,
Yajur and Atharva Vedas constitute the oldest extant Indian literature.
The earliest among these is the a collection of metrical verses
to numerous deities of the Vedic pantheon, recited at ritual celebra-
tions. It reached its final compilation around 800 B. c. E. The Atharva-
veda, which contains material perhaps as old or older than the
is also a collection of metrical verses, mostly in the form of
magical charms and incantations for benefit of the population at large
rather than of the priests and nobles. The Siimaveda and Yajurveda are
subsequent treatises employed along with the in the great
rituals sacrifices and celebrations. Most important for tracing an early
evolution of vital breath are the and Atharvaveda.
In the priir.ui has a threefold association. It is equivalent to
life; it is the representation of the cosmic wind (vata, viiyu) in man-
kind; and it is connected with a process of respiration. To Vedic
Indians,priif}a's dominant role' was to indicate and motivate life, for if
breath was present, there was life, if it was absent, life departed.
) The
cosmic wind that blows in the atmosphere motivates and regulates the
normal course of things or the cosmic order (rta') in the same way that
breath in living beings motivates life. Thus, wind (viiyu) is the breath
of the cosmic person and the dead person's spirit (Iitman)
goes to the wind.
) The cosmic connection between breath and wind
gave rise to the notion that not only humans but also certain elements,
such as fire (Agm), breathe.
) As fire, especially in the form of a
conflagration, generates a firestorm, the concept that fire produced
wind readily follows. In humans, speech results from mankind's wind,
so that the cosmic voice (Viic) is said to blow forth like wind and cover
all the worlds.
) The association between priif}a, life's indicator and
motivator, and wind led to the establishment of the health-giving and
healing virtues of wind. Wind blows medicines to the people
and prolongs their lives. It bestows strength to live and contains the
elixir of immortality (amfta).
l The medicinal significance of wind, as
Filliozat points out, is very ancient, occurring also in the A vesta of the
ancient Iranians.?)
The first indication of breathing as a process of respiration is
found late in the and continues in the hymns of the Atharva-
veda. 10.189 1-2 illustrates by way of analogy that respiration
was rhythmic, involving an inbreath and outbreath:
1. The spotted steer approached [and] rested on Mother [Earth]
in the east; and going ahead to his Father Heaven.
2. He wanders between shining ones, breathing out after his
inbreath. The bull peered out unto heaven.
The reference in this obscure hymn is to the celestial body con-
ceived in terms of a spotted steer and bull, which travels across the
heavens pausing before the Earth and moving between other bright
objects in the sky in a seemingly regular fashion. The poet likely had
in mind the moon in a night-long course across the sky. Its normal
appearance and disappearance on the cosmic scale resembled the
process of a human's inhalation and exhalation [asya prii1JtJd apiinatf
(apiinattJh)]. This is the earliest indication that breathing involved a
twofold process of taking in and expelling air.
The Atharvaveda contains numerous references to vital breath and
respiration, continuing the understanding of breath begun in the
and further developing the pneumatic doctrine indicated in
the late passage from the As in the the predominant
role of breath and the breathing process in the Atharvaveda was to
indicate life and to promote longevity; often they are listed with other
aspects of life, such as seeing, hearing, strength, and progeny. The
lack of prii1Ja signaled death and the loss of life, IO) and charms were
recited to remove breath from enemies.
The importance of prii1Ja as a life's motivator and sustainer to the
Vedic Indian is indicated by AV 11. 4 (6), an entire hymn devoted to
life-breath. Here praiJ.ti controls the universe and is lord of all things in
the universe, both those which breathe and those that do not, protects
humans, as a father safeguards his son, and rules over and destroys
The ~ g v e d i c notion of the microcosmic-macrocosmic connection
between breath and wind (vdta, vayu) also occurs in the Atharvaveda,
but is further developed to include other life giving and sustaining
aspects of the cosmos. Wind is breath's principal link to the cosmos,
for breath comes from wind
l and wind purifies breath;
l but also the
sun, the cosmic fire, is the source of breath and, because of its self-
motivating and life producing characteristics, is equated with breath.
Earthly and atmospheric fire (Agm) also has breath and breathes,
water (tip) gives breath,
l and Time (kala1 is said to contain breath
and mind (mtinas).
l The latter might refer to the seasonal winds.
From the joining together of the various cosmic aspects of breath
come the life producing and sustaining rainstorms of the monsoons,
which manifest breath as roaring wind, thunder, lightning and water-
ing rains.
) Rain causes the earth to yield her life in the form of plants
which in turn sustain humans and other living beings. Earth therefore
is said to give breath and longevity (dyus);
l and breath promotes the
growth of all types of plants/
l which breathe.
l Specifically the food
plants rice and barley are products of the outbreath (apana1 and the
inbreath (pra1J.a1, respectivell
l and rice-gruel (odana1 gives breath
and possesses life-giving qualities.
) Wind like plants was also a
remedy against life threatening disease.
l In the mind of the Vedic
Indians, breath was equated with, contained in, and associated with
all micro/macro cosmic elements which produced and maintained
life. In short, breath was the universal indicator of life.
The hymns of the Atharvaveda indicate a deeper understanding of
the connection between life and the process of breathing. The twofold
mechanism of inhalation and exhalation was clearly understood and
represented by praiJ.ti and apanti, respectively, often occurring in com-
pound form as prafJ.apanti. Like praiJ.ti itself on the micro/macro cos-
mic level, these two on the human level, served as the principal mani-
festations of life, longevity and respiration.
l In the body, they are like
two draft-oxen in the pen/
l and walking together, they are allies for
maintaining a sound bodily condition and long life.
l Although scien-
tifically incorrect, a more sophisticated physiological understanding
of respiration occurs at AV 11.4(6).14:
A human being breathes out (apiinatl) and breathes in (prti!Jatl)
when inside the womb (garbha). When you, 0 Prii!Ja, urge him on
he is born again.
As respiration was the primary life-force, it was natural for the
Vedic Indian to conceived that it was present in the active fetus about
to be born and that the issuance of the fetus from the womb resulted
from the functioning of the life breath. Although modern medicine
disproves the assertions in this ancient text, one can clearly under-
stand its pneumatic basis. Moreover, this connection could have
resulted from the observation of breathing patterns of women in
labor. Ancient medical doctrines are replete with many similar "logi-
cal", albeit scientifically inexact, explanations.
In classical iiyurveda, there are ordinarily five breaths (priilJas)
operating in the body to regulate and promote various internal func-
tions: 1. priilJa, the "front breath," located in the mouth, ensures
respiration and swallowing; 2. udiina, the "upward moving breath,"
produces speech; 3. samiina, the "concentrated breath," promotes
digestion; 4. apiina, the "downward moving breath," ensures excre-
tion and childbirth; and 5. vyiina, the "diffused breath," circulates in
the limbs and motivates their movement.
The same five terms occur as breaths in the Atharvaveda. They are
found in pairs, like prii!Jiipiina, and in groups of threes and fours;
never does the group of five occur together as one unit. These Atharva-
vedic passages contain what Filliozat claims to be the germs of the
ayurvedic physiological doctrine of bodily breaths.
l Further exami-
nation of the evidence suggests that it is unlikely that Vedic under-
standing of these words corresponded exactly to those in the
ayurvedic treatises. The sequence of their pairings are as follows:
priilJa and vyiina,
l priifJa, apiina, vyiina/
l priifJa, apiina, vyiina,
samiina, as bodily parts/
l and priilJa, apiina, vyiina, udiina, as bodily
l It is likely that these words originally referred to manifesta-
tions and variations of respiration and the perceived functions of wind
once it entered the body. From the acute awareness of the breathing
process, priif}a was "inhalation," manifested as air carrying out the
functions associated with the mouth, and apiina was "exhalation,"
manifested as air associated with all functions of expulsion. They were
the norms against which following variations were observed: vyiina,
"different breath" (that breath situated between inhalation and exha-
lation, or the retained air, which circulates irt the body and promotes
internal functions), samiina, "complete breath" (that breath remain-
ing after the twofold process of respiration, i.e. inhalation and exhala-
tion, perceived to bring about digestion), and udiina, "up breath"
(that inhaled breath which returns in the mouth as eructation).
Elsewhere several different types of breaths (priif}as) are enumer-
ated: these are the breaths that approach, depart, stand, sit, breathe
in, breathe out, turn away, and turn toward.37) Sometimes the number
of breaths is seven, called the seven seers (f#s), corresponding to seven
openings of the sense faculties of the head: two eyes, two ears, two
nostrils and the mouth.
) Other times there are a thousand breaths,
said to be contained in the "unsubdued" (astrta) amulet,
l or an
indefinite number of breaths.
It is clear that particular attention was paid to the occurrence of
human respiration which was scrupulously observed, and to the per-
ceived functions of wind when it entered the body, based on bodily
manifestations of internal air. The results of this empirical process are
recorded in the hymns of the Atharvaveda, but a definite systematiza-
tion of the physiology of respiration was wanting. Nevertheless, it
anticipates perhaps a pneumatology which theoreticians of the medi-
cal tradition would systematize and codify several centuries later.
The detailed understanding of respiration expressed in the various
hymns of the Atharvaveda also has links to ancient Indian asceticism
which employed techniques of breath control and rhythmic breathing
in its meditative discipline to obtain quiet states and control of both
mind and body. The archaic knowledge of respiratory stages likely
derived from ascetics who practiced breath control and a form of
Evidence in the Atharvaveda indicates that the ascetic discipline
was emerging by a processes of what Mircea Eliade called "ritual
interiorization," whereby aspects of external rituals were internalized
by means of meditation.
) Central to this process was a deep under-
standing of mankind's principal life support system, respiration,
which had links to the divine by means of the cosmic wind and was
responsible for life and longevity. An Atharvavedic verse states that
breath (praiJ.a') is born of the soul (atman), the single immortal part of
a human.
, Speech in its personified form provides breath,
) so that
the reciter of incantations possesses the power to lengthen his
) the first step in breath control, which in turn strengthens the
incantations (brahman). Likewise, he on whom is situated the greatest
thing, burns his head by truth (satya'), surveys everything here by
incantation (brahman), and breathes crosswise (tiryan prdiJ.atl) by
breath, i.e. retains his breath.
) The reference in this obscure verse is
to a ritualist, skilled in the recitations of incantations, whose head
burns because of the self generated heat of asceticism (tapas) which
involved a form of breath control. The ascetic internalization of ritual
continued with the ritualist making his hand the sacrificial spoon and
his breath the sacrificial stake to which the victim was attached.
Truth (satya') and faith (sraddhd) became the sacrificial goat's
The Vrtityas, ascetics par excellence of the Atharvaveda, lived
seemingly by breath alone and were known for their ability to make
their breaths long (a form ofpra1J.ayama).
) Part of their ascetic disci-
pline involving respiration demonstrates an elaborate process of
internalization of ritual. For the Vrtitya, each of the three winds,
praiJ.a, apana and vyana, consists of seven types delineated by macro/
micro cosmic correspondences typical of the ritual process. The three
winds obviously refer to inhalation, exhalation and retention of air,
constituting the threefold technique of breath control. The seven
prtiiJ.aS are named with the following correspondences: 1. head
(urdhva') is fire (agnz), 2. flowing forth (pra{u/.ha) is the sun (aditya'),
3. flowing to (abhyiuj.ha) is the moon (candramas), 4. all pervading
(vibM) is the purifier (ptivamiina), 5. uterus (y6m) is the waters (tip),
6. the beloved one (priya} is the domestic beasts (pasu}, and 7. limit-
less (aparimita') is the creatures (praja}.
This enumeration of the
various priif)as indicates some location of the breaths and the physi-
ological actions they facilitate. The seven apiintis possess specific ritual
correspondences: 1. the worship on the night of the full moon
(paurnasmiisf), 2. the worship on the eighth night after the full moon
3. the worship on the night of no moon (timiiviisyii), 4. faith
(sraddhd), 5. consecration 6. sacrifice (yajiia'), and 7. fees
given to officiating priest (dtik#TJa).
The seven vyiintis have macro-
cosmic correspondences: 1. the earth (bMmz), 2. the atmosphere
3. the sky (dyu), 4. the lunar mansions 5. the
seasons (rtu), 6. the combined seasons (iirtava'), and 7. the year
The hymn concludes by stating that these are the
Vrdtya's offerings.
Internalization of ritual by means of ascetic practices focusing on
breath control and techniques of respiration led to a catalog of
breaths according to the existing ritual categories and terminology. In
the midst of this classification there are hints that attempts were being
made to associate certain types of breath with bodily functions,
further anticipating the later medical authors' treatment of the sub-
ject. The development of a doctrine of breaths and respiration was
localized among the ascetics whose principal concern was a discipline
leading to long life and immortality through meditation and ecstatic
techniques, in which respiration was a key factor.
The mystical Vedic poets who composed the literature of the
earliest Veda present a pneumatology based on a fundamental micro/
macro cosmic correspondence between breath and wind. Beginnings
of a codification of breath occurred as techniques of respiration
became important to an ascetic discipline which focused on the inter-
nalization of Vedic ritual by utilizing its preexisting categories. In the
literature of the later Vedic period, the late Sa1flhitiis, Briihmaf)as and
asceticism remained the principal vehicle for developments
in ancient Indian pneuma to logy, but its doctrines became more crys-
tallized and standardized.
The literature of the later Veda includes the exegetical Sarrthitas
and Brahmaf],as, and the philosophical and mystical known
as the Vedanta, "end of the Veda," and bring the historical evolution
down to about the sixth century B.C.E. The notion of breath and
respiration in these treatises indicates a continuation of the concep-
tions advanced in the earlier Veda, but also demonstrates a further
elaboration of breath in ritual and ascetic contexts, resulting in a
codification of breaths and respiration with indications of their
anatomical and physiological significance.
The ritual Sarrthitas and Brahmaf],as provided the context for con-
necting the breaths to the sacrifice and ritual process. In addition to
being the principal indicators oflife,prafJ,ti and apanti, as in the earlier
treatises, are equated with various divinities including the Sun,
l Agni,
l Sarasvat1 (Goddess of Speech),
l Indra,
l Mitra
and VaruQa,
l and of course the micro/macro cosmic connection
between wind and breath and the life promoting rain persists.
More importantly, the breaths are enumerated in mantras accom-
panying different parts of the sacrificial ritual, for the sacrifice suc-
ceeds by prafJ,ti.
l Formulaic utterances involving two (prafJ,ti, apana'),
three (prafJ,ti, udanti or apanti, vyana'), four (prafJ,ti, apanti, vyanti,
udana'), and five (prafJ,ti, apanti, vyanti, udimti, samana') breaths are
commonly employed. The twofold formula often forms a pair, as in
inhalation and exhalation, as noticed in their connection with the dual
deities Mitra and VaruQa.
l Typically the threefold formula is
accompanied with other senses and faculties such as eye, ear, speech
and mind, and in the context of the horse sacrifice with anatomical
The formula of the five breaths ritually symbolized the five sets of
ten bricks, known as breath-supporters (prafJ,abhft), making up the
middle layer of the fire altar. Using mantras involving each of the
breaths, the ritualist constructed the fire altar. The middle layer of
bricks corresponded to the atmosphere (the middle region, containing
the wind and from which the rain falls). This layer included the
naturally perforated brick which the steed of the sacrifice was made to
sniff and thereby receive his praiJ.ri. The ten breath-supporters were
placed in the east. Mankind's breaths (praiJ.ris) were nine in number,
the tenth was the navel (ndbhz). The ritualist placed the breaths in the
front, i.e. in the mouth. Therefore the breaths are in front.
The nine breaths referred to in this ritual procedure are the seven
praiJ.ris of the head (two of the eyes, nose, ears, and mouth) and two
breaths of the lower body (avaiicz).
l Identification of the sevenpraiJ.ris
of the head as the seven seers (f#s) is also found.
l Elsewhere, and
increasingly more frequently in the praiJ.ri simply occurs in
the plural, without specification as to constitution.
l They may refer
to any combination of the five breaths, the six organs of sense, the
nine or ten breaths, or others.
In terms of anatomy and physiology and the development of a
pneuma to logy, the indefinite number of breaths indicates the very
beginnings of a codification of knowledge concerning the bodily
winds. The later standardized formula of five breaths was already
present, occurring in the context of other anatomical parts of the
sacrificial horse. The connection of various breaths with the senses
and sense faculties and the breaths situated in the head point to a
generalized location of certain breaths and their physiological func-
tions with respect to other sense faculties. In particular, wind (vtita)
was gratified with the sacrificed steed's praiJ.ri, the two nostrils with his
apana, all praiJ.ris with his roar. Here a hint at the later medical pneu-
ma to logy can be observed. The praiJ.ri is, like the wind, a breath
outside the body waiting to be inhaled, apana is the breath exhaled
through the nostrils, and all the praiJ.riS at one point or another come
from within the body, and when expelled (through mouth or anus)
create various sounds resembling roars.
The ritual role played by breath in the recitation of mantras, many
of which included the names of the various breaths, reflects the ongo-
ing process of ritual internalization by means of ascetic practices in
which breath control and rhythmic respiration were integral parts.
The enumeration of breaths reveals serious attempts to penetrate
beyond the twofold process of inhalation (praiJ.a) and exhalation
(apiina'), and to arrive at a thorough understanding of breath's func-
tions in the production and maintenance of life. The closely related
philosophical and mystical literature of the Upani$ads shows a com-
plete internalization of the sacrifice and a dominant focus on asceti-
cism utilizing respiration and breath control as principal practices
to attain understanding of and union with the ultimate principle,
Brahman, conceived to be the soul (Atmtin) in living beings.
In the principal Upani$ads, breath control and rhythmic respira-
tion began to receive increasingly more attention which precipitated
the codification of a pneumatology similar to that found in the classi-
cal medical treatises. A systematic survey of priir.za and breaths in this
important corpus discloses the important role asceticism played in the
evolution of pneumatology in ancient India. Persistent mystical con-
templation on breath eventually led to the bifurcation of opinions
concerning bodily wind. The medical branch focused on the physiol-
ogy of breath, and the Yogic branch emphasized techniques of breath
The old notion of priir.za, the microcosmic aspect of the macro-
cosmic wind (viita), as the animator and prolonger of all life, was the
starting point for the mystics' understanding of breath. In their quest
through meditation for the universal principle behind all existence,
they realized that breath was the closest physical manifestation of the
ultimate, unchanging, creative force in man, his Atman, or soul, the
embodiment of the Brahman, or universal soul. Priir.za is the seat of the
Brahman and arises from the Atman.
Through a systematic internalization of the sacrifice by meditation
on various aspects of the ritual through the use of mantras in conjunc-
tion with regulation of the breaths, the ascetics came ever closer to the
realization of the ultimate principle so closely connected to the breath.
The treatises detail every aspect of how this was accom-
plished, utilizing the groundwork established in the ritual texts of the
later Veda and creating mantras based on sacred syllables, such
"OM", and verses from the early Veda, on which to focus their
thought and control their respiration.
l Important in this process was
the fundamental connection between wind,priir.za and rain (water), as
the three bases of life. Added to that was the further association with
food, mouth, speech and the mind, for food and water, like breath
taken through the mouth, sustain life, provide speech, so important in
recitation of the sacred sound, and all together activated and stimu-
lated the mind.
l In fasting, an important technique of the ascetic
discipline, the practitioner was to drink only water which contained
praf)a, thereby taking in life by the mouth.
l One passage explains
that before eating, the ascetic must wash his breath with water (i.e.,
rinse out his mouth}, offer oblations with greeting to each of the five
breaths (praf)a, apana, vyana, udtma and samana'), eat the remainder of
the offering, wash out his mouth again, and meditate on the Atman
(soul) with the following mantra:
His breath and fire, the highest soul, has entered into the five
winds. May he, when pleased himself, please the all-enjoyer.
The object of the meditation process was to gain control of the
mind and the sense functions, conceived to be the praf)as.
l These
praf)as were praf)a, speech, sight, sound and mind, or a combination
of the five, of which the Atman consisted. The most important was
praf)a because all others contained praf)a.
l Therefore one should
practice rhythmic respiration and thereby attain divine Praf)a and the
divine world.
l Elsewhere the praf)as are understood, as in the earlier
texts, to be the seven seers or sense openings of the head, with an
eighth, voice, added.
l The anatomical location of the praf)a is said to
be the heart.
The persistent contemplation and meditation on the grad-
ually gave rise to a standardized list of five praf)as, their anatomical
locations, and their physiological functions, and often they were
equated to aspects of the ritual or to different rituals, most notably the
Agnihotra or fire sacrifice in which the aforementioned bricks became
the object of the connections, as part of the ongoing process of inter-
nalization of the Vedic sacrifice.
In the Prasna praf)a, born of the Atman and part of
the body by the action of the mind, controls the five breaths
1. Apiina located in the organs of excretion and generation.
2. located in the eye, ear, mouth and nose.
3. Samiinti located in the middle, equalizes (in distribution)
whatever has been offered as food. From it arise the seven
priiiJOS of the head (i.e. the seven seers).
4. Vyiina moves in the channels of the body, all of which
originate in the heart, seat of Atman.
5. Udiinti, rising up from the central channel (su.yumnii), leads in
consequence of good work to the good world, in consequence
of evil work to evil world, and in consequence of both to the
world of humans.
In the Maitri Upani.yad, definitions of these five, based on their
physiological functions, are offered:
1. Prii1Jti is the breath that passes upward.
2. Apiina is the breath that passes downward.
3. Vyiina is the breath that supports priiiJa and apiina.
4. Samiina is the breath that conducts into apiina what is the
coarse element of food and distributes in each limb what is the
most subtle element of food. It is a higher form of vyiina.
5. Udiina is the breath that is between vyiina and samiina. It
belches forth and swallows down what is drunk and eaten.
Elsewhere the five breaths are equated with the five vital functions
through the Agnihotra sacrifice: priiiJ.a corresponds to the sight, vyiina
to the sound, apiina to speech, samiina to mind, and udima to wind
l Another enumeration gives a slightly different correspon-
dence to the vital functions and includes principal anatomical parts:
priiiJa corresponds to sight and skin, vyiina to hearing and flesh, apiina
to mind and muscle, udiina to speech and bone, samiina to touch and
There can be little doubt that the ascetics of the age,
through their long contemplations on breath and its importance to
the life of a human being, developed a systematic pneumatology
codified according to the five fundamental breaths. The efforts of
these mystics would serve as the basic of a more elaborate scheme of
the five breaths developed by the medical intellectuals, who were also
inspired by ascetics.
In addition to providing the basis of later medical theories the
ascetic pneumatology elaborated in the also led to devel-
opments in meditation techniques and in particular to systematic
Yoga whose evolution seems to have run parallel to that of medicine.
The earliest reference to the later ideas of Yoga are found in the Maitri
where six of the later eight limbs of Yoga are enumerated.
Praf)ayama, "the restraint of the breath" or breath control is included
in these six. By restraining both breath and mind through controlled
respiration, the objects of the senses are arrested and a continued
voidness of conception ensues, leading ultimately to the fourth super-
conscious condition [turya (turiya)] in which one's soul (Atman) is free
to dwell with the ultimate (Brahman). Restraining voice, mind and
breath by pressing the tongue against the palate enabled the mystic to
see Brahman through meditation. The central channel or vessel
(sometimes conceived to be central nerve of the spinal
column), leading upward, conveyed praf)ti, and pierced the palate.
The ascetic also ascended (i.e. levitated) by joining his praf)ti, the
mystical syllable "OM" and his mind, for he drew in the sense func-
tions (praf)tis) by means of "OM" and breath control. Yoga was
attained by joiningpraf)ti, "OM", and the manifold world resulting in
the oneness of praf)ti, mind and senses and the relinquishment of all
conditions of existence.
Praf)ti and respiration continued to play a key role in the devel-
opment of Yoga and its techniques of ecstasy in the orthodox later
and textbooks on Yoga. But a medical pneuma to logy
based on praf)ti and the breaths split from the tradition
and developed into a separated discipline with its own specialized
treatises. This was probably due to the intimate partnership between
medicine and the heterodox ascetic traditions such as Buddhism,
which utilized ascetic techniques propounded in the in the
early period of the development of ayurveda and codification of its
medical doctrines.
) A brief survey of the breaths in ayurveda and
Yoga discloses how the basic doctrines formulated in the Vedic trea-
ties were refined by specialists in each of the traditions and provides
the necessary material for a discussion of the connection of medicine
and Yoga.
The texts expounding the classical system of Indian medicine
probably began to take shape between the time of the principal Upani-
and the beginning of the common era, several centuries corre-
sponding roughly to the early Buddhist period in India. Medical
knowledge was collected and codified into several treatises, of which
the two best surviving examples are the Collections (Safl')hitas) of
Caraka and Susiuta.
Central to the teachings in these ayurvedic textbooks was an etiol-
ogy based on three humors or wind (vata, vayu), bile (pitta),
and phlegm (kapha, which, on analogy with Hippocratic
and Galenic medicine, acted as vitiators by disrupting the normal
functioning of the body. Given the strong connection between the
cosmic and human wind and the preoccupation with breath in early
Hindu scriptures, it is natural that wind would have had a significant
place in the theories of the Indian medical tradition. Closely related to
wind is pralJ.a whose explanations in the classical medical treatises
follow those of the mystics, but also assume a technically
specific sense wanting in the Veda.
As in all previous literature, pralJ.a was first and foremost the
principal indicator of life.
) In the medical tradition, the physician
was called "the one who promotes pralJ.a and destroys dis-
ease".85l Unwholesome food damaged praT)a, while wholesome food
promoted it.
) In particular, milk, soups, meat juices and certain
elixirs increased and maintained it.
) With obvious religious and
ascetic references, the most excellent promoter ofpraT)a, however, was
nonviolence (ahilflsti).
The number of prtiTJ.li's seats varies in the two texts, indicating that
the compilers indiscriminately included different explanations about
prii1Ja in their respective collections. Caraka enumerates the ten seats
of prii1Ja as the head, throat, heart, navel, anus, bladder, vital fluid,
semen, blood and flesh, with the first six also known as vital organs
l Elsewhere he says that they are the two temples, three
vital organs (heart, bladder and head), throat, blood, semen, vital
fluid and anus.
l Susruta claims that vital fluid is the highest seat of
Both compilers also speak of two channels which transport prii1Ja
throughout the body: the priil}a-conveying vessles (prii1Javahasrotas)
which originate in the heart, and the large vessels (mahiisrotas) which
also carry nutritive fluid (rasa). Injury to them due to emaciation,
suppression of the natural urges, roughness, physical exercise, hunger
and other harsh factors, causes one to cry out with curses, double
over, have shallow or frequent loud and painful respiration, become
bewildered, dizzy, tremble or die.
l When the channels are obstructed
by wind and phlegm, the most frequent abnormalities are hiccup
(hikkii), difficult breathing (iviisa), and asthma.
However, as in the Upani$ads, prii1Ja had a religious significance,
being connected with rhythmic respiration and Atman, the manifesta-
tion of the ultimate principle (Brahman) in humans, and thereby
pointing to influence on the medical thinkers from the
ascetics. Inhalation and exhalation (prii1Jiipiina), movement of the
mind, shifting of one sense faculty to another, and memory are
included as signs of the highest self (paramiitman) in a living being,
and every self conveys itself by itself into the wombs, while living
beings are mastered by the prii1Jas.
l The ascetic technique of breath
control (priil}iiyiima) finds reference in Susruta. During this yogic
practice, a foreign object is easily detected in the body.
The fundamental micro/macro cosmic connection between wind
and breath and transmissions from the ascetic philosophers led to the
incorporation of the doctrine of the five winds into the classical
system of Indian medicine. Their names were standardized, but only
through the efforts of medical specialists did their locations, functions,
and morbidities become crystallized. The physiology of the five winds
reached its highwater mark in classical Indian medicine.
Caraka speaks of three kinds of wind: unexcited, excited and
normal wind. Unexcited wind has five forms: praiJ.ti, udanti, samanti,
vyanti and apanti. As a group they indicate upward and downward
movement, lead and control the mind (manas), employ all sense
organs in their activity, carry all sense objects, promote union in the
body, promote speech, touch and sound, emit excreta, and maintain
longevity (dyus).
) Both medical compilers detail the location and
function of the five winds, which coordinate and maintain the bodily
structures and functions, in a similar way, summarized as follows:
1. PriiJJ.ti, located in the head, chest, throat, tongue, mouth and
nose, functions in spitting, sneezing, belching, respiration and
digestion and, according to Susruta, causes swallowing and
supports life. When excited, it produces hiccup and difficult
2. Udanti, located in the navel, chest, and throat, functions in
speech, effort, energy, strength and complexion. According to
Susruta, it goes up, is the best of the winds, initiates speech and
songs, and causes, when excited, disruption in structures
located above the clavicle.
3. Samano, located in the channels conveying sweat, humors and
watery fluids, sits beside the digestive fire and strengthens
digestion. According to Susruta, it circulates in the stomach
and colon, and, when connected with the digestive fire, digests
(i.e. cooks) food and separates its end products. When excited,
it causes abdominal swelling, indigestion and diarrhea.
4. Vyanti, moving rapidly, pervades the entire body and performs
the functions of movements, extension, contraction and blink-
ing. According to Susruta, it diffuses throughout the body,
constantly transports nutritive juices (rasa), and aids in sweat-
ing and the flow of blood. It has five movements (i.e., expan-
sion, contraction, upward, downward, and oblique) and, when
excited, brings about diseases all over the body.
5. Apanti, located in the testicles, bladder, penis, navel, thighs,
groin and anus, functions to release semen, urine, feces,
menses, and fetus. When excited in the colon, it obstructs the
lower passages and causes reverse movement of wind (udii-
varta) and other gastric disorders. According to Susruta,
located in the lower bowels, it transports downward and expels
at the right time feces, urine, semen, fetus and menstrual fluid.
When excited, it produces severe diseases situated in the
bladder and anus.
Caraka, abbreviating the comments found in Susruta, states that
when the breaths are in equilibrium and situated in their seats, they
function normally and sustain the body free of disease; but, when they
are unbalanced and move along wrong paths, they affect the body
with disorders pertaining to their functions and locations, and quickly
remove life (priitJa).
l Summarizing the teachings about the winds in
fashion, he states that udiimi should go up, apiinti, down,
samiinti, in the middle, and vyiinti in all directions. In comparison,
priitJti deserves greatest protection because its normal position is
essential for life. Moreover effort should be made to restore and
maintain normal positions and functions of all the winds should be
The medical compendia also detail the various disorders arising
when one wind dominates over another and when each wind is
eclipsed by bile and phlegm.
l Caraka states that all afflictions
involving the winds become incurable after one year, and specifies
that priitJti and udiinti covered by phlegm and bile is particularly
serious because life depends on priifJti and strength on udiinti.
Susruta instructs that corruption of semen and urinary disorders
result when vyiinti and apiinti are excited, and that death ensues when
all winds are simultaneously excited.
The differences found in the medical compilers' respective discus-
sion of the winds reveal a plurality of sources of information on the
doctrine pertaining to the five standard winds. Moreover, in Caraka, a
clear distinction between priitJti as the principal motivator of life and
priitJti as one of the five winds is wanting, while in Susruta the con-
fusion does not appear to exist. This indicates that Caraka's compila-
tion incorporated both medical and non-medical data pertaining to
wind and priifJti, and Susruta's included specifically medical
Continuing the development of previous doctrines of wind and
breath, the classical medical tradition, as preserved in the Caraka and
Susruta Sarrzhitiis, established a specifically medical pneumatology
almost completely devoid of notions pertaining to respiration, rhyth-
mic breathing and breath control. It codified the physiology of priiiJti
and the five breaths and the diseases arising from abnormalities in the
physiology of each breath. In quite a different direction, a pneumatol-
ogy developed around ascetic techniques and the importance of
breath in the attainment of higher states of consciousness. These
doctrines find their codification in the texts of Yoga. As both the
medical and Yoga traditions derive their doctrines of wind and breath
essentially from the ascetic thinkers, some overlapping
can be expected. To what extent similarities occur in the two pneuma-
tologies will be discussed after briefly examining the role of priiTJti in
The orthodox brahmaQic system of Yoga owes its textual and
practical traditions to the doctrines and practices expounded in the
and therefore carries on the pneumatology contained in
them. Most of what pertains to priiTJti occurs in discussions of prii-
1Jiiyiima, one of the eight limbs of classical Yoga, in a group of late
known as the Yoga These esoteric treatises were
obviously composed by practicing yogic ascetics who based their
knowledge on personal involvement with teachings and techniques
handed down through the centuries. Along with the special group of
a separate textual tradition specifically devoted to Yoga
and its eight limbs began to emerge probably around the second or
third century B.C.E. The earliest extant treatise on Yoga are Pataiijali's
Yogasiitras which, from the second century B.C.E., predate the
Yoga but most assuredly derive from ascetic
The cryptic statements of the Y ogasiitras outline the eight parts of
an ascetic discipline leading to the perfection of Yoga, defined as "the
cessation of the fluctuations of the mind,"
l and to emancipation
from the endless cycle of birth, death and rebirth. According to the
Yogasutras, the mind is calmed by exhaling and restraining prd1Jti by
the technique of prd1Jdyama (control of the breath) which is practiced
after the postures (asana) are perfected.
l Prd1Jdyama involves a
threefold operation: external (vahya) or the expulsion of breath,
internal (abhyantara) or the drawing in of breath, and suppression
(stambha) or suspension of breathing, which become long and subtle
when observed according to time (calculation of short time units),
space (the breath's scope and distance, i.e. from the tip of the nose or
navel to the mouth), and number (the counting ofbreaths).
l There
is also a fourth prd1Jdyama which transcends both external and inter-
nal operations, and more subtle than the third prd1Jdyama is the per-
fection of prd1Jdyama when suppression of breathing is done all at
once, resulting in the arresting of the modifications of the mind.
Prd1Jdyama thins the veil over the manifestations of spiritual knowl-
edge by separating the ego from the body and the organs of sense and
prepares the mind for fixation on a particular point in space
the next part of the eightfold system leading to emancipating enstasis
The Yogasutras contain only two references to the five breaths. At
YS 3.39, Pataiijali states that the conquering of udanti results in the
evasion of any chance of immersion in water or mud, or entanglement
in the thorns, and assures the exit from the body at death or at any
time. Vyasa's later commentary to this verse enumerates the five
breaths and their standard locations. At YS 3.40, the author claims
that the conquering of samanti results in bodily radiance in which an
aura is created around the yogin's body. The brevity of his style
required Pataiijali to emphasize only these two breaths, relying on the
teacher (guru) to explain the importance of the remaining three
breaths to his student.
Unlike the laconic Yogasutras, the late provide detailed
information concerning the technique of pra7Jayama, under which
discussions of the various breaths routinely occur. Examination of
these texts indicates both a reliance on the pneumatology contained in
the earlier principal Upani$ads and a richer elaboration of the doc-
trines based on centuries of development.
The early emphasis on the internalization of sacrifice
by means of meditation involving the five breaths is transmitted to the
later treatises and becomes formalized in the Praf)agnihotra Upani$ad
(1-2) which advocates the making of offerings to each of the five
breaths with various hand gestures (mudra) and silently to five ritual
fires corresponding to the five breaths and finally to the digestive fires.
The result is a sacrifice offered in the body.
With the evolution of a system of Yoga divided into various steps,
already indicated in the Maitri Upani$ad, teachings pertaining to respi-
ration and the five breaths were codified under the doctrine of breath
control (praf)ayama), arguably the oldest recorded ascetic technique
of the Yoga system. The following summary of the praf)ayama and the
various breaths derives from the teachings of several of the Yoga
Upani$ads which expound the system of Ha{hayoga. The Upani$ads
utilized include Yogatattva (24, 35-111), Dhyanabif)t/.u (19-21, 39-40,
51-6la, 95-100), Saf)tjilya (1.1, 4, 6, 7.13-15), Amrtanada (6-38), Vara-
ha (5), and Yogakuf)rjalf (1).
Praf)ayama is the union of praf)a and apana or the process of
respiration. It is well established as one of the eight limbs or parts of
Yoga and, as in the older Yogasiltras, is divided into three stages with
regular names and divine associations: inhalation (puraka) is Brahma,
retention of breath (kumbhaka) is and exhalation (recaka) is
Rudra. Retention of breath has a further two forms: retention involv-
ing the union of inhalation and exhalation (sahita) and retention
without inhalation and exhalation (kevala). The former involves the
holding of the breath after inhalation, the latter, after exhalation. The
first, being easier than the second, should be practiced until perfected.
Mastering of kevala results in the attainment of all things in the three
worlds (underworld, earth, and heaven) and in a healthy condition of
mind and body.
According to Hathayoga, praf)ayama purifies the vessels of the
body (natjfs), indicating a quasi-medical application. There are 72,000
vessels in the body, of which ten (some say fourteen) are most impor-
tant: irfii, pitiga/a, su.yumna, gandharf, hastijahva, pil.ya, yasasvinf,
a/ambusa, kuhil, s&nkhinf (sarasvatf, varuiJ.f, vifvodharf and payasinf
make fourteen). /rj.a, pitigala and su.yumna always convey praiJ.ti and
have as their deities the moon, sun and fire. lrj.a is the major nerve
located on the left of su.yumna, the central nerve of the spine, and
pitigala is the major nerve on its right. There are ten bodily breaths
which move though all the vessels and maintain life. Life under the
influence of praiJ.ti and apanti goes up and down; and praiJ.ti draws
itself from apanti, and apanti from praiJ.ti, like a bird (drawing itself
from and yet not free) from the string (to which it is attached). The
bird and string metaphor occurs in the earlier Upani.yads.
To the five principal breaths are added five sub-breaths which
receive elaborate discussion of their locations, functions, seed (bfja)
mantras and color and elemental associations. The five standard
breaths are described as follows:
1. PraiJ.ti is located in the heart and moves in the nostrils, throat,
navel, the two great toes, and lower and upper parts of
ku1J.rf.alinf (which, coiled like a snake, lies at the base of the
spine). It functions in inhalation, exhalation and cough, has
the seed mantra "YA," the color of a blood-red gem or resem-
bles a blue cloud.
2. Apanti is located in the anus and moves in the anus, genitals,
thighs, knees, stomach, seeds, loins, calves, navel and seat of
the anal fire, functions in the excretion of feces and urine, has
the mantra "RA," the color between white and red or resem-
bles the sun, and is equated to fire.
3. Vyanti is located in all parts of the body and moves in the ear,
eye, loins, ankles, nose, throat and buttocks. It functions in
giving and taking, has the mantra "LA," the color of a ray of
light or resembles the geulia flower (bandhilka), and is equated
to earth.
4. Udtmti is located in the throat or in all the joints and hands and
feet, functions to keep the body erect, has the mantra "VA,"
the color pale white or resembles the color of a conch
shell, and is equated to wind.
5. Samiina is located in the navel or permeates the entire body
and moves in the 72,000 vessels, functions to nourish the body,
or, along with fire, distributes food and drink throughout the
body. It has the mantra "HA," the color between pure milk
and crystal or resembles the color of crystal, and is equated to
Prii!Ja and apiina carry out digestion; prii!Ja and samiina transport
the nutritive juices (rasa) to all the vessels and move in the body in the
form of breath. The breaths evacuate excrements through the nine
bodily openings connected with the outside wind.
The five sub-breaths are as follows:
1. Niiga nourishes the body and controls eructation and vomiting.
2. Kurma moves the eyelids.
3. Krkara causes hunger and thirst (or sneezing).
4. Devadatta causes idleness and controls yawning.
5. Dhananjana cause phlegm, pervades the entire body, and does
not leave even a dead body.
These five sub-breaths go towards the outer parts of the body,
such as the skin and bones, and reside in the gross anatomical parts.
The enumeration of the bodily breaths demonstrates a continua-
tion of the standard doctrine of five basic breaths and a further devel-
opment of it with the addition of five sub-breaths. Explanations of the
five breaths sometimes vary, indicating that more that one explana-
tion was understood for several of the different breaths. The under-
standing of five basic breaths suggests exchanges with the medical
tradition, while the five sub-breaths are uniquely yogic.
The process of purifying and maintaining the flow of the breaths
through the vessels by means of priiiJ,iiyiima receives detailed explana-
tions in the Yoga Assuming the lotus position (padmii-
sana), the yogin should practice priifJ,iiyiima in a suitably remote and
sheltered place. He begins by inhaling though the left nostril while
keeping the right nostril closed with the right thumb, filling the abdo-
men and holding the breath as long as possible while meditating on
"OM" as located in the middle of the body and surrounded by
circling flames. He then exhales slowly through the right nostril while
keeping the left nostril closed. Reversing the nostrils used, the same
process is employed for a total of twenty repetitions. The inhaled air
should travel through the three principal vessels (i4fi, pinga/ii and
SU$Umnii) and be absorbed in the middle of the eyebrows which is the
root of the nose, the seat of immortality and great abode of the
universal spirit (Brahman). The technique is to be carried out four
times a day, sunrise, noon, sunset and midnight, and after three
months those vessels are purified. The number of respirations in one
day was 22,736, which by modem standards is approximately
Continued practice of priiTJiiyiima leads to the acquisition of the
accomplishments (siddhis), a step on the way toward emancipation,
and the perfect union of priiTJti and apiina, mind and intellect, and
ultimately the individual Soul and the supreme Soul. With advance-
ment of the technique, the length of time needed to practice priiTJiiyii-
ma decreases by three-fourths, so that it only need be done in the day
and at evening for three hours. It brings about the withdrawal of the
senses from the objects of the senses and the passage of priiTJti up the
central vessel (su$umnii) to the highest point at the top of the head and
the attainment of samiidhi or the emancipation from the cycle of birth
death and rebirth.
The long tradition of ascetic pneumatology reaches its full devel-
opment in the Indian tradition of Yoga. In this tradition, which pro-
ceeds on a direct line from the Upani$ads, explanations of the breaths
and their control seemingly seek to emphasize a physiological rather
than a metaphysical understanding of the human body. This is partic-
ularly evident in discussions involving the different breaths, the vessels
through which they flow, and the means by which they are purified
and maintained. The underlying principle running throughout the
Yoga system is that by purifying and controlling the body, the mind
can be restrained and eventually conquered.
In conclusion, let us consider the possible relationship between the
pneumatologies of iiyurveda and Yoga. The history of pneumatology
in ancient India is one of those rare topics in which a relatively
unbroken development can be traced from earliest times to the centu-
ries around the beginning of the common era. Wind, breath and
respiration concerned the religious thinkers primarily because they
represented life. The micro/macro cosmic connection between wind
and breath was the ideal metaphor for the universal soul (Brahman)
and the individual soul (Atman). Techniques for preserving life's prin-
cipal manifestation are probably as old as the Veda, but it is only in
the philosophical and mystical Upani$ads that they become fully
articulated. These treatises, which result from the thoughts and prac-
tices of ascetics in search of immortality and emancipation from the
bounds of worldly existence, for the first time advance a science of
respiration focusing on priirJa. They present in rudimentary form a
physiology of wind in the body and refer to techniques to acquire
control of it.
This specialized knowledge evolved among the ascetics whose
mendicant lifestyle and radical beliefs made them outsiders in a con-
servative environment of brahmaQic social and religious mores. In
time these wandering mendicants separated themselves into two
groups of ascetics delineated roughly by their beliefs vis-a-vis the
dominant brahmaQic attitudes of social stratification and religious
ritual and practice. The orthodox ascetics supported the BriihmarJas,
while the heterodox ascetics rejected them. The former became asso-
ciated with Hinduism, the latter evolved into the Buddhists, Jainas,
and A jivikas. The orthodox ascetics gave rise to the system of Yoga,
the heterodox ascetics were largely responsible for the system of medi-
cine. Both maintained a science of breath which derived from earlier
ascetics of the tradition. The bifurcation of this pneuma-
tology corresponds to the split into the two ascetic traditions. The
medical theoreticians emphasized the physiology of bodily wind,
yogic mystics focused on techniques of respiration while advancing a
physiology in relationship to respiration. Similarities and differences
occur in both systems, and a brief comparison of the two will more
clearly elucidate them.
Both medicine and Yoga adopt the standard five breaths formal-
ized in the Upani$ads. Although minor variations occur, there is
general agreement in their respective explanations of the locations and
functions of each breath. Yoga, however, adds five sub-breaths not
found in the medical treatises. Moreover, medicine addresses the
different abnormalities caused by the breaths alone, combined, and
along with the humors of bile and phlegm. Yoga only makes slight
reference to diseases resulting from the breaths, and places great
emphasis on the mystical associations with the breaths and quasi-
medical respiratory techniques for purifying them and maintaining
their proper circulation in the vessels of the body. The classical medi-
cal texts contain no reference to breathing techniques in relationship
to the five bodily winds.
Both traditions notice that wind flows through certain vessels in
the body. The medical compendia mention two channels which con-
vey prii1Ja. One originates in the heart, the other in various large
nutritive carrying ducts. The texts on Yoga speak of numerous vessels
with convey all the bodily breaths. Ten or fourteen of these are most
important, and three of these, if/,ii, piligalii and SU$Umnii, generally
associated with the major nerves of the spine, convey prii1Ja. Since
Yoga locates prii1Ja in the heart, connection with the medical tradition
is a possibility. Again prii1Jiiyiima or control of the respiration is
particular to Yoga.
The pneumatologies of these two ancient Indian systems agree on
fundamental concepts, but differ on particulars. Each derived the
same basic information from a common ascetic tradition and devel-
oped that according to its own special concerns. The earliest works on
Yoga and medicine indicate that neither system borrowed extensively
from the other, but later Yoga treatises, in particular the Hathayoga-
pradipikii, illustrate the infiltration of medical ideas, as references to
the humors wind, bile and phlegm, frequently occur. Recently, the
Yoga tradition ofTranscendental Meditation ("TM"), brought to the
West by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, has incorporated a modified form
of ayurvedic medicine into its spiritual discipline.
Throughout its long history, the Indian science of respiration
developed under the influence of the ascetic traditions. In the begin-
ning, it evolved as a unified doctrine among the mystics of the Veda. It
then split, seemingly with the separation of the ascetics, into a heter-
odox medical pneuma to logy and an orthodox Yoga pneumatology,
both deriving their fundamental ideas about breath and bodily winds
from a common source, and the two evolved individually for several
centuries. Gradually, a unification began to occur, probably with the
assimilation of medicine into the system of Hindu orthodoxy around
the fourth century of the common era, and Yoga began to integrate
medical ideas into its discipline and training. Today one finds that
Yoga routinely employs the teachings and methods of ayurveda in its
spiritual exercises, and ayurveda occasionally utilizes techniques of
Yoga in its healing science, indicating that the two approaches,
although solidly integrated, remain individually as lively and as pro-
ductive as they were in ancient India.

Aitareya BrahmaT}a
Caraka SafT}hita
Kapi!f(hala Ka{ha SafT}hita
Ka{ha or Ka{haka
KaiJSitaki BrahmaT}a
Ka{haka SafT}hita
Maitri or MaitrayaT}i
MaitrayaT}i SafT}hita

Satapatha BrahmQI}a
Suiruta SaTIJhita
Taittiriya Brahmaf}a
Taittiriya Saf1Jhita
Vajasaneyi SafiJhita
1) RV 1.48.10, 1.66.1, 1.101.5, 3.53.21, 10.55.5, 10.121.3.
2) RV 10.90.13.
3) RV 10.16.3.
4) RV 10.32.8.
5) RV 10.125.8.
6) RV 1.89.4; 7.35.5; 10.186.
7) Jean Filliozat, The classical doctrine of Indian medicine. Its origins and its Greek
parallels, English translation by Dev Raj Chanana (Munshiram Manoharlal,
Delhi, 1964), 71.
8) The Indian pneumatic word vyana (breath in the middle) occurs at RV 10.85.12
(=A V 14.1.12), where it is equated to the axle of the sun god's spirit chariot.
Filliozat understood this to be an a clear indication of its meaning as middle
breath, for the axle sits in the middle of the wheel (The Classical Doctrine of
Indian Medicine, 176). The reference is clearly to breath which forms part of the
sun's vehicle, but context prohibits any equation between it and the later mean-
ing of the breath that circulates in the middle of the body. It probably refers to
the cosmic wind, perceived to be the force which drove the sun through the
heavens. Cf. Arthur Ewing, "The Hindu conception of the function of breath:
A study in early Hindu, psycho-physics," (Ph.D. dissertation, Johns Hopkins
University, 1901), 32.
9) These verses with minor variations also occur at SV 2.726-7; VS 3.6-7; TS; KS 7.13; MS 1.6.1; and AV 6.31.1-2, which has and This
translation follows that of Whitney-Lanman who claim that the first verse is a
description of a heavenly body in ascent, perhaps the moon, which seems to rest
for a moment upon the earth [William D. Whitney, trans., Charles R. Lanman,
ed., Atharva-veda-saf1Jhita, Pt. 1 (1905; rpt. Motilal Banarsidass, Delhi, 1971),
303]. Karl Geldner, however, understands the spotted steer and bull to refer to
the sun, the shining on perhaps to the dawn, and incorrectly reverses the
breathing process. He renders the two verses as follows [Karl Geldner, trans.,
Der Rig-Veda, Pt. 3 (Harvard University Press, Cambridge, 1951), 403]:
l. Dieser bunte Stier ist hergeschritten und hat sich vor Mutter (Erde) und
Vater (Himmel) gesetzt auf seinem Wege zur Sonne.
2. Die leuchtende ( U ~ a s ? ) geht zwischen (Himmel und Erde) von seinem
Aushauch (Leben) einatmend. Der Biiffel hat nach dem Himmel Ausblick
10) AV 2.15.1-6, 16.1, 34.5; 3.11.5-6, 29.8; 4.15.10, 30.4; 5.4.7, 8.4, 30.13-14; 6.53.2,
135.2-3; 7.26.2, 31(32).1; 8.2.4; 9.1.2,4, 2.5,16; 10.2.29-30, 5.25-36, 8.2,6,11;
11.2.10, 3.54-56, 7(9).23; 12.1.3-4, 5.9; 13.4.11,19; 16.7.13; 19.46.3, 58.1-2, 60.1,
63.1, 71.1.
ll) AV 6.135.2-3; 10.5.25-35.
12) AV 11.4(6). 1,10,23; see also AV 11.4(6).12; 11.5.22; 15.14.11; and 19.63 l,
where prlirJa is called the Lord of Creatures (Prajapati).
13) AV 5.10.8; 6.10.2; 10.7.34; 11.4(6).15; 19.43.2, 44.5.
14) A V 8.2.3.
15) A V 6.62.1.
16) AV 1.3.4,11,19; 11.4(6).12,21-22 [see Maurice Bloomfield, trans., Hymns of the
Atharva-Veda (1897; rpt. Motilal Banarsidass, Delhi, 1964), 624-25]; 13.3.3-5;
17) AV 3.15.7; 5.30.14; 6.53.2; 8.2.13; 19.27.5-7.
18) A V 3.13.3.
19) AV 19.53.7.
20) A V 4.15.1 0; 11.2.3 (here prii'JO is Rudra, the god associated with thunderstorms),
11.4( 6).2-6, II (here prluJ{z is takmtin, fever connected with the onslaught of the
monsoons), 16-17; see also K.G. Zysk, Religious healing in the Veda (American
Philosophical Society, Philadelphia, 1985), 34-44.
21) AV 12.1.22
22) AV 11.4(6).16-17.
23) A V 1.32.1.
24) AV 11.4(6).13.
25) A V 4.35.5.
26) A V 11.4(6).9.
27) AV 2.28.3-4; 3.11.5-6; 5.10.8; 6.104.1; 7.53(55).2-6; 8.1.1,3,15, 2.11; 11.9(11).11;
16.4.3, 5, 7 where the two forms of breath are associated with the dual gods
Mitra and VaruQa; 16.8; 18.2.46; 19.45.6-10, 51.1.
28) AV 3.11.5-6. When yoked to the plow, the two draft-oxen were immensely
important beasts of burden used in the process of life-sustaining food
29) A V 7.53(55).2.
30) The fourteenth century commentator, SayaQa, understands priifJO here to be
characterized by food (anna). Cf. Jean Filliozat who points out that a similar
connection between wind and delivery is found in classical ayurvedic medicine
(The classical doctrine of Indian medicine, 179).
31) Jean Filliozat, The classical doctrine of Indian medicine, 28. Filliozat bases his
definitions on SuNi l.llff.
32) Ibid., 175-85.
33) AV 5.4.7. At Paip. l4.ll.2cd, apana replaces vyiinci, pointing to the meaning of
inhalation and exhalation.
34) A V 6.41.2; 15.15, 16, 17.
35) A V 10.2.13.
36) A V 11.8.4,26.
37) A V 11.4(6). 7-8.
38) AV 2.12.7 and SayaQa who cites TB': sapta vai priiTJiiiJ;
A V. 5.30.10; 11.3.2.
39) AV 19.46.5-6.
40) AV 3.15.7; 11.3.28; 12.1.3.
41) Mircea Eliade, Yoga. Immortality and freedom (Princeton University Press,
Princeton, 1969), 101, lll-14.
42) A V 11.5.22.
43) AV 13.1.17-19.
44) AV 9.6.19.
45) AV 10.8.19.
46) A V 9.6.22.
47) A V 9.5.21.
48) AV 15,11,5, 14.11.
49) A V 15.15.
50) A V 15.16; cf. Whitney-Lanman, who understand as "sacrificial gifts,"
without explanation (Atharva-veda-saf{lhitii, Pt. 2, 790). The meaning here given
has late support [see RV).l8.5; 10.103.8; cf. Sri Sampumanand, The
Atharva Veda. Vriityakiif}f/a with Srutiprabha commentary in English (Ganesh &
Co., Madras, 1956), 57].
51) AV 15.17.
52) vs 1.20; 31.22.
53) vs 14.8.
54) vs 13.19; 17.15.
55) vs 8.37.
56) TS; SB 5.3.3-8.
57) TS; SB
58) vs 31.22, 14.12,14; TS; SB 8.2.1-4.20.
59) VS 9.21; 18.22; TS 4.7.10.
60) TS [See A.B. Keith, trans. The Veda of the Black Yajus School,
Entitled Taittiriya Sanhita, Pt. 2 (1914; rpt. Motilal Banarsidass, Delhi, 1967),
415-16]; TS; SB
61) VS 14.8,14,17; 17.25; 22.23; 23.18; 29.8; TS 4.4.1; 4.7.10; 7.4.21; cf. 1.5.11
(=7.1.19); 1.1.6;
62) TS 4.3.5-7, 4.3.2;, 3.2; SB 8.2.1-4.20. cf. TS 4.3.2,9, 4.3.2 (where the
four breaths are mentioned); (see A.B. Keith, The Veda of the Black
Yajus School. Entitled Taittiriya Sanhita, Pt. 2, 415-16); 5.3.2, 7.2-3; VS 9.21;
13.54-58; 14.8, 17; 15.15-19, 62-64; SB 7.3.9-20;;
63) See TS and A.B. Keith, The Veda of the Black Yajus School, Entitled
Taittiriya Sanhita, Pt. 2, 464 n. 1, and A.A. Macdonell and A.B. Keith, Vedic
index of names and subjects, Vol. 2 (1912; rpt. Motilal Banarsiadss, Delhi, 1967),
64) VS 14.28; 15.10; 18.58; cf. Macdonell and Keith, Vedic index, Vol. 2, 47-48.
65) vs 25.2; 39.1,3.
66) See Macdonell and Keith, Vedic index, Vol. 2, 47-48.
67) BAU 3.1.3; 4.2.2; KauSU 3.2-4; 4.20. See also KenaU 1.8; CU 4.10.5, 13.1;
7.15.1, 3-4, 26.1; 8.12.3 (cf. BAU 4.4.2); BAU 1.4.17, 6.3; 2.1.10; TU 2.2-3;
3.3.1-4, 7 (cf. 2.8.1; KathaU 4.7 (cf. 6.2); 5.3., 5; Mu!]4U 2.2.5; 3.1.4;
Pra8naU 2.13; 3.8-9,11.
68) CU 1.1.5, 3.4, 6 (cf. BAU 1.3.23), 5.3, 7.1, 8.4, 11.5, 13.2; 2.7.1, 11; 3.16; 5.7.1
(=BAU 6.2.12), 19.24; BAU 3.1.5; 5.13.1-4; 6.3.2, 4.24; TU 1.5.3; MaitriU 6.1.2
(cf. 1.1), 5 (cf. 6.3.7), 9; 6.33; MundU 2.1.1-4,8; KauSU 2.3-5
69) AU 3.4, 10; cu 1.2.7-9, 7.1; BAU i.3.2, 27.
70) cu 6.5.2, 4, 6.3.5, 7.1, 5.
71) MaitriU 6.9.
72) CU 6.8.2; BAU 1.5.21-23; 5.14.3-4; TU 1.6.2; cf. CU 3.17.6.
73) CU 5.1 (=BAU 6.1; cf. 1.3); BAU 1.4.7, 5.20-23; 2.1.17, 20 (2.3.6); 4.3.7; 6.3.2,
4.24; TU 1.7; MaitriU 6.31; MundU 3.1.9; PrasnaU 2. 2-3,6, where the simile of
p r ~ f J a s as spokes of a wheel oceurs, 11-12.
74) BAU 1.5.21-23.
75) BAU 2.2.3-4; Mu!]4U 2.1.8.
76) cu 3.12.3-4, 13.
77) CU 2.7.1, 11; 3.13; 5.19-24; PraSnaU 4.3.4; cf. 3.1-12.
78) The latter is a reference to the theory of karman, Pra8naU 3.1-12.
79) MaitriU 2.6.
80) cu 5.19-24.
81) TU 1.7.
82) MaitriU 6.18-26.
83) See K.G. Zysk, Asceticism and healing in ancient India. Medicine in the Buddhist
Monastery (Oxford University Press, New York and London, 1991).
84) CaCi 3.5; SuSu 1.4, 45.48; SuCi 5.6, 6.7, 28.233-36a.
85) CaSu 9.18.
86) CaSu 28.7; CaSii 3.17.
87) SuSu 45.48; SuSu 46.359, 373-74; SuCi 27.12, 28.20.
88) CaSu 30.15.
89) CaSa 7.9.
90) CaSu 29.3; cf. CaCi 26.3-4.
91) SuSu 15.21.
92) CaVi 5.8, 18; SuSii 9.12; cf. SuSii 4.31.
93) CaCi 17.17, 21-26, 31-33, 45, 52-55.
94) CaSa 1.70-74, 77.
95) SuSu 26.13.
96) CaSu 12.8.
97) CaCi 28.5-12; SuNi 12.20a; cf. CaSu 12.8; CaCi 15.36, 203-4.
98) CaCi 28.5-12; SuNi 1.12-20a; see also CaCi 26.3-4; cf. CaCi 15.36, 203-4; and
CaCi 18.6 where cough (kiisa) results when wind, impeded from below, moves
to the upper channels, attains the character of udiina, and sticks to the throat
and chest.
99) CaCi 28.219b-2la.
100) CaCi 28.199-216; SuCi 1.34b-39.
101) CaCi 233-36a.
102) SuNi 1.20b-2lb.
103) Caraka's inclusion of the Vedic similes of spokes around a hub and rays from
the sun in relationship to prii1Ja and the compound prii1Jiipiina, which is almost
exclusively Vedic, further points to the incorporation of non-medical orthodox
religious doctrines in this medical text. At CaSi 9.4, prllfJa and apiina, mind,
intellect, consciousness, and the gross elements (mahiibh.ilta) are established in
the heart like spokes in a hub, and senses, channels conveying the senses and
prii1Jas are located in the head like rays in the sun.
104) YS 1.2.
105) YS 1.34; 2.49.
106) YS 2.50.
107) YS 2.51.
108) YS 2.53-53.
Daoqi- Existence Between God and Man
Research Institute for the Humanities, Kyoto University
47 Higashi Ogura-cho, Kitashirakawa, Sakyo-ku-
Kyoto, Japan
T is a matter of common knowledge that medicine in ancient China
had a close relation with various kinds of Taoist art which situated
on the basis of Taoism. Concretely speaking, it can be listed out
methods of nourishing life (yangshengshu),*
sexual techniques
ways of breathing (huxishu),*
methods of inner
vision (neiguan)*
and meditation (cunsz)*
and further magic etc., are
consciously excluded by the medical system of modern ages, that have
also become a common and important element between the two. The
exchange between the two makes possible because of the concept of
qi, the common basis in Chinese thought. The main subject here,
bears this close relation between Taoism and medicine in mind, is
mainly based on the fact that the evidence of independent develop-
ment of philosophy of qi in the Taoist doctrine has been clear, and it
will offer a clue for a more deeply nderstanding about the concept of
qi as a common basis.
*I J11;_Uj

Dao stated by Taoist at the head of the Lao Zi*
is the only
absolute existence that transcended a relative limited world, at the
same time it is the existence by no means to catch its true nature in
word symbol or sense. Because of its absolute infinity, it is considered
that the whole creation is formed and changed unceasingly in the
foundation of this world, and supported the world order spontane-
ously themselves. According to the understanding of what dao should
be, and the state united with dao, it is the first time to build up the
existence of man's ultimate highest excellence, which was the philo-
sophical basis in the Lao Zi.
This dao, like the Confucian concept of tian*
(heaven) or tiandi*
(the supreme god of heaven), is not simply existing transcendentally as
the supreme existence, but also from all the living things, including
man, to a piece of stone or a lump of earth as expected, is stressed
universally inherent in the Zhuang Zi, *
of which is succeeded to the
Lao Zi's philosophy. In Knowledge Wandered North (Zhibeiyou)*
of the Zhuang Zi, there is a famous allegory. I)
Master Dongguo asked Zhuang Zi, "This thing called the Way-
where does it exist?" Zhuang Zi said "There's no place it doesn't
exist." "Come," said Dongguo, "you must be more specific!" "It
is in the ant." "As low a thing as that?" "It is in the panic grass."
"But that's lower still!" "It is in the tiles and shards." "How can it
be so low?" "It is in the piss and shit!" Master Dongguo made no
After that, what dao should be is generally described by three
words i.e. "zhou"*
(complete), "bian"*
(universal) and "xian"*
(all-inclusive) in the Zhuang Zi. But so far dao connotes the whole
existence and being, universally inherent in all things is concerned,
either one draws the same conclusion.
On the other hand, beyond this assertion of universal immanence
of dao in the whole creation, the formation of the whole creation
belongs to Taoist cosmogony which begins from dao. In chapter 42 of
the Lao Zi speaks of the formation of the world.
Dao begets one qi*
; one qi begets yinyang*
two qi; yinyang two
qi mingle with each other to beget the blending of the yinyang
three qi; these three qi begets all existing objects. The myriad
objects carry on their backs the yin and embrace in their arms the
yang and are the blending of the two to preserve the harmony.
Here dao produces the first thing as one qi of the chaos (literally
the primordial breath) or the Great ultimate (taijz)*
scribed in the Yijing*
(the Book of changes), upon which there is also
some other different opinions. But after that the begotten thing is
normally regarded as yinyang two qi (heaven and earth) and the
blending of the yinyang three qi (heaven, earth and man). Moreover
Confucian view of the formation of the whole creation because of
yin yang two qi, has been recognized as an obvious subject appeared in
(Appended Explanations), an appendix to the Yijing.
The thought that in pursuit of formation of the world by qi, has
become a common basis in Chinese thought regardless of different
schools. Upon this basis, cosmogony in general has been recognized
as follows in Eastern Han Dynasty: one qi of the chaos is the primor-
dial breath which is begotten from dao; the primordial breath begets
yin yang two qi separately, and yin yang two qi adds further to mingle
the blending qi becoming three qi, from which heaven, earth and man
(all existing objects) are created.
To see this cosmogony conversely, the Whole creation is com-
posed by qi. If qi of the whole creation retrospect, it return back to
one qi of the chaos and that one qi of the chaos will become some-
thing nothing less than definite realization in the original physical
world of dao. Thus, the proposition in pursuit of an universal inherent
evident for the whole creation in dao through the primordial breath is
explained in He Shang Gong's*
Commentary and other Commen-
taries of the Lao Zi. The central part of their concern has shown the
tendency that it is rather put on qi than on dao itself. However, in this
stage, dao was still as original principle or actual being, which was
thought qualitatively differed from the primordial breath that realized
the function of dao- the primitive existence of the physical world
concretely. Therefore, in cosmogony of Wei and Jin Dynasties that
was developed from and being continued to classical cosmogony in
Eastern Han Dynasty, the subject of investigation was placed upon
the process of fractionalization from primordial breath to subdivision
of the yinyang two qi, and it was scarcely to give attention to the
relationship between dao and the primordial breath.
) This situation
showed signs of conspicuous changes, in which an attempt of systemi-
zation of Taoist doctrine was started from Eastern Jin Dynasty hence.
Taoism, taking the belief of the supreme god of heaven and
astrolatry, also idea of immortals and sorcery since the Warring States
as its basis, was formed to become a national indigenous religion in
complexity and flourish as a popular religion in possession of sect and
religious doctrine from the end of Eastern Han Dynasty. After that, in
addition to the strong reception of influence of the study of Buddhist
doctrine, it took the philosophy of Taoist dao as the core i d e ~ and set
the construction of its doctrinal system farther. Through such process
several questions appeared as follows, for which are necessary to solve
unificatively how is the concept of dao in relation to the supreme god,
an object of worship; furthermore how does the religions world con-
cept coordinate with the cosmogony hitherto; or how does the art of
ascending up as immortals (shengxian),*
explained as a theory, of
*22 i l ~
which is owing to meditation (cunsz)*
and ways of breathing
the central idea of Taoist art. Moreover, the doctrinal in-
vestigation will be conducted about the relationship among dao,
(spirit) and qi (breath), the three basic concepts of Taoist
Ironically the first achievement of this attempt can be seen in
Taoist rivalry- the Buddhist records. In chapter 8 of Hongmingji*
(Collected essays on defending Buddhism, which was compiled by
Monk Seng You*
[435-518]), there is an essay called Shisanpolun*
(In reply to Sanpolun*
[An Essay on Three Eradications, a work
tentatively written by Taoist adept Zhang Rong*
]) by Monk Seng
[The Taisho Tripitaka, Vol. 52, pp. 53c]. Taoist propositions
are quoted as criticized objects, for instances: "Dao is breath"*
"The origin of dao is breath."*
It is very remarkable that dao and the
primordial breath being regarded as qualitatively different things
hitherto are considered as the same thing. This can be said that it
shows one of the turning point in the history of Taoist doctrine.
However, in which context this proposition should be read was no
longer to know.
The definition of "dao is breath" comes to establish in due course,
whose idea is expressed in a new word called "daoqi''. This newly
appeared word can be classified into 4 systems in accordance with its
examples. (1) The original function of dao, especially a state of its
power of enlightenment is incarnated rightly to society; in other
words, a case shows a state in which atmosphere of whole society
agrees on the truth of Taoist School (daojia)*
and Taoist Religion
(2) Dao means exhaling qi of most essence, which is a
case used as daoqi corresponding to the primordial breath in classical
cosmogony. (3) A case that grasp dao itself substantively, and
expresses in terms of dao. (4) A case expresses all the gods and
goddesses of Taoism in terms of daoqi. The change of examples from
*26 :fill
*30 C:::iliia
*35 iil*
72 KuNIO MuorrANI
(1) to (4) does not always mean the process of historical transforma-
tion being in such way. But the issue of formation of the world in
Taoist doctrine is noteworthy. It is that through the process of reli-
gious mystification of classical cosmogony in Eastern Han Dynasty,
the function of formation of the philosophical concept of dao is sub-
stantiated gradually, and in the same time, a religious world cosmog-
ony that takes shen (spirit) as the very beginning (shiyuan),*
and a
philosophical world cosmogony that takes dao as the very beginning
are overlapped mutually, so that the unification of dao, shen and qi
becomes to be emphasized. As a result, it can be said that the above
mentioned concept of daoqi is brought forth. SJ
In other words, accompanied with the development of doctrine,
that how to grasp the relationship between the world of gods and the
world of man, namely, the necessity for demonstrating Taoist reli-
gious world concept, is brought forth. At that time, Taoism selected a
way composing its religious cosmogony while it was basing upon the
classical cosmogony. Here as the religious mystification of the classi-
cal cosmogony that taking dao as the very beginning is proceeding
onwards, the former formative process which is expounded as from
dao and then the primordial breath and the whole creation, typically
reflected in the Santianneijiejing*
(Book of the Internal Disintegra-
tion of the Three Heavens) and the Jiutianshengshenzhangjing*
(Book of Vital Spirit of the Nine Heavens), is recomposed as from
shen ( daoqz) and then the very primordial beginning three qi and the
whole creation.
l Thus dao and shen become holding the equal posi-
tion in cosmogony, and it can be regarded that basis for formation of
religions philosophy, in which dao, shen and qi are identical, is pro-
vided through the medium of daoqi here. The appearance of the
concept of daoqi shows the mark of the development of Taoist doc-
trine in such a manner truly; for convenience' sake we call this reli-
gious idea as theory of daoqi.
*37 l!ii7C
*3s = : ~ I * I M * l
Nevertheless, the above mentioned Taoist doctrine, was not com-
posed unifiably and systematically by no means, differing from peri-
odical or regional background and accumulated gradually. The
attempt, which intended to systematize the Taoist doctrine that owed
various different aspects not contradictorily and unifically; while
taking methodology of study of Buddhist "doctrine as a model due to
many Taoist scholars of doctrinal study, the study was being pro-
ceeded vigorously after entering the latter half of Six Dynasties. Its
achievement was epitomized in the Xuanmendayi*
(The General
Principles of Taoism) of Sui Dynasty.
As the Xuanmendayi had already lost, we cannot see its whole
picture. But its outline of essentials can be comprehended according
to the Daojiaoyishu*
(The Central Principles of Taoism [in Taoist
Canon's Taipingbu,*
Vol. 763]), a true abridgement of its content
composed by among Taoist adept Meng An Pai*
in Emperor Gao
l This Daojiaoyishu put the explanation of dao and
that is the basic concept of Taoism as Daodeyi*
(Meaning of
the Way and the Virtue) in the opening paragraph. There a new
definition of"dao is /i*
(the principle)", which was a radical change
to the common definition of "dao is qi" of Six Dynasties, was
endowed. This change, is a result of the controversy between Taoism
and Buddhism through the period from the Northern and Southern
Dynasties to the Sui and Early Beginning of Tang Dynasties, having a
very significant meaning in history of Taoist thought. However, it will
not touch on this subject here because of limited time. In addition,
about the issue on the nature of dao in the Daojiaoyishu, it is interest-
ing to note that there is a characteristic which is driven and being
developed by the concept of tiyong*
(substance and function)

*42 ~ - $
*43 ~ ' 9 : ~ ~
U4 ifli*
$45 if.
*46 itlf.fl
*47 fl
*48 f*ffl
learned from methodology of the study of Buddhist doctrine. As a
result, in Fashenyi*
(the sense of fashen- dharma-kiiya, essential
Buddhahood or the essence of being), the essence of Laojun*
Lao), Daojun*
(Lord the Way) and Yuanshitianzun*
Worthy of the Primordial Beginning)- the supreme gods of
Taoism- that is to describe how to comprehend fashen in details.
According to the meaning of fashen in Taoism, for which benji*
(the original and external evidences) have the threefold body (san-
shen)*54 respectively. The threefold body of ben is alloted to jing*
(essence), shen*
(spirit), qi*
(breath) that is so-called sanyi*
three ones) and establish only three meanings provisionally; but its
ultimate essence is said to be identical. This idea is formed because of
the allotment of fashen idea to the Three Ones idea that was devel-
oped gradually in the latter half of Six Dynasties. This Three Ones
idea developed closely with the explanation of chapter 14 in the Lao
Zi. In the Laozishu*
(Commentary on the Lao Zi) which was written
by a Taoist adept Cheng Xuan Ying*
in Early Tang, the explanation
by Zang Xuan Jing*
is quoted as follows. SJ
To begin with, what is called yi*
(evanescent), x1"*
(minute), that is essence, spirit and breath. Essence is the
name of intelligent. Spirit is the function of which cannot be
fathomed. Breath is the concept of form and appearance. Assem-
ble these three will become a sage ... This is so-called the Three
Cheng Xuan Ying accepted this and wrote in his work Cl:!.lled the
(Commentary on Esoteric preface of the Front
Chapter to the Lao Zi).
In the Daodejing*
{The Lao Zi) it is said: "What cannot be seen
is called evanescent." (This is) essence. It said: "What cannot be
*51 ii:E5

*55 M
*56 'Ill!


*63 1it
66 iitif.*l
heard is called rarefied." (This is) spirit. It is said: "What cannot
be touched is called minute." (This is) breath. Assemble these
three will become the holy nature. In the Daodejing it is said:
"These three cannot be fathomed. And so they are confused and
looked upon as one." But Lord Lao takes the three ones as his
body, and there is difference between zhen*
(truth) and ying*
( correlativity).
The difficulty of grasping dao is clearly shown by yi, xi and wei
three words in the text of the Lao Zi. Here the explanation to this dao
that what the Taoist sage- the supreme divinity- ought to be hav-
ing been expressed in the same time. And it can be realized that dao
and shen are regarded as identical consequently. Again, in chapter 6 of
the Bianzhenlun*
(Essay on debating Correctness) [The Taisho
Tripitaka, Vol. 52, pp. 536] written by a Tang monk who named
Fa Lin, *
after he had mentioned about yi, xi and wei of the Lao Zi
and their corresponding concepts of jing, shen and qi that was
appeared in former famous scholar's works and in the He Shang
Gong Commentary of the Lao Zi, the following passage is found
To my thinking, in the Shengshenzhang*
(Book of the Rules of
Vital Spirit of the Nine Heavens) it is said: "Master Lao assembles
the very primordial beginning three qi as one. This isfati*
essence of the Principle). Jing is jing/ing*
(spirit); shen is bian-
hua*74 (change); qi is qixiang*
(atmosphere). In Lu Jian Ji,*
Zang Jin,*
Gu Huan,*
Zhu Rou,*
and Meng Zhi Zhou's*
explanation to the Lao Zi, it is said: "Assemble these three qi to
form the holy essence." It is further said: "Nature is the universal
essence; three qi is the individual essence."
Here a perfect man or a sage also means the Taoist supreme
divinity. And it is stated that his true nature is the very primordial,
beginning three qi, and in the same time it is formed in accordance
*68 rr;;
.10 $m
*72 $f*
*76 1!1111!:!\i
with the Three Ones of spirit, change and atmosphere. Fa Lin's
explanation of corresponding jing, shen and qi to yi, xi and wei, we
cannot find in the existing He Shang Gong's Commentary of Lao Zi
at least. However, this explanation that is spoken qi, based on Book
of the Rules of Vital Spirit of the Nine Heavens or Lu Xiu Jing*
whom was the leading scholar for study of Taoist classics in the latter
half of Six Dynasties, and that is known about dao relates to essence,
then the relationship among "dao", "nature" and "three qi", which
has become a doctrinal issue.
As stated above, Taoist doctrine in the latter half of Six Dynasties,
it is considered that a sage, namely, a supreme divinity, and "the
primordial breath" or the very primordial beginning three qi are iden-
tical; and further, the philosophical concept of dao is substituted for
religious expression of "sage" (the supreme god); and that composed
by the doctrine of dao-shen-qi is being known. This regulation of shen
is qi, is an original teaching in Taoism which cannot be found in other
religions. Its source can be seen from the classical cosmogony in Han
and Wei Dynasties, and Taoist art offuqi and cunsi. In the process of
systematization of doctrine from the latter half of Six Dynasties, in
spite of the strong acceptance of the influence from the study of
Buddhist doctrine as a whole, the nature of regulation of shen-
being its basis- where is the point that had never accepted Buddhist
theory, the originality of Taoist doctrine and the powerful tradition of
philosophy of qi in China can be seen.
Along with conversion of the body qualitatively to immortals of
perennial youth and immortality, joining into the ultimate real world
that has been united with dao is the final aim of Taoism. For the sake
of that, alchemy as the beginning, there is various kinds of methods
among Taoist art. The most basic methods related to qi that can be
raised up are methods of fuqi-daoyin*
(ways of breathing and
gymnastic practice) and neiguan-cunsi. *
Fuqi-daoyin is a kind of
Taoist art that taking qi of heaven, earth and the chaos, namely, the
primordial breath, into internal body and exhaling impure qi of
internal body externally, and is going to change the body becoming
a permanent existence that is homogeneous with heaven, earth and
universe in accordance with preparation of the circulation of internal
qi. Also, the method of neiguan-cunsi is a kind of Taoist art that, in
accordance with the imagination of tineishen*
(internal spirit) which
is an offshoot of celestial gods inside one's mind, internal spirit is in its
turn to cause mutual sympathy with celestial gods and is going to
convert the body becoming an homogeneous existence (immortals)
with gods. So, as seen in the Taoist classics like the Huangtingneijing-
jing*85 (Book of Inner Effulgences of the Yell ow Court), this internal
spirit and the Primordial breath are identical thing ultimately, and
in-take of the primordial breath is considered just involving in invig-
oration of internal spirit. The cognition to unification of internal spirit
and qi at the level of this Taoist art, where it is applicable to the
relation between dao and qi in the process of abstract theorization of
doctrine, is inferred that the moment started to exist after the defini-
tion of "dao is qt' had been appeared.
In chapter 6 of Fa Lin's the Bianzhenlun [The Taisho Tripitaka.,
Vol. 52, pp. 537a], the Yangshengfuqijing*
(Book of Nourishing Life
and Ways of Breathing) is quoted
l and the theory of doaqi men-
tioned above is based on:
Dao is the primordial breath. If one keeps the primordial breath
one will unite with dao, if one unite with dao one will be able to
live forever.
This clearly a remarkable proposition. And in the rearward of this
proposition, the proposition of unification of dao, shen and qi is
obvious. Longevity or immortality is the superior quality that immor-
tals owed, so that its realization means a qualitative conversion from
*83 f*IUH:.It!.
*84 f*r*l:fill
8s jtlf!I*!:!Ui
*86 ~ n l l ~ f t
man to the existence of superior being. This kind of conversion makes
possible because it is considered that in man daoqi is taken as medium
and dao is inherent; and that his body is regarded as the microcosm, in
which possessed a complete replica of the celestial gods' world, is
brought forth. However, an inflow of impure qi followed in-take of
food, loss of spirit because of sexual intercourse etc. will lose purity of
the primordial breath for general vital activities in internal body; and
these make the internal spirit decline gradually and lead to die finally.
Therefore, keeping out of these situation through evasion of in-take of
cereals (pigu, *
abstaining from cereals) or avoidance of loss of spirit
due to sexual intercourse (sexual techniques), according to neiguan-
cunsi andfuqi-daoyin etc., to purify the primordial breath in internal
body and activate internal spirit so as to revive the original body as
microcosm, and further intend to assimilate the celestial gods. Beyond
such Taoist methods of cultivation, its theoretical foundation offered
is the theory of daoqi that expounds unification among dao, shen
and qi.
Recently, the similarity between Taoist way of neidan*
of inner cinnabar) is worth noticed. But beyond the method of inner
cinnabar, there is such theory of daoqi solemnly; it does not confine to
the disparity between method of inner cinnabar and Yoga, and is the
point that cannot be ignored as revealing the essential difference
between Chinese thought and Indian thought. In Taoist doctrine, it is
considered god and man is of existence of unification essentially; their
identity is ensured by the mechanism that belonged to the universal
immanence for the whole creation of the original one qi- that is the
primordial breath or daoqi.
1) The original Chinese text is as follows:

ff... B. B. B. B. B.
2) The original Chinese text is as follows:

3) About the relationship between the classical cosmogony in Han and Wei
Dynasties and the theory of daoqi, the subject matter has already been discussed
in Mugitani, "Roshi sojichu ni tsuite" 1:: "? '""t: (A study of the Laozi
Xiang'erzhu), in Toho Gakuho (Kyoto), Vol. 57 (1985).
4) Theory of Five Circulations that is shown in Apocryphal
Treatise on the Changes: A Penetration of the Laws of qian fl; (Yiwei
Qianzuodu and the Chapter of Cosmogony of Liezi (Liezi Tianrui-
pian 91JT:RflUI) is the representative example. There it is explained to fraction-
alize as five stages of the process from wu 111t (nothing) to the begotten pri-
mordial breath, namely taiyi (a Great Principle of Change), taichu :t:m
(a Great Origin), taishi (a Great Beginning), taisu (a Great Primordial
Undifferentiatedness), taiji :t:ti (the Great Ultimate).
5) About the details, refer op. cit. essay in note 3.
6) In the Santianneijiejing.=::RpgM$1, the very beginning of the world exists prior
to the primordial breath, is the divinity of daodezhangren (the Old Man
of the Way and its Power). Moreover, in the Jiutianshengshenzhangjing
from the qi of three fundamentals (sanyuan =:x ) which is called
three pillars of divinity i.e. tianbaozhangren (the Old man of the
Heavenly Treasure), /ingbaozhangren (the Old Man of the Numinous
Treasure), shenbaozhangren (the Old Man ofthe Miraculous Treasure),
the three qi of very profound beginning is
brought forth and the celestial boundary (tianjie :RW) is formed. From thence
forth, the terrestrial world starts to form successively. Although we cannot see
something like yuanshitianwang ( the Heavenly Emperor of the Very
Beginning), the divinity corresponding to daoqi; it can be considered that there
is an assumption about an obvious ultimate existence prior to the qi of three
fundamentals practically. This said that in those Taoist literature the identity
and unification of shen :)Ill (spirit) and qi of the hunyuan ill:JC (the chaos) has
become the core of religious world concept, after all.
7) About the religious doctrine of the Daojiaoyishu and the meaning of intellectual
history in Taoist doctrine, refer "Nanbei Chao Sui Tang-Chu Daojiao jiaoyixue
guankui" (A narrow view on the study of Taoist
doctrine in the period from the Northern and Southern Dynasties to the Sui and
Early Beginning of Tang Dynasties) in Riben Xuezhe lun Zhongguo Zhexueshi
(Collected Essays on History of Chinese Philosophy by
Japanese Scholars), 1987.
8) The original Chinese text is as follows:

. ...... .
9) The original Chinese text is as follows:
gs*. gs.

(Based on Ofuchi Ninji Tonko Dokei Zurokuhen (A
Pictorial Catalogue of Taoist Manuscripts from Dun-huang), pp. 462.)
10) The original Chinese text is as follows:
M:li!:M . Mll!llli:m. IRIJ:. !#ft.

11) The original Chinese text is as follows:
Also, in Juelipin t@ti: (Category of Abstaining from Grain), chapter 4 of the
Sandongzhu'nang .=.ifallll: (Bead Bag of the Three Caverns) [The Taoist
Canon, Vol. 780], same passage can be found in the quoted literature called the
Daojitu'najing (Book of Taoist Fundamentals of Breathing).
Concepts of Qi in Ancient China
Department of Chinese Literature
Daitobunka University
1-9-1 Takashimadaira,
Itabashi-ku, Tokyo
ccORDING to Gu Xie Gang*
the great historian of China,
wu xing*
(the five phases of transformation) is a fundamen-
tal law in Chinese thought, and it is a Chinese belief of a universal
system. It has exerted a profound influence for over two thousand
The most basic and all pervasive element within Chinese culture is
(pronounced chi). The five phases mentioned above are a variety
of qi. Even though the five phases have special attributes which dis-
tinguish them from qi in the usual sense, they are still forms of qi. The
concept of qi has played such a crucial role in the development of
Chinese thought, especially philosophy and cosmology, that every-
thing is based on it. If the five phases were not qi, then this system
could not have become the fundamental law in Chinese thought and it
would never have had the profound and longlasting influence it did.
The original forms of qi including the five phases were established in
ancient China. Various concepts of qi will be discussed in this paper
with an emphasis on qi in relation to the human body.
*I lfiafiiiJI *l 3{1.
In ancient China the various schools of thought and their expo-
nents were called Zhuzi Baijia. *
Taoism was among these early
schools of thought and "one of the features of Taoism is that it's
concerned with the origins of human society and of the world itself. "
Lao Zi*
who is considered to be the founding figure of Taoism spoke
of the creation of the universe as follows:
All things in the world are born from being, and being issues from
non-being. (chapter 40)
The dao*
produced One; One produced Two; Two produced
Three; Three produced all things. (chapter 42i)
Since Lao Zi did not elaborate on what he meant by One, Two,
and Three, it is unclear as to what exactly he was referring to. How-
ever, these are explained as follows in Tian Wen Xun*
of "Huai Nan
The dao originated with One. However, nothing is created from
One. Therefore it separated into yin*
and yang.*
The yin and
yang jointed and all things came into existence. Therefore it is
stated that One produced Two; Two produced Three; Three pro-
duced all things.
According to this explanation, in the period "Huai Nan Zi" was
written, Two was sometimes interpreted as the two qi of yin and yang.
Also the next passage shows that the One mentioned by Lao Zi was
construed as one qi.
When Heaven and Earth had yet to take form, there was chaos.
This is called Tai Zhao. *
The dao, *
or the way, emerged from
infinite space, and this infinite space produced the cosmos. The
cosmos produced qi, which had limitations. The clear and light
(qz) gathered together to form Heaven. The turbid and heavy (qz)
congealed to form Earth. The merging of clear and light was
especially easy, whereas the congealing of the turbid and heavy
was particularly difficult. Thus Heaven was formed first and Earth
was formed afterward. The essential qi of Heaven and Earth
formed yin and yang, and the concentrated essential qi of yin and
yang formed the four seasons. The dispersed essential qi of the
four seasons formed the myriad of things. The hot qi of yang
accumulated for a long time to produce fire, and the essential qi of
fire formed the sun. The cold qi of yin accumulated for a long time
to produce water, and the essential qi of water formed the moon.
The refined essence of the excess fluid of the sun and moon
formed the stars and the planets. Heaven accepted into itself the
sun, moon, stars, and planets, while Earth accepted water, rivers,
soil, and dust. Sl
This passage is also from the Tian Wen Xun of "Huai Nan Zi", and
it is a famous story of creation. The chaos called Tai Zhao in this
passage gives rise to the process by which qi is born from infinite space
and creates the universe. Qi plays an important role when Heaven and
Earth were formed from chaos. Three things can be noted here. First
is that Heaven and Earth are formed by qi. Second is that Heaven and
Earth are not two separate entities but were created by the separation
of qi according to differences in their nature. Third is that the separa-
tion of Heaven and Earth occurred by the movement of qi according
to their physical properties. This creation myth in the "Huai Nan Zi"
is a compilation of all creation myths which preceded it, and it is
representative of the creation myths in ancient China.
"Huai Nan Zi" was a document written by early Taoists, but in
ancient China the origin of the universe was never a subject of philo-
sophical discussion except in Taoism and the Yin-Yang School (the
latter was thought as being formed by descendants of court astrono-
mers). The existence of Heaven and Earth was by in large considered
to be a given. The majority of ancient Chinese thinkers were preoccu-
pied with the process of creation and destruction of the myriad of
things in Heaven and Earth.
Let us examine this aspect briefly. It is stated as follows in Li
of "Xun Zi"*
When Heaven and Earth unite all things are born. When yin and
yang meet changes are initiated.
In this passage, the Heaven and Earth that unite and the yin and
yang that meet are all qi. It is stated that the qi of Heaven and Earth
generate all things directly without the intermediation of the qi of yin
and yang or the qi of the four seasons. It is stated as follows in Yang
of the "Confucian Analects":
Confucius said: the four seasons pursue their courses, and all
things are continually generated.
This passage states that all things generate and grow by the
changes in the four seasons. The changes in the four seasons was
construed as being the seasonal alternation of four qi, each with
different properties. These four qi were called the qi of the four sea-
sons. Therefore it was thought that the qi of the four seasons was what
caused all things to generate and grow. By conceptualizing nature in
this way, a principle of generation derived from the four seasons, and
thus the concept that the qi of the four seasons was what created all
things became established.
Thus far, as that which created all things, I have mentioned the qi
of Heaven and Earth, as well as the qi of the four seasons. In addition
to these, the qi of yin and yang was mentioned in the "Huai Nan Zi"
(which interprets chapter 42 of "Lao Zi"*
) as being that which
created all things. If we chronologically compare these three catego-
ries of qi, the qi of Heaven and Earth and the qi of the four seasons are
older than the qi of yin and yang. The story of creation in the "Huai
Nan Zi" combines the principles of generation by these three catego-
ries of qi, and goes further to explain the origin of Heaven and Earth.
In addition to these three categories of qi mentioned above, there
were other things which caused the emergence and demise of all
things. These were the winds which blew from the eight directions
(north, northeast, east, southeast, south, southwest, west, and
northwest). Based on the statement in the Qi Wu Lun*
of "Zhuang
that "the qi exhaled from Heaven and Earth is named wind",
it was said that "wind is another name for qi".
) Furthermore, based
on the discussion in "Feng Fu"*
by Song Yu, *
which states that
wind is qi that exists between Heaven and Earth, IO) it has been stated
that "wind was considered to be qi itself in ancient Chinese think-
ing".11) The winds that blow from the eight directions are called Ba
(eight winds) and each of these winds has its own name and
) One of these winds is described in the Lu Shu*
of "Shi
as follows:
The wind of Bu Zhou*
is located in the northwest and is in
charge of the emergence and demise of all things. !3)
The origin of the belief that the eight winds controlled the emer-
gence and demise of all things can be traced to the practice of offering
sacrifices to the winds blowing from the four directions during the
) In this period the distinction was made between
winds blowing from the four directions (east, west, south, and north)
and further, these winds were thought to blow according to a cyclical
pattern with the seasons. These winds were considered to promote the
emergence and demise of living things.
) If we look to the Yin period
for the origin of the concept of qi (that which fills the space between
Heaven and Earth, changes itself, affects things, and relates to the
phenomena of life), it can be identified as the winds.
) Compared to
the fact that the four directions of east, west, south, and north were
distinguished and named in the Yin period, based on documents
available, the distinguishing and naming of the four seasons must


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have come much later in the Chun Qiu*
l Therefore,
although I have already stated that the qi of Heaven and Earth and
the qi of the four seasons were the oldest concepts related to the
generation of things, the four winds (this is equivalent to the eight
winds of later periods)
l is actually the oldest. Wind is not men-
tioned, however, in the story of creation in the "Huai Nan Zi" quoted
previously. Also there are not many statements in the classics which
characterize wind as controlling the emergence and demise of all
things. The reason for the diminishing role of wind may be attributed
to the appearance of the concept of qi as an abstraction of wind and to
the decline in the position of wind in relative to qi in the principle of
generation. In other words, over time the various functions of genera-
tion attributed to the winds came to be considered the functions of the
qi of Heaven and Earth or the qi of the four seasons. In a much later
period this function came to be assigned to the qi of yin*
yang. *
After creation, the history of the emergence and demise of all
things begins. The qi of Heaven and Earth, the qi of yin and yang, the
qi of four seasons, and the qi of eight winds control the emergence
and demise of all things. It is stated as follows in "Lushi Chun-
In the first month of spring, the qi of Heaven descends and the qi
of Earth ascends; the qi of Heaven and Earth unite and then the
plants germinate and grow. (Meng Chun Ji*
The qi of Heaven ascends and the qi of Earth descends; the qi of
Heaven and Earth never unite and the activity of all things stop,
and then winter comes. (Meng Dong Ji*
According to these passages, the qi of Heaven and Earth generate
all things by uniting, and exterminate them by separating. In contrast
to this, the qi of the four seasons each have different functions, and
they generate and exterminate things by their alternation. The func'-
tion of each of the seasons was stated as follows:
Spring generates things, summer grows things, fall harvests things,
and winter stores things.
These functions are performed by "the four seasons dominating
alternately". 2ll The emergence and demise of all things by the eight
winds is the same in nature as that brought about by the qi of the four
The emergence and demise of all things by the qi of yin*
has two patterns, one is like that by the qi of the four seasons
and the other is like that by the qi of Heaven and Earth. The concept
of yin and yang have the attribute of summus genus. When Heaven
and Earth are the specific concept, yang encompasses Heaven and yin
encompasses Earth. When the four seasons are the specific concept,
yang encompasses spring and summer, and yin encompasses fall and
Therefore qi, as the principle that generates and exterminates all
things, works in two ways to cause the emergence and demise of all
things- one is by the union and separation of two qi of different
attributes, and the other is by the alternate dominance of qi with
different attributes.
Now let us examine the process of emergence and demise. In Zhi
Bei You*
of "Zhuang Zi",*
it was written as follows:
Life is due to the collecting of qi. When it is collected, there is life;
When it is dispersed, there is death.
This passage refers to the life of man, but it is possible here to
substitute the existence of a thing for life.
l The following passage
explains in detail the process of emergence and demise of men and
Before the origin of life, there was no life nor any physical form.
Not only was there no physical form, but there was no qi. During
the intermingling of The Waste and Dark Chaos, a change
occurred and qi was born. Another change took place and a
physical form was born. And birth and life came after another
change. (Zhi Le, *
"Zhuang Zi")
This passage places the occurrence of form as a process between
that of qi and life. This physical form is "the housing of life",
) and it
implies a concentration of qi. That which has yet to take a form
indicates qi in a diffuse and dispersed condition. By placing form
between qi and life, it became possible to explain not only the emer-
gence and demise of living things, but non-living things as well. The
difference between qi and form is the difference in the density of qi.
The difference between form and life, however, depends upon the
presence of shen. *
The following statement is made about shen in the Tian Nian*
"Ling Shu"*
When shen (that which works mysteriously) is lost, one dies;
when shen is acquired, one lives.
Shen has a different meaning depending on the context in which it
is used. Here it means "all life activity and physiological functions in
man and living things".27) Shen is the substance which performs these
activities and functions. In other words, it is a type of qi. Among qi,
there are those that have different properties and attributes. Some
types of qi simply create forms, while others perform various life
activities and physiological functions. In the beginning all types of qi
were intermixed in a state of chaos.
The Wang Zhi*
of "Xun Zi"*
is not an exposition on the
principle of generation, but there is a passage which discusses differ-
ences in things which exist by differences in constituent substances.
Water and fire possess qi but no life. Herbs and trees possess life,
but no sentience. Birds and beasts possess sentience, but no cour-
tesy. Man possesses not only qi, life, and sentience, but also cour-
tesy. Hence man is the highest being on earth.
In this passage the existence of qi, life, sentience, and courtesy is
the criterion for the classification of existing things into four levels. In
contrast to "Zhuang Zi" quoted earlier, form corresponds to water
and fire, and life corresponds to herbs, trees,- animals, and man. Xun
classified living things into three levels and analized their differ-
ences. The difference between plants, which are on the lowest level,
and animals, which are on the level above plants, depends on the
existence of sentience. In Li Lun*
of "Xun Zi" there is the following
passage about the existence of sentience:
Among all living things that are born between Heaven and Earth,
all beings with xueqi*
have sentience.
Xueqi is the combination of blood and qi.
If we were to apply the
term shen here, this would be qi which performs all life activities and
physiological function in man and animals.
According to the concept of four levels of existence by Xun Zi, the
difference between animals and man, the highest form of existence,
depends on the presence of courtesy. Xun Zi considered courtesy to
be the highest principle which mankind created, and it is not qi. Also
he maintained that courtesy was a result of the voluntary activities of
man performed with the volitional and active functioning of the mind.
Therefore it can be said that the presence of courtesy implies the
presence of intentional and active functioning of the mind. For Xun
Zi as well as other thinkers in ancient times, the mind meant the
physical heart as well as the spiritual function thought to be possessed
by the heart. He thought there was a subordinate passive aspect and a
volitional active aspect in the mental function of the heart. The former
aspect is the mental function performed by the physical heart itself,
but he does not explain anything about the intentional part which
controls the latter aspect.
For Confucius and Mencius who were scholars in an earlier
period, Heaven was the universal principle, and this principle existed
in man and served as the basis of morality in man.
) Xun Zi, on the
other hand, limited the definition of Heaven to nature and asserted
the volitional and active existence of the mind in contrast to this.
Regarding the existence of the volitional and active mind, which is the
greatest characteristic of man, however, he was in agreement with
Confucius and Mencius.
) It was a commonly held view among Con-
fucians that the existence of a metaphysical mind was the main
difference between mankind and animals.
Taoists, the opponents of Confucians, denied the supremacy of
the mind over qi. The following are examples of two contrasting
The will is the leader of qi. (Gong Sun Chou, *
part 1 of "The
Works of Mencius")
It is called force when the mind employs qi. ("Lao Zi"*
The former is Confucian and the latter is Toaist. Despite this view,
Toaists had to admit to the superior capabilities of the mind. They
attempted to explain the superior capabilities of the mind by qi.
When a quiet mind is present in the center (body), a man is able to
hear well and see clearly; his body becomes healthy and his mind
becomes the home of jing*
(essential ql). ling is the refined form
of qi. (Nei Ye*
of "Guan Zi"*
When jing fills the eye, one sees clearly. When it is present in the
ears, one hears clearly. When it abides in the mouth, one utters
words of wisdom. When it accumulates in the heart (mind) one's
thoughts are insightful. (Ben ling Xun*
of "Huai Nan Zi"*
There is nothing in existence that cannot be explained by qi when
it reaches the point where even the superb capabilities of the mind can
be explained by qi. In other words, when the point was reached that
everything in existence could be explained by qi, the monism of qi was
established. The following passage in the Zhi Bei You*
of "Zhuang
Zi" is a direct expression of the monism of qi.
Under all the sky there is one qi.
This monism of qi is an expression of a principle of universal unity
(by which all things are originally related). This is a characteristic
feature of Chinese thinking. The following passage in Zhi Bei You is
often cited as a typical example of an explanation of this principle of
universal unity.
Dong Guo Zi*
asked Zhuang Zi, "Where can what you call the
be found?" He replied, "Everywhere." Dong Guo Zi said,
"Give a specific example. That would be more satisfactory."
Zhuang Zi replied, "It is here in the ant." "As low a thing as
that?" He added "It is in the panic grass." "But that is lower
still!" He continued, "It is in the tiles and shards." "How can it be
so low?" "It is in the piss and shit!" To this Dong Guo Zi had no
This passage explains where the dao (the way) is, and lists lower
things one by one. The ranking of ant, panic grass, tile and shards is
the reverse of the ranking of water and fire, plants, and animals in
"Xun Zi" which was quoted before. By stating that the dao, which is
the fundamental being, exists even in piss and shit which is ranked as
the lowest thing, it is indicated that the dao exists in everything. Thus
the principle of universal unity is an ontology and epistemology in
which all things are organically related to each other and are funda-
mentally one. The concept of the interrelationship between Heaven
and man is based on this principle of universal unity. The interrela-
tionships between nature and man explained by this concept include
both static interrelationships and dynamic interrelationships. The
former being quantitative and qualitative relationships such as shape,
position, and function, and the latter being interactions and synchro-
nicity. A practical example of the interrelationship between Heaven
and man is given as follows in the ling Shen Xun*
of"Huai Nan Zi":
The head is round like the shape of the dome of Heaven. The foot
is square like the Earth. Heaven has the four seasons, the five
phases, the nine cardinal points, and 366 days. These correspond
in man to the four limbs, five viscera, nine orifices, and the 366
Heaven and the head, the Earth and the foot are similar in their
shapes and positions. The examples of the four seasons and what
follows are merely correspondences in quantity. In the biography of
Dong Zhong Shu*
in the "History of the former Han Dynasty," it is
stated that when a governor governs poorly, the complaints of the
people generate bad qi which affects the qi of nature and causes
natural disasters.
l This is an example of an interrelationship between
nature and man.
The theory of the interrelationship between Heaven and man as
stated above was adopted in the ancient Chinese medical model as
well and became the basic principle in all areas of medicine including
anatomy, physiology, pathology, diagnosis and treatment.
In the chapter of Li Yun*
in "Li Ji"*
(the book of rites) there is
the statement, "Heaven generates time. "
l This is an expression of
ancient Chinese thought that time is generated by Heaven and that it
belongs to Heaven. This concept was born from the recognition that
time is produced by the regular movement of heavenly bodies.
According to the Tian Wen Xun*
of "Huai Nan Zi", which was
quoted previously, both Heaven and heavenly bodies are formed by
qi, and the movement of heavenly bodies is produced by movement in
qi. Therefore, time is generated by the rhythmic movement of qi.
Further, the movement of the sun, which has the greatest influence on
earth among all heavenly bodies, produces the regular alternation of
day and night. The alternation of day and night is the most basic and
obvious manifestation of time, and the alternation of day and night is
the alternation of light and darkness. Since light and darkness were
formed by the qi of Heaven,
it was thought-that time was generated
by the regular alternation of the qi of Heaven. Thus time was thought
to be generated either by the regular movement, or by the regular
alternation of the qi of Heaven.
Shi, *
which means time in Chinese, also means the four seasons.
This is presumably because the alternation of the four seasons had a
great influence on agricultural production in ancient China, where
agriculture production was the basic foundation of society. This
aspect of time was therefore considered to be the most important one.
The alternation of the four seasons is caused by qi, which is different
in each season. Since the qi of the seasons exist in Heaven, shi, which
means the four seasons, is also generated by the alternation in the qi of
Heaven. Thus shi, which also implies the four seasons, can be
explained with qi. With this in mind, let us examine several relation-
ships between time and qi.
1. Qi and the year
1) Qi and the four seasons
In the earliest period of history, it was thought that the four
seasons were brought about by the winds which blew from the four
directions. During the Zhanguo Qin Han*
period (453o.c.-220A.D.),
however, this concept was changed to the four seasons being brought
on by the qi that characterized each season. Although many kinds of
qi characterizing the seasons were described in the classics, the most
popular scheme was, "the qi of spring is wind, the qi of summer is
heat, the qi of autumn is rain, and the qi of winter is cold. "
l It should
be noted here that rain, which is liquid, was considered to be one kind
of qi.
In later periods of history, many kinds of qi that characterized the
seasons were categorized by yin*
and yang,*
which are the most
essential of the qi. In this scheme "the four seasons means the span of
time in which yin and yang wax and wane. "
l One example of expres-
sion of the seasons in terms of the rise and decline of yin and yang is
"spring is the lesser yang, summer is the greater yang, fall is the lesser
yin, and winter is the greater yin. "
l It is apparent that the qi of the
four seasons are given various names, but in summary, the essential
substance of the four seasons is qi. The qi of the four seasons affects
the human body in various ways through the interrelationship of
Heaven and man.
The qi of spring resides in the hair on the body, the qi of summer
in the skin, the qi of fall in the flesh beneath the skin, and the qi of
winter in the muscles and bones. (Zong Shi, *
"Ling Shu"*
Illness resulting from the qi of spring resides in the head, illness
resulting from the qi of summer resides in the viscera, illness
resulting from the qi of autumn resides in the shoulders and the
back, and illness resulting from the qi of winter resides in the
limbs. (lin Gui Zhen Yan Lun, *
The former passage states that the qi of a particular season con-
centrates in a particular part of the human body, and the latter states
that the qi of a particular season causes illness in a particular region of
the body. In addition to these, the "Huangdi Neijing"*
(consisting of
the "Suwen" and "Ling Shu", representative of the oldest medical
texts of China) contains many treatises on how to render treatment
according to the seasons and how to maintain health by harmonizing
the body with the qi of each season. This concept is a reflection in
medicine of the philosophy that man's existence must correspond to
*47 ~ ~
*48 ~ - - ~ ~
that of Heaven (nature). Among the correspondences between man
and nature, that between man and the four seasons was given particu-
lar emphasis. The following passage shows this:
Yin and yang and the four seasons are the beginning and end of all
things, and they are the cause of life and death. Those who dis-
obey these will give rise to catastrophy, while those who follow
these will remain free of serious illnesses. (Si Qi Tiao Shen Da
Lun, *
2) The five phases
Although the five phases (wu xing*
) is to be discussed in greater
detail in the next chapter, I would like to point out here that the five
phases inherited several aspects of the four seasons and served to
further develop the concept. While the time controlled by each of the
four seasons was one-fourth of a year, time controlled by the five
phases has the following four features:
(1) Each one of the five phases controls seventy-two days.
(2) Wood controls the period from January to March. Fire controls
that from April to May. Earth controls June. Metal controls from
July to September. Water controls from October to December.
(3) Wood controls seventy-two days from the beginning of spring.
Fire controls seventy-two days from the beginning of summer.
Metal controls seventy-two days from the beginning of autumn.
Water controls seventy-two days from the beginning of winter.
Earth controls the final eighteen days of each season.
(4) Wood controls spring. Fire controls summer. Metal controls
autumn. Water controls winter. Earth does not control any par-
ticular season.
Among these four features, (2) and (4) are applied in the "Huangdi
Neijing". The relationship between the five phases and the human
body is almost the same as that between the four seasons and the
human body. Although the differences between these two relation-
ships will be stated in the next chapter, it should be noted that there is
a unique order in the five phases which does not exist in the four
seasons. In medicine this order was applied to explain pathology and
determine the diagnosis and treatment.
3) Other temporal relationships
In the Zhen Yao ling Zhong Lun*
of the "Suwen" the year is
divided into six parts, and examples are given of how the qi in the
human body, corresponding to the condition of qi in nature in two
month sequences, concentrates in particular regions of the body.
The Jiu Zhen Lun*
of the "Ling Shu" states that there are eight parts
of the human body which correspond to the eight seasonal periods (ba
Although no mention is made of the condition of qi in
relation to the eight seasonal periods, it is another description of the
interrelationship between the qi of nature and the qi of the human
In the "Lushi Chunqiu", *
"Huai Nan Zi", and "Li Ji"*
book of rites), we can find a section titled Yue Ling,*
in which it is
stated that the residence of the Emperor, the color of his cloths, the
foods he eats, and his governing functions are all strictly regulated by
the qi in ascendancy during that month.
Yue Ling means monthly
ordinance and these writings give instructions on how to conduct
human affairs in accordance with the condition of qi in a given month
and indicate an attempt to maintain the interrelationship between
man and nature through governmental ordinance. Qi in the human
body also correlates to the condition of qi in each month. There is a
passage in Yin Yang Xi Ri Yue*
of the "Ling Shu" which states that
in each month the qi of the human body concentrates in a particular
2. Qi and the month
When the moon begins to wax, then xueqi, *
or blood and qi
begin to refine and the defensive qi begins to circulate. When the
*52 ~ ~ ~ ~ I a
*53 1 t t t ~
moon is full to the rim, there is an abundance of Xueqi, the
muscles and flesh are firm and strong. When the moon is empty to
the rim, the muscles and flesh become reduced and the jing luo*
(channels for the circulation of xueqz) become empty, the defen-
sive qi withdraws and only the outer form remains. (Ba Zheng
Shen Ming Lun,*
On the first day of the moon's birth, a physician inserts a needle
into a patient once. On the second day he inserts it twice. Then
successively the number of insertions is increased until on the
fifteenth day the needle is inserted fifteen times. Then the number
of insertions is successively decreased. The number of insertions is
determined by the waxing and waning of the moon. (Miu Ci
Lun, *
The former passage describes the relation between the waxing
and waning of the moon and the xueqi in man. The latter passage
dictates the relation between the waxing and waning of the moon and
the number of times a needle is to be inserted. The waxing and waning
of the moon is a form of waxing and waning in the qi of Heaven.
3. Qi and the day
From early dawn (about 4 a.m.) until midday is the yang*
Heaven, namely yang within yang. From midday until twilight
(about 8 p.m.) is the yang of Heaven, namely yin*
within yang.
From the beginning of night (about 8 p.m.) until cockcrow (about
2a.m.) is the yin of Heaven, namely yin within yin. From cock-
crow until early dawn is the yin of Heaven, namely yang within
yin. Thus man corresponds to this pattern ... Therefore the thorax
is yang, and the yang within yang is the heart. The thorax is yang,
and the yin within yang is the lungs. The abdomen is yin, and the
yin within yin is the kidneys. The abdomen is yin, and the yang
within yin is the liver. The abdomen is yin, and the extreme yin
within yin is the spleen. (Jin Gui Zhen Yan Lun,*
*58 J\i:jlfi8Jlia
In the above passage yin and yang is divided into yang within
yang, yin within yang, yang within yin, and yin within yin. This divi-
sion is very similar to the division of yin and yang into lesser yang,
greater yang, lesser yin, and greater yin, as quoted in the previous
section in "qi and the four seasons." Dividing yin and yang in this way
was an attempt to explain various phenomena of the world which
could not be explained by just the two divisions of yin and yang. Just
as in yin and yang, the above four divisions have the features of qi as
well as location. The yin and yang of "Heaven's time" was based on
the condition of qi of the season or the time. The yin and yang of the
five viscera was decided primarily based on their location. Once the
yin or yang of a thing was established, then time and the viscera were
correlated with no regard to how these were originally classified as yin
or yang. One of the main characteristics of yin and yang is that it
relates to both temporal and spatial aspects (the condition of qi as well
as location). In regard to "Heaven's time", just as with the four
seasons, it consists of special qi specific to that time.
The time system cited above is a system of twelve hours to a day,
but in the "Huangdi Neijing" one can find mentions of sixteen hour
and one hundred hour systems.
) These systems will not be discussed
here for the sake of brevity.
Thus far I have discussed the relationship between qi and time,
and time always corresponds to the changes in the qi of nature. Time,
as one entity, is a process which has certain durations of change in the
qi of nature, and moments of time are a phase within the change in the
qi of nature. When the body is synchronized with changes in the qi of
nature, then one is healthy. When it is not synchronized, then one
becomes sick. From the perspective of preventive medicine, it is
important to know the conditions of the qi in the body and that of the
qi in nature and to keep these in harmony with each other. When
illness is caused by dysharmony between the qi in the body and the qi
in nature, restoring harmony in these becomes the aim of treatment.
An incredible variety of things exist in this world. In ancient China
this diversity was explained by differences between the effects and
properties of the qi composing things. Even if it is only one thing,
when comes to something as complex as a human being, it is com-
posed of many kinds of qi with different effects and properties.
Although qi is fundamentally one thing, there are as many kinds of qi,
each with different effects and properties, as -there are things man was
aware of. In this paper qi will be classified into the four types of the qi
of nature, normal qi in the human body, abnormal qi in the human
body, and the qi of yin-yang and the five phases. This classification is
based on the classification of qi by Kuroda Genji*
) and by Lu Yu
and Zheng Hong Xin. *
) Since this paper is being written for
a symposium of medical history, the ancient medical text "Huangdi
Neijing" will be considered for the most part. A brief analysis will be
made at the end of this chapter concerning the qi in the human body
as expounded in the "Huangdi Neijing."
1. The Qi of Nature
The following are the varieties of qi which exist in nature that were
mentioned in the "Huangdi Neijing":
1) qi of Heaven, qi of Earth, and qi of four seasons
2) qi of clouds, qi of rain, and qi of thunder
3) cold qi, hot qi, hot summer qi, warm qi, wet qi, dry qi, and wind qi
4) qi of water and qi of fire
5) qi of food, qi of liquor, and qi of ginger and leek
6) qi of medicine, qi of herbs, and qi of mineral medicine
The qi in items 1) to 3) are qi that make up the environment, and
living in harmony with these qi is a condition for health. Although 4)
is also qi that is part of the environment, these are used to explain
*60 lt8':1/W-iX
*61 h t . : i i ~
physiology, pathology, and treatment. The qi of items 5) and 6) are
taken in by way of the mouth. The qi in 5) becomes nutrition to
sustain the body and that in 6) serves as medicine. The qi of items 3)
and 5) can become the cause of illness (refer to 3. Abnormal qi in the
human body).
2. Normal qi in the human body
Man lives by taking in substances or qi from the natural world,
and the following two conceptual models for taking in qi are de-
scribed in the "Huangdi Neijing":
(1) The qi of Heaven enters the lungs through the nose and is related
to the visual and auditory senses. The qi of Earth enters the
stomach by way of the mouth and becomes the qi of the five
viscera and the six hollow organs to sustain the mind and
(2) The other model of ingestion of subtances from the external
environment places the main emphasis on food and drink, and
this concept is the mainstream in the "Huangdi Neijing".
It was thought that digestion and absorption of foods and drinks
were accomplished by the spleen, the stomach, the small intestine, and
the large intestine, but in many instances only the stomach is men-
tioned. There are contradictions in the descriptions of digestion and
absorption in the "Huangdi Neijing". It is difficult to understand what
was meant, but it may be summarized as follows:
The qi of food and drink (often the term guqi,*
or cereal qi is
used) enters the stomach. The qi of food and drink in the stomach is
called the "qi of the stomach" and separates into zongqi,*
jin ye,*
and refuse matter. Zongqi goes to the nose by way of the lungs and
throat, and becomes the breath and the sense of smell. Part of the jin
(liquid matter) goes to the shang jiao*
(a unique concept in
Chinese medicine denoting the heat or activity in the thoracic cavity)
*6S /$i/l
*66 _ t ~
and another part goes to the zhong jiao*
(the upper abdominal
cavity). The }in ye which goes to the thoracic cavity becomes weiqi*
(defensive qz) and is spread throughout the body by the lungs. The }in
ye which goes to the upper abdominal cavity becomes yingqz'*
ishing qz) and is distributed throughout the body by the lungs. The
refuse matter goes to the xiajiao*
{the lower abdominal cavity), and
is excreted after the liquid is absorbed.
l Refer to the appropriate
headings in subsequent sections for more detail on zongqi,*
and yingqi.
The foregoing has been a brief summary of the process of absorp-
tion of substances taken in from outside the body as explained in the
"Huangdi Neijing". Now the most important types of normal qi in the
human body will be explained below.
1) Xueqi*
means blood. Xueqi appears in documents from ancient
times as a term indicating life force or physiological function. Xue as
described in the "Huangdi Neijing" is made from the qi of food and
drink and the zhong jiao is involved in its production.
l Although it is
clear that xue is blood, in many cases qi cannot be defined clearly.
There are three possible relationships between xue and qi when con-
sidering the word xueqi. First is simply blood and qi together, and qi
originally meant the breath, and later it came to denote vital energy or
life force. In the "Huangdi Neijing" blood flows inside the channels
and qi flows outside the channels. In this context the meaning of
breath for qi is very minimal.
l The second relationship is qi which is
known as blood, and this denotes qi which exists in the form of
l The third relationship is the qi within blood, and qi here
means function and capability, or that which has functions and capa-
l There also is the term qixue*
which is very similar to
xueqi, *
but this term with reversed word order simply means qi and
2) Jingqi*
*67 t p ~
*68 l * J ~
means refined, essence, and excellent. In general jingqi
means refined and excellent qi. This type of qi exists not only in
human bodies, but also in nature. In the "Huangdi Neijing" the jingqi
of Heaven and E ~ r t h , and the jingqi of food and drink are described,
and man is said to live by taking in these jingqi. There are many kinds
of qi in the human body, but those that are recognized as being refined
and excellent are called jingqi.
There are two types of jingqi in the body. One is that which
enables life activity and physiological functions, and this is related to
the jingqi in nature. More specifically this refers to yingqi, *
l the
two qi of yingqi and weiqi, *
l or the qi of the five viscera, and so
l The other type ofjingqi is related to reproduction and growth of
the human body. It is stated, "the source of life is calledjing,"
l and
"when a man is born, jing is formed first. "
3) Shenqi
The original meaning of shen*
is divinity. The meaning changed
and it became a word implying mysterious or supernatural. The term
then came about. Shenqi has two meanings. One is qi which
controls life activity and physiological function in the human body.
Even when referring to life activity or physiological function, the term
was used when emphasizing the refined or excellent aspect
and the term shenqi was used when emphasizing the mysterious or
supernatural aspect. It often happens in Chinese medicine that one qi
(or function) has more than two names. The other meaning of shenqi
is mind- the most mysterious or supernatural aspect of a human
being. It is stated that "when the five viscera are complete, shenqi
resides in the heart. "
l Thus the qi with the function of consciousness
exists in the heart.
One of the unique features of the "Huangdi Neijing" is that a
variety of qi with functions of consciousness are said to reside in each
of the five viscera, not just the heart.
The heart stores shen (spirit), the lungs store po*
(vitality), the
liver stores hun*
(soul), the spleen stores yi*
(thought), and the
kidneys store zhi*
Both po and hun denote the soul or spirit, but po is the physical
aspect and hun is the mental aspect. Yi is the activity of the mind or
thinking. Zhi denotes motivation or will. Shen in this context refers to
the qi which integrates or coordinates the functions of consciousness
in the five viscera.
4) Yingqi*
and weiqi*
The term xue*
(blood) is used often in "Huangdi Neijing", but
there is almost no mention about the physiological function of blood.
It is thought that yingqi and weiqi are the qi which perform the
functions of blood. Descriptions of yingqi and weiqi appear in many
chapters of "Huangdi Neijing", and what is stated can be summarized
as follows:
means nourish or nourishing and yingqi is the refined qi
which is extracted from the qi of food and drink. This qi goes from the
zhong jiao*
to all parts of the body by way of the channels and
supplies nourishment. Wei*
means to defend or defensive. Weiqi is
sharp and quick qi extracted from the qi of food and drink, and this qi
goes from the shang jiao*
and travels outside along the channels to
all parts of the body and carries out a defensive function. Both yingqi
and weiqi circulate through the body fifty times a day.
5) Zhengqi*
means good, correct, or regular, and in the Chinese
classics it is often used as a pair with its antonym xie*
(evil, perverse,
or irregular). As will be discussed a little later, xieqi*
was originally
harmful qi which invaded the body from the outside. One school
which emphasized the role of wind in disease considered xieqi to be
(deficient wind). One meaning of zhengqi, a term used in
*78 ~
*79 ;g
.so iti
contrast to xieqi, was qi which conducted normal and orderly physio-
logical processes. Another meaning in the context of wind as a cause
of illness, was zhengfeng*
(correct wind).
is zhengfeng. *
It is a wind which blows from one
direction and is neither shifeng*
(excess wind) nor xufeng*
(deficient wind).
Also, according to "Lushi Chunqiu", *
zhengfeng is "a wind that
blows from the right direction at the appropriate time and which
performs its proper function."
In other words, zhengfeng is wind
that blows from the right direction at the correct time and has the
proper effect for the season. The "Huangdi Neijing" stresses the
importance of harmony between the human body and nature. Since
the qi of nature changes with the season, the qi in the body was also
thought to change. Zhengqi was therefore the qi in the human body
which corresponded to the correct and healthy qi of nature in each
season. The school of medicine which stressed the role of wind in
disease associated the source of zhengqi to be wind or zhengfeng. In
later periods the relation between zhengqi and wind was forgotten
and zhengqi came to be understood as another name for zhenqi*
(true qz).
6) Zhenqi*
means true, real, or genuine. There are three attributes to
zhenqi. The first is the qi of Heaven absorbed by the respiratory
Zhenqi is received from Heaven, and it fills up the body along with
the qi of food.
Heaven in this passage is often interpreted to mean prenatal or
hereditary. However, since the above passage is found together with
explanations of zhengqz"*
and xieqi, *
which mean zhengfeng*
respectively, which are both qi of Heaven, the word Heaven
in this passage is best understood as the sky or the heavens. Further-
more, there are two modes of taking in qi into the body from nature.
One of these is respiration or the absorption of the qi of Heaven.
Discussion of this aspect is to be expected in "Huangdi Neijing", and
probably zhenqi*
was the term used for this. Therefore air was most
likely called true qi or genuine qi, and this concurs with the fact that
the original concept of qi was related to wind and breath. The second
attribute of zhenqi was the qi in the channels. Among the many kinds
of qi in the body, the qi which was considered most important may
have been called true qi or genuine qi. The third attribute resulted
from the evolution of this concept, and zhenqi came to mean the same
thing as zhengqi- qi which performs normal physiological functions.
7) Zongqi*
means ancestor, foundation, or great master. Zongqi is
qi that has been absorbed from food and drink which goes to the
lungs and finally becomes part of the breath. Kuroda Genji*
it "a concept that is halfway between digestive and respiratory
functions. "
8) Daqi*
and juqi*
Both da*
mean large or great. Daqi is a great mass of qi.
Daqi in the chest means zongqi. There is a statement in the "Huangdi
Neijing" that daqi should be retained in the body by tonifying
methods, but in other references daqi causes harm to the body.
means air in some contexts, but appropriate examples of the
use of this term in this way cannot be found in the "Huangdi Neijing".
The term juqi*
appears very seldom in the "Huangdi Neijing" so
its connotation is unclear, but it probably means the same thing
as daqi.
9) Other qi
(1) Types of qi named after their location:
Qi of kidneys, qi of small intestine, qi of channels, qi of head,
qi of bones, qi of upper body, etc.
(2) Types of qi as adjective modifiers:
Clear qi, turbid qi, old qi, agile qi, accumulated qi, separated
qi, dispersed qi, assembled qi, etc.
3. Abonnal qi in the human body
1) Xieqi*
means evil, perverse, or irregular. Xieqi is qi which attacks
the body from the outside and harms it. It was said in ancient Chinese
medicine that "wind is the cause of all diseases,"
l and "wind is the
parent of all diseases. "
l Thus great importance was attached to wind
as a cause of disease. Further, in one school which placed special
emphasis on wind as the cause of disease, it was defined as follows:
"Xieqi is xufeng*
(deficient wind) which is injurious to a person."
The definition of xieqi grew in later years and it came to be used also
for external pathological influences that invade the body. Some qi of
nature (wind qi, cold qi, and etc.), when present at the right time in
appropriate amounts, serve to promote the normal physiological
functions in the body. However, when these qi exist at the wrong time,
or are excessive or deficient at the right time, they become the cause of
disease. Among the qi listed in the "Huangdi Neijing" as having a
defensive function against the invasion of xieqi*
are weiqi, *
xueqi, *
jingqi, *
zhengqi, *
and zhenqi. *
2) Eqi,*
and bingqz"*
Just like xie,*
means evil. In contrast, however, to xieqi
being a qi that invaded the body from the outside, eqi means qi which
is not normal regardless of its source. Du*
means poison. Bing*
means illness, or disease. Bingqi therefore means qi which is the cause
of illness or that which manifests the disease condition.
3) Luanqi,*
and baoqi*
means in disorder or to disturb. Luanqi primarily means
the qi that disturbs the order of qi which should exist in each of the
*95 ~ ~
*96 - ~
*97 ~ ~
*101 ; 5 1 . ~ *104 !L
*102 ~ ~
*103 a3fi
four seasons. It also implies qi which has been disrupted from the
normal order it should have followed. When one does not adhere to
the proper order in life or the correct treatment procedure, this
becomes the cause of disease.
means excessive. Yinqi is defined as qi existing in excess
quantities in the body which becomes the cause of disease. Yin also
means to permeate. When yinqi is used with this connotation, it is not
related to disease.
means sudden and violent. Baoqi means qi that becomes a
cause of an illness where a person falls ill suddenly and acute and
serious changes occur.
4) Tuoqi,*
and shiqi*
means to come off. Tuoqi indicates a condition where qi
has fallen off. Duo*
means to take away, and duoqi indicates a
condition where qi has been taken away. Shl'*
means to lose, and
shiqi indicates a condition where qi has been lost. All three of these
terms refer to conditions where qi is lacking. In the "Huangdi Neijing"
examples are given in which tuoqi is a condition caused by inappro-
priate treatment, and shiqi is a condition which results from digestive
problems caused by excessive fatigue.
5) Shangqi*
and niqi*
means upper part or to ascend. Shangqi (qi in the upper
part of the body) is an abnormality of qi in the thorax which causes
coughing and respiratory problems. Also since these symptoms are
caused by diseases of the lungs, it can be interpreted as diseases caused
by the qi of the lungs ascending (the qi of the lungs is normally
supposed to descend). Sometimes, however, shangqi is simply used to
denote qi in the upper part of the body, without any relation to
means to go backward. Niqi denotes qi movement in the
opposite direction, and this is a cause of illness. The qi of the lungs,
* 110
*112 $IC
*115 _t
*116 i2!
for example, is normally supposed to go down. If it go up, then it can
cause respiratory problems. The qi of the stomach is also supposed to
go down, and when it goes up it causes vomitting and hiccoughs.
6) Duanqz"*
and shaoqz"*
means short. Duanqi indicates a condition of being short
of breath. Shao*
means little or scarce. Shaoqi means symptoms of
hypoxia as well as a lack of vitality.
7) Types of qi named after diseases or syndromes
These include biqi,*
and so on.
means pain or numbness caused by cold and dampness.
is a condition similar to malaria. Yang*
refers to carbuncles.
means hernia.
8) Abnormalities in qi caused by the seven emotions
(seven emotions) refers to joy, anger, melancholy, pen-
siveness, sorrow, fear, and fright. The emotions were considered to
change the condition of qi in a person's body.
When one is angry, qi rises; when one is glad, qi becomes loose;
when one is sad, qi scatters and disappears; when one is fright-
ened, qi sinks; when one is startled, qi becomes disordered; when
one becomes concerned, qi gets knotted up.
The normal range of emotions does not cause any problems, but
when they become excessive, this causes an abnormal condition in the
qi which in turn leads to disease. The seven emotions were also con-
sidered to occur as a result of abnormal conditions of qi.
When xueqi*
(blood qz) becomes frenzied and rises, it makes a
person angry.
Melancholy occurs when qi is blocked and does not flow ... When
the qi of the heart is deficient, there is sadness ... When the qi of
the liver is deficient, there is fear ...
*119 9iil
*120 j>
In other words, changes in qi can cause the seven emotions, and
when these are excessive, it further exacerbates the abnormality in qi.
This concept explains the interrelationship between the mind and the
body through qi.
4. Qi of Yin-Yang and the Five Phases
1) Yin-yang
and yang*
in addition to being two opposite yet comple-
mentary categories that cover every existing. thing,
l are also two qi
which are opposite and complementary. Yin and yang are categories
which denote contrasting aspects and they provide a basic and relative
classification system which compares various things in pairs. Due to
the relative nature of these aspects, a thing may be classified as yin in
one context and as yang in another. For example, when qi and taste
are compared, qi is yang and taste is yin.
) When qi and virtue are
compared, however, qi is yin and virtue is yang.
) Therefore, different
classifications of yin and yang are not always consistent or compati-
ble. This lack of consistency, nevertheless, is one of the important
feature of yin and yang.
Yin and yang as qi control the emergence and demise of all things,
and there are two modes in which this takes place. In both modes, yin
and yang transform by their own power, and by doing so, they trans-
form other qi. Yin and yang are the greatest among all qi that compose
the world. Thus yin and yang play a essential role in both the principle
of generation and the principle of existence. This dual role has caused
some confusion in these principles based on yin and yang. For exam-
ple, there is a principle of generation dating from a later period, which
holds that taiji*
(great origin) generates yin and yang, yin and yang
generates the five phases, and the five phases generates all things.
Once yin and yang is generated, these should naturally be different
from taiji, but yin and yang continue to have the attributes of taiji.
The same thing happens between taiji and all things generated.
) The
confusion of these two principles is an obvious feature of not only yin
and yang, but also of the five phases.
The principle of yin and yang was applied in all areas of Chinese
medicine including anatomy, physiology, pathology, diagnosis, and
treatment. For example, blood which is associated with yin moves
inside the channels, and qi which is associated with yang moves along
the outside of the channels.
This can be explained by the following
feature of yin and yang: Yin is on the inside and yang is on the outside.
Further, if another feature of yin and yang is also considered, in which
yin is cold and yang is hot, then the following concept of pathology is
When yang is in abundance, the outside is hot, and when yin is in
abundance, the inside is cold.
Yin and yang is also emphasized in diagnosis as follows:
He who is skilled in examination judges the (patient's) complexion
and takes the pulse to first determine whether it is yin or yang
These passages are just a few examples of the application of yin
and yang mentioned in "Huangdi Neijing". Clinical findings were thus
first classified into yin and yang categories and then the findings were
interpreted according to the nature of yin and yang, and finally they
were used as information on which to base the treatment according to
the situation.
2) The five phases
The five phases (wu xing*
) are five mutually related qi, which have
the characteristics of the substances wood, fire, earth, metal, and
water. It was held that these five qi are the manifestation of the five
virtures (compassion, righteousness, propriety, wisdom, and trust) in
the form of qi. There are specific relationships between the five phases
which become the basis for their mutual interaction. The main rela-
tionships are as follows:
the creative cycle (wood, fire, earth, metal, water)
the controlling cycle (earth, wood, metal, fire, water)
the generating cycle (water, fire, wood, metal, earth)
The relationship between the five phases and all other things is
that the five phases are a system of classifying everything in the
universe into five categories.
This is a very concise description of the five phases, but examining
the origins of this concept, there are four different sources. The first
appeared as a representation of the essential elements in life, and this
was called the five phases of Earth and followed the controlling cycle.
The second source of the five phases is that described in the Hong
of"Shu Jing"*
and this scheme follows the generating cycle.
The third source is found in Shi Ling. *
By being incorporated as
one item in the Shi Ling, the five phases of Earth acquired the three
aspects of the creative cycle, attributes of qi, and a system of classify-
ing everything into five categories. The five phases described in the
Hong Fan is one of the nine divisions of the Hong Fan. The structure of
the nine divisions of the Hong Fan is the same as the divining table
described in Jiu Gong Ba Feng*
of "Ling Shu".*
32 881
Therefore the
five phases in the Hong Fan is related to wind. The Shi Ling, which is
the third source, originated with the rituals of the four winds during
the Yin*
period. Thus the main components of the five phases relate
to wind.
The fourth source of the five phases is that by Zi Si*
Mencius, but the details concerning this were unknown until recently.
Study of the silk manuscripts excavated from the Han*
tomb of Ma Wang Di*
in 1973 has revealed that these were actions
based on the five virtues (compassion, righteousness, propriety, wis-
dom, and holiness).
I believe that Zou Yan*
was the one who organized the five
phases into a mutually interrelated system by drawing from these four
Just as with yin*
and yang,*
the five phases were applied in
almost all aspects of medicine .
133 l i t ; ~
134 :ft. ;g J\.11.
137 .I!EEJI
.138 lllffi
The pulse of a person with a blue complexion is like a bow string.
With a red complexion the pulse is like a hook. With a yellow
complexion the pulse is intermittent. With a white complexion the
pulse is like a strand of hair. With a black complexion the pulse is
like a stone. When the complexion and pulse do not correspond
(as above, and instead) the complexion and pulse are in a control-
ling relationship, then the person will die. If these are in a creative
relationship, the person will recover.
This is an example of diagnosis based on the five phases. When the
complexion and the pulse quality belong to the same five phases
category, this is normal. When they do not belong to the same cate-
gory, the prognosis is determined based on whether the complexion
and pulse are in a controlling relationship or a creative relationship.
As is evident from this example, when two things belong to the same
five phases category, they have an affinity. When two things belong to
different five phases categories, they are judged to be superior or
inferior in relation to the other based on whether they are in a control-
ling relationship or a creative relationship. In other words, the five
phases was applied to understand the relationship between two things,
and this was used as the basis for making decisions in specific
5. Analysis of Qi in the Human Body in the "Huangdi Neijing"
At the beginning of "Normal qi in the human body" in this sec-
tion, I stated that there were two conceptual models concerning the
way external qi is taken into the body. In one model, external qi is
taken in by two systems through the nose and through the mouth. In
the second model, the majority of the qi taken in is that of food and
drink taken in through the mouth, and qi taken in through the nose
only plays a minor secondary role. It is even possible to call this a
model of taking in qi by one system (i.e. digestive system) by way of
the mouth.
In the version of "Huangdi Neijing" which exists today there are
only a few passages which relate to the former conceptual model, and
the majority relate to the latter. I believe this tendency of emphasizing
the second model does not reflect the original make up of the "Huang-
di Neijing", which was a compilation of medical documents written
over several centuries. In the writings of the earlier period there were
many passages which related to the former model. As time went on,
however, writings about the latter model increased and these eventu-
ally became dominant in the present day version of the "Huangdi
Neijing". .
The first reason for my view is that the former model dividing the
intake of qi into two systems (related to Heaven and Earth respec-
tively) corresponds to the yin*
principle, and the second
model emphasizing the mouth and qi taken into the stomach is related
to the five phases system of the New Text School. The yin-yang prin-
ciple appeared first in the medical theories of the "Huangdi Neijing"
and the five phases system was adopted later.
) In the present day
version of "Huangdi Neijing", the five phases system of the New Text
School is dominant in the medical theories, and as the model for the
intake of qi, that through the mouth is emphasized. In the medical
theories in the old period, however, corresponding to the dominance
of the yin-yang principle, the intake of qi into two systems by way of
the nose and mouth was the dominant model.
The second reason for my view is because there is one clear trend
in the way qi is described in ancient documents. The description of qi
in the present day version of "Huangdi Neijing" is most similar to that
found in documents of the later period. To give an example, in the
three hundred year period from the publication of the "Confucian
Analects" to "Huai Nan Zi", the proportion of qi from breathing
within the discussion of qi in the body diminishes as time pro-
gresses.92) "Huai Nan Zi" is the latest work in this period, and the
description of qi in "Huai Nan Zi" and the present "Huangdi Neijing"
are most similar.
) The historical trend in the description of qi, and
the similarity of the way qi is described in "Huai Nan Zi" and the
present "Huangdi Neijing" leads me to believe that the "Huangdi Nei-
jing" of the older period treated qi in a way similar to the "Confucian
Analects" (i.e. a greater emphasis on qi of breathing).
Based on the above two reasons, I presume that the intake of qi
from the natural world by breathing was emphasized in the old parts
of the "Huangdi Neijing", most of which has been lost.
In discussing the varieties of qi in the human body in this section, I
failed to mention one aspect, which maybe relevant to the theme of
"life breath" in this symposium, and that is the aspect of qi as soul or
spirit. The word for soul or spirit in Chinese is po*
or hun*
terms originally meant the spirit that separates from the body after a
person dies.
) The terms po and hun are found in the Zhi Bei You*
"Zhuang Zi"*
where it is stated that hun and po leave the body at
) and in Cike Lie Zhuan*
of "Shi Ji"*
where it is stated
that hun*
and po*
is not shamed if revenge is obtained,
) and also
in the "Huangdi Neijing" where it is stated that hun comes and goes
with shen*
and po comes and goes with jing. *
) As mentioned in
this section under "Normal Qi of the Human Body" however, aside
from the hun and po that leave the body at death, the concept that hun
is the mental function of the liver and po is the mental function of the
lung is found in the "Huangdi Neijing".
Two reasons can be postulated for why the terms hun and po came
to acquire new definitions. One is represented in the statement "It is
useless to speak of the virtues of a moral life to those who believe
in demons and spirits. "
) The medicine of the "Huangdi Neijing"
developed as a process of doing away with shamanistic practices, and
thus the terms for soul or spirit, which were inextricably tied to
shamanistic practices had to be redefined. The other reason is the
influence of the five phases system. These terms relating to the spirit
were put together with other terms relating to the mind to complete a
classification of five attributes of the mind.
I think that the change in the meaning of hun and po in the
"Huangdi Neijing" is related to the fact that there is not much mention
of the qi of respiration. It is well known that breathing is closely
related to the soul or spirit. Thus if concepts about either one changes,
a change would also occur in the other one as well. It cannot easily
be acertained which changed first, the concept of breathing or that of
spirit, in the period "Huangdi Neijing" was compiled. Nevertheless,
it is certain that the change in the concept of soul or spirit and the
decrease in of emphasis in medicine on the qi of respiration are closely
Thus I have briefly examined the characteristics of the way qi was
treated in the presently existing "Huangdi Neijing" and elucidated the
two points of how in general great importance was attached to the qi
of respiration and the qi of the spirit in ancient China and how within
the context of medicine this emphasis and meaning changed.
The original substance which existed at the time of creation was qi.
This qi moved by itself and separated into Heaven and Earth, and
then the qi of Heaven and the qi of Earth moved by themselves to mix
with each other and create all things. The movement of qi, if viewed
objectively, is largely the movement of substances called qi according
to physical laws. Nevertheless, in ancient China qi was thought to
move in and of itself. The myriad of things which were created out of
qi were all composed of qi. The infinite number of things, which was
all composed of qi, existed in an infinite variety of ways. Differences in
the manner of existing was. thought of originate from differences in
the density and the quality of qi which made up the things.
Qi was an element which composed all things, but it was also an
element which composed time. The alternation of the four seasons,
the cycle of twelve months, and the progression of time in a day were
all brought about by changes in qi which composed time. Qi moved
and changed by its own power, and along with this time progressed.
Thus far I have summarized the features of qi in the natural world.
A great variety of qi exist in the natural world, but the original form of
the concept of qi was derived from wind.
Looking at the qi in the human body, in addition to being the
substance which composes the body, qi is also a substance which
conducts life activities in general, including physiological functions
and mental functions. It was thought that a person was born by
receiving the qi of his father and mother. This is the same as the
emergence of all things through the interaction of the qi of Heaven
and Earth. After man is born, he maintains the activities of his life by
taking in qi from the natural world. He uses this qi as material to
compose his body as well as energy on which to function. A person
dies if he is unable to obtain qi from the natural world. There are two
modes of taking in qi from the natural world. One of them is for a
person to take in qi through two systems by way of the nose and the
mouth, and the other is taking in qi primarily through one system by
way of the mouth. In the "Huangdi Neijing", as was discussed in the
previous section, the latter mode is dominant, but great importance
was attached to the qi taken in by breathing in ancient China in
general. Therefore, I believe the view attributing the origin of the
concept of qi in the human body to respiration
l is correct. Since the
origin of the concept of qi in nature was wind, the features of qi which
are common to that in nature and the human body is the flow of air as
well as its connection to life and death.
That the concept of qi originated from wind and breathing is very
significant not only for ancient Chinese medicine, but also for the
concept of the interrelationship between Heaven and man, which was
a fundamental concept in ancient Chinese philosophy. I believe that
this is the reason why qi was able to maintain a powerful influence in
Chinese thinking through the ages.
Although the breath and wind, the source for the concept of qi,
were not given great emphasis in the "Huangdi Neijing", they have
continued to play an important role in areas other than medicine.
Breathing techniques were developed in Taoist practices for health
and longevity, and the directions of wind is an important factor in
divination and geomancy.
I) Gu Xie Gang, "Wude zhongshi shuo xia de zhengzhi he lishi (The theories of
the Five Elements in relation to government and history)" Gu Shi Bian (Discus-
sions on ancient history and philosophy), book 5, 1935, p. 404.
2) Mitsuji Fukunaga, "Doka no kiron to Enanji no ki," Kino Shiso (Thoughts of
qz), 1978, p. 126 (in Japanese).
3) Lao Zi Dao De ling (Si Bu Cong Kan edition), De ling, pp. 2b-3b.
4) Huai Nan Zi (Si Bu Cong Kan edition), vols. 3, pp. lOa-lOb.
5) Huai Nan Zi, vols. 3, p. Ia.
6) Xun Zi (Si Bu Cong Kan edition), vols. 13, ch. 19, p. l6a.
7) Lun Yu (Shi San ling Zhu Shu edition), vols. 17, p. Sa.
8) Zhuang Zi (Si Bu Cong Kan edition), vol. l, ch. 2, p. l9a.
9) Teikichi Hiraoka, Enanji ni arawareta kino kenkyu (A study of qi in Huai-Nan-
Zz), 1961, p. 48 (in Japanese).
10) Wen Xuan (Si Bu Cong Kan edition), vols. 13, p. lb.
II) Yoshinobu Sakade, "Kaze no kannen to kazeuranai; Chugoku kodai no giji-
kagaku," Chugoku shiso kenkyu ronshu; Obei shiso yori no shosha (Treatises on
study for Chinese thoughts; lrradications from Western thoughts), 1986, p. 235
(in Japanese).
12) For Ba Feng (the Eights Winds), see, for example, Keiji Yamada, "Kyukyu
happu setsu to shoshi ha no tachiba," Toho gakuho, 52, 1980 (in Japanese).
13) Shi li (Zhonghua shuju, 1959), p. 1243.
14) Kiyoshi Akatsuka, Chugoku kodai no shukyo to bunka; In-ocho no saishi (Reli-
gion and culture in ancient China; A study of the Yin Dynasty), 1977, pp. 415-442
(in Japanese).
15) Ibid.
16) Shozo Maekawa, "Kokotsu bun, kin bun ni mieru ki," Kino Shiso (Thoughts of
ql), 1978, p. 25 (in Japanese).
17) Yu Xing-Wu, "Suishi qiyuan chukao," Lishi yanjiu, April 1961.
18) Yoshinobu Sakade, op. cit., p. 239.
19) Lu Shi Chun Qiu (Si Bu Cong Kan edition), vol. l, p. 3a and vols. 10, p. 2a.
20) Huai Nan Zi, vols. 9, p. lb.
21) Xun Zi, vols. II, ch. 17, p. l6b.
22) Zhuang Zi, vols. 7, ch. 22, p. 43a.
23) Takio Sawada, "Junshi to Ryoshishunju ni okeru ki," Kino shiso (Thoughts of
q1), 1978, p. 82 (in Japanese).
24) Zhuang Zi, vols. 6, ch. 18, p. 32a.
25) Huai Nan Zi, vol. l, p. l6b.
26) Ling Shu (Si Bu Cong Kan edition), vols. 8, ch. 54, p. l5a.
27) Liu Chang-Lin, Nei ling de zhexue he zhong yixue de fangfa, 1982, p. 104.
28) Xun Zi, vols. 5, ch. 9, pp. l2b-13a.
29) Ibid., vols. 13, ch. 19, pp. 20b-2la.
30) Toshiaki Maruyama, Kotei naikei to chugoku kodai igaku, 1988, p. 157 (in
31) Toshihiko Uchiyama, Chugoku kodai shisoshi ni okeru shizen ninshiki (The cog-
nition of nature in the history of Chinese ancient thought), 1987, pp. 80-llO (in
32) Shuzo Ikeda, "Chugoku," Iwanami koza, Tenkanki ni okeru ningen, vols. 2,
1989, pp. l47-l5l (in Japanese).
33) Meng Zi (Shi San ling Zhu Shu edition), part I of vols. 3, p. 8a. Lao Zi Dao De
ling, De ling, p. 9b.
34) Guan Zi (Si Bu Cong Kan edition), vols. 16, ch. 49, p. 2a.
35) Huai Nan Zi, vols. 8, p. 8a.
36) Zhuang Zi, vols. 7, ch. 22, p. 43a.
37) Ibid., pp. 49a-49b.
38) Huai Nan Zi, vols. 7, p. 2a.
39) Han Shu (Zhonghua shuju, 1962), vols. 56, p. 2500.
40) Li li (Shi San ling Zhu Shu edition), vols. 22, ch. 9, p. Ia.
41) Zuo Zhuan (Shi San ling Zhu Shu edition), vols. 41, p. 27a.
42) Lu Shi Chun Qiu, vols. 19, ch. 7, pp. l6b-l7a.
43) Bai Hu Tong (Si Bu Cong Kan edition), vols. 8, p. l6a.
44) Chun Qiu Fan Lu (Si Bu Cong Kan edition), vols. 7, ch. 24, p. 13a.
45) Ling Shu, vols. 2, ch. 9, p. 2la.
46) Suwen (Si Bu Cong Kan edition), vol. I, ch. 4, p. 20b.
47) Ibid., vol. I, ch. 2, pp. l4a-l4b.
48) Ibid., vols. 4, ch. 16, pp. 8b-9a.
49) Ling Shu, vols. 12, ch. 78, pp. 4a-4b.
50) Fung Yu-Lan, A history of Chinese philosophy (Princeton Paperback, 1983),
vol. I, p. 164, mod.
51) Suwen, vols. 8, ch. 26, p. 5b.
52) Ibid., vols. 18, ch. 63, p. 4a.
53) Ibid., vol. I, ch. 4, pp. 2la-22a.
54) Katsu Hayashi, "Somon Hyohon byoden-ron no jikoku seido," Kanpo kenkyu,
September-November 1986 (in Japanese).
55) Genji Kuroda, Kino kenkyu, 1977, pp. 52, 194 (in Japanese).
56) Lu Yu-Qi, Zheng Hong-Xin, Nei ling qixue gailun, 1984, p. 3.
57) Suwen, vols. 3, ch. 9, p. 7b; vols. 3, ch. II, pp. l4b-l5a.
58) Ling Shu, vols. 4, ch. 18, pp. l4b-l7b; vols. 9, ch. 63, pp. l3b-l4b; vols. 10, ch.
71, pp. l3a-l3b.
59) Ibid., vols. 6, ch. 36, pp. l4a-l4b; vols. 12, ch. 81, p. l5a.
60) Suwen, vols. 17, ch. 62, p. 4b, 6b; Ling Shu, vols. 2, ch. 6, p. 8b; vols. 3, ch. 12,
p. 20a.
61) Ling Shu, vols. 6, ch. 30, pp. 3b-4a.
62) Suwen, vols. 17, ch. 62, p. Ia.
63) Suwen, vols. 12, ch. 43, p. 7b; Ling Shu, vols. 8, ch. 52, p. l2a.
64) Ling Shu, vols. 4, ch. 18, p. l7a.
65) Suwen, vols. 3, ch. II, p. l4b.
66) Ling Shu, vols. 2, ch. 8, p. l4a.
67) Ibid., vols. 3, ch. 10, p. Ia.
68) Ibid., vols. 8, ch. 54, p. l5a.
69) Suwen, vols. 7, ch. 23, p. lOb; Ling Shu, vols. 12, ch. 78, p. 6a.
70) Ling Shu, vols. II, ch. 75, pp. l3b-l4a.
71) Lu Shi Chun Qiu (Er ShiEr Zi edition), vols. 5, ch. 5, p. l2a, Zhao's note quoted
by Bi Yuan.
72) Ling Shu, vols. 11, ch. 75, p. 13b.
73) Genji Kuroda, op. cit. p. 80.
74) Suwen, vol. 1, ch. 3, p. 17b; vols. 16, ch. 60, p. Ia.
75) Ibid., vols. 6, ch. 19, p. 4b; vols. 12, ch. 42, p. 2b.
76) Ling Shu, vols. 11, ch. 75, p. 14a.
77) Suwen, vo1s. 11, ch. 39, pp. 3 ~ .
78) Ibid., vols. 18, ch. 64, p. 9a.
79) Ling Shu, vo1s. 2, ch. 8, pp. 14b-15b.
80) Paul U. Unschuld, Medicine in China; A history of ideas, 1985, p. 55, mod.
81) Suwen, vols. 2, ch. 5, p. 2a.
82) Ling Shu, vo1s. 2, ch. 8, p. 14a.
83) Shuzo Ikeda, "In to You," /wanami koza, Toyo Shiso, vols. 14 pp. 3-4 (in
84) See 60)
85) Suwen, vols. 17, ch. 62, p. 6a.
86) Ibid., vols. 2, ch. 5, p. 9b.
87) Joseph Needham, Science and civilization in China, vols. 2, 1969, p. 261, mod.
88) Shigeo Nomura, "Kohan no sekai," Mori hakase shoju kinen toyogaku ronshu,
1979, pp. 48-50 (in Japanese).
89) Pang Pu, Boshu wuxing-pian yanjiu, 1980.
90) Ling Shu, vol. 1, ch. 4, pp. 20b-21a.
91) Keiji Yamada, op. cit.
92) Genji Kuroda, op. cit., pp. 52-54.
93) Idem. Ibid., p. 48.
94) Naomi Kurita, "Jodai Shina no tenseki ni mietaru ki no kannen," Chugoku
jodai shiso no kenkyu, 1949, p. 121 (in Japanese).
95) Zhuang Zi, vols. 7, ch. 22, p. 48b.
96) Shi Ji, vols. 86, p. 2519.
97) Ling Shu, vols. 2, ch. 8, 14a.
98) Suwen, vols. 3, ch. 11, p. 15a.
99) Naomi Kurita, op. cit., pp. 102-105.
H.H. Dubs,
Fung Yu Lan
J. Legge
E. Morgan
A Bibliography in Translation Chinese into English
The works of Hsun Tze (London, 1928).
A history of Chinese philosophy, translated by Derk Bodde
(Princeton, 1952).
The Chinese classics, Vol. 1 (Oxford, 1893).
The text of Taoism (Oxford, 1891).
Tao the great luminant; Essay from Huai Nan Tzu with introductory
articles notes analyses (Shanghai; repr. Taipei, 1966).
J. Needham
A. Rump
P.U. Unschuld
I. Veith
B. Watson
Science and civilization in China, vols. 2 (Cambridge, 1969).
Commentary on the Lao Tzu by Wang Pi (University of Hawaii
Press, Honolulu, 1979).
Medicine in China; A history of ideas (University of California
Press, Berkeley, 1985).
Huang Ti Nei Ching Su Wen; The Yellow Emperor's classic of
internal medicine (University of California Press, Berkeley, 1966).
The complete works of Chuang Tzu (Columbia University Press,
New York, 1968).
The Life Philosophy of Ancient China and Qi
Institute of Philosophy, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences
No. 5, Jianquomen Nei St, Beijing, 100732, China
o concept is as important and widely used as the concept of qi in
traditional Chinese medicine. To say that the concept of qi is the
foundation stone of Chinese traditional culture (including traditional
Chinese medicine) is not excessive. In various fields of Chinese tradi-
tional culture, the terms related to the concept of qi are many; like-
wise, the principles of many fields of Chinese culture are related to the
concept of qi. One such principle relates to Chinese literature, and
proposes that to write and make comments on an article takes qi first.
One of the standards and methods of Chinese art is qi yun sheng
- or the metre of the inner life. Mencius said: "I am good at
fostering my noble grand qi." (Gongsun Chou shang of Meng Zi)
This qi is both the qi of morality and the qi of life. Chinese philosophy
takes qi as the basis of all things on earth. The concept of qi and many
other traits of traditional Chinese culture are directly related to the life
philosophy of ancient China.
The so-called "life philosophy" mentioned above is a general name
for several schools of ancient Chinese philosophy. The common trait
of these schools of thought was that they stressed the fundamental
importance of life: among them were the Confucian School, Taoist
School, Mohist School and the Yin Yang School. Traditional Chinese
medicine formed and developed under the influence of these ancient
life philosophies. Although each of these schools developed different
views of society and politics and different theories of knowledge, they
had in common a perception that the life of man came first, as the
starting point for all thinking and action. At the same time, they
considered life to be a universal phenomenon, a process existing in all
things in the universe. Therefore, I've termed this common thread of
thought "life philosophy."
The basic characteristics of the ancient Chinese life philosophy are
as follows:
1. A basic respect for human life
Central to this philosophy is a respect for and cherishing of the life
of man. Confucius put forward the theory of ren, *
which he looked
on as the mainstay of his philosophy. Confucius said: "The man who
has grasped the theory of ren cherishes man" (from the Yan Yuan of
Lun Yu).
) Of course, without a doubt, to cherish man is to cherish the
life of man first.
The second sage of the Confucian school, Mencius, encouraged
"a sense of pity" (from the Gongsun Chou shang of Meng Zi).
) He
wanted people not only to c_herish their fellow man, but to show
sympathy for them as well. The founders of the Confucian School
demanded in general that everyone's life be cherished,
) thus display-
ing their basic humanitarian feelings. All early Confucianism emerged
from this central point.
The Taoist School valued individual life even more than the other
philosophical schools. The key concepts of Lao Zi*
and Zhuang Zi*
are to be quiet and avoid action, letting things take their own course.
One of the roots of this philosophy grew from qigong, an ancient
system of deep-breathing exercises which has good health and long
life as its aims.
Many training methods and theories on the ancient qigong have
been preserved in the book of Daode Jing*
of Lao Zi and the book
Nanhua Jing*
of Zhuang Zi. *
Although Zhuang Zi expressed a calm
and indifferent attitude towards death, this was in fact the comple-
ment of a thirst for a free life. Lao Zi said: "If a man values the world
as much as he values his body, we can entrust the world to his care; if
a man loves the world as much as he loves his own body, we can
commit the world to his care."
) Thus it can be seen that the Taoist
School regarded the life of man as the highest and most valuable thing
in the world. Afterwards, the Taoist religion, as one of the chief
religions in China, came into being during the Han Dynasty (A.D.
25-220). The essence of the Taoist religion has been to seek a long or
even eternal life. The relation between "the Taoist religion and Taoist
School of philosophy is a close one.
The Mohist school advocated "love for each other with no
difference" and "opposition to wars of aggression" (Mo Z1).
) They
valued the life of man in much the same way as other schools.
The Yin Yang school studied the growth and decline of the relative
strength of yin and yang in the natural world and society and sought
out the laws of normal change in all things on earth. This school took
the above-mentioned work as their own duty. One of their purposes
was to help people avoid illness and disaster and prolong their lives.
In later periods, the Yin Yang school became mixed with Confucian-
ism, Taoism, the Tao religion and medical science.
Confucianism and Taoism represented the mainstream of ancient
Chinese philosophy. But the basic law that the Yin Yang school put for-
ward became a form of thinking which all ancient Chinese culture fol-
lowed. In the Warring States period (476-221 B.c.), the Mohist school
enjoyed as much prestige as Confucianism, so its influence was very
deep. Thus we can say that the traditional spirit of Chinese culture is
one that thinks highly of the significance and value of man's life.
2. Life regarded as a fundamental property of the universe
The Chinese people have a strong subjective consciousness in the
sense that they analogize the properties of all things on earth accord-
ing to their knowledge of man himself. In short, this means "putting
oneself into the place of other things" and "knowing about objects in
the light of subjects" (Yinyang yingxiang of Suwen).
According to
this idea, the ancient Chinese people thought that since the body of
man is a living whole, heaven and earth and all things on earth are a
whole with its own life too. Moreover, the concept of "heaven and
man in harmonious union"*
and "all things on earth as one body"*
was generally agreed on in ancient China, and thus it was thought that
all things on earth must have the property of life just as man does.
In pre-Qin times, almost all scholars agreed that just as man is
born by parents, all things on earth are born by heaven and earth, and
thus heaven and earth are the parents of all things on earth.
According to this way of thinking, the basic property of the uni-
verse is sheng, *
which means "alive"- the universe itself has life and
at the same time breeds all things on earth continuously. The book Xi
ci zhuan xia of Yi Zhuan says: "The greatest virtue of heaven and earth
is to breed. "
The ancient scholars thought that since heaven and
earth and all things on earth are alive, they certainly must follow a
uniform law of life, and can make refer to each other.
Zhuang Zi said: "All things on earth are like a seed. It becomes a
different shape in the process of change. These different shapes come
out one after another. The start of change joins the end of change like
a ring. We cannot seek the dividing line of the ring. This is what is
called tianjun.*
Tianjun is just tian ni*
" (Yu Yan of Zhuang Zi).
Zhuang Zi thought that all concrete things change, just as plants grow
from seed to bud to seedling to flower to fruit (seed), this being the
process of the unfolding of life.
3. Maintenance of health, cultivation of moral character, and
governance of the country viewed as a united and integrated
Confucians advocated the self-cultivation of morals and stressed
the individual cultivation of moral character as the basis for govern-
ing the country. At the same time, they considered the cultivation of
moral character and the preservation of one's health as involving the
same methods and principles: thus, the two got mixed together. For
instance, preserving one's health was thought to require quieting one's
heart and diminishing one's desires. Equally, quieting the heart and
diminishing desires are the basic premise of practising the theory of
and observing /i,*
thereby achieving noble moral character. Li
means "ceremony" and "social standards." The Taoist school's out-
look on society and life focused on having people not fight each other
for position or glory, but detach themselves from common customs.
The Taoist school stood for the same principles of quieting the heart
and diminishing desires: they also thought that these were the rules
people must observe to preserve their health.
In the light of the theories espoused by the Yin Yang school, the
human body's health involves keeping a balance between yin and
yang. If the different aspects of the human body all achieve a yin-yang
balance, then the person involved will display a gentle and mild
temper, honest and upright behavior, a modest and amiable manner,
and moderate and appropriate deportment. To make these two
opposing forces balanced is the basic and vital law of governing
societies and countries well, in addition to being the principle of
maintaining good health and curing sickness.
4. Appreciation of beauty comes after the improvement of health
and must serve to preserve one's health
Some pre-Qin dynasty books and records such as the books of
Lushi Chunqiu,*
Zuo Zhuan*
and Guo Yu*
and others pointed out
that artistic activities originated from the need to improve health and
cure sickness. Thus creation and the appreciation of art should
observe the regulation of helping to maintain good health, and should
take their benefits to the soundness of body and mind as their criteria.
The appreciation of elegant works of art can both purify one's heart
and raise one's level of health. On the contrary, bad art is not only an
offense against decency, but is also harmful to one's health. A famous
medical man, Yi He,*
in the Spring and Autumn period (770-476
B.c.), and many pre-Qin dynasty scholars elucidated this idea.
To sum my point up, the central characteristic of ancient Chinese
philosophy was to cherish and respect human life and to elaborate the
property of life into a general property of all things on earth. Ancient
Chinese scholars took the life of man to be the center of all things, and
united the true, the good and the beautiful. According to ancient
Chinese scholars, grasping these truths intrinsically meant to under-
stand the noumenon of life and seek to make life exist normally and
develop harmoniously. Therefore, to practice such truths was to
embody virtue, with true and the good fusing into one at the basic
point of seeking a perfect life. At the same time, it was thought that
the beautiful should embody the noumenon of life in the universe and
benefit the harmony and continuity of life. Therefore, the beautiful
and the true and the virtuous were all seen as consistent.
The scholars in pre-Qin times expressed varying views on the
origins of the universe. The book of Guan Zz'*
stated that the uni-
verse originated with water and earth, but in general, scholars of this
period didn't thoroughly discuss this important topic. (The theories of
and bagua*
do not actually belong under the heading
of a study of the origins of the universe.) Although, as mentioned,
different philosophical schools held different opinions, most of them
agreed that qi was the basic matter that composed the universe, and
that qi was the source of various functional phenomena as well as
movement. From the Zhou*
and Qin*
dynasties to the Ming*
and Qing*
dynasties, many scholars insisted that in the real percep-
tual world, qi is the original source of all physical material and
*19 lirr
*20 J\!1-
*23 Bjj
*24 ;1t
According to the expositions of ancient scholars on qi, we know
that the concept of qi came to include extraordinarily complicated and
varied connotations. The original concept of qi included only air and
other substances in a gaseous state. Later, people attached many other
connotations to the qi, especially many properties involving function.
Why did the scholars of pre-Qin times generally agree on their
views of qi? Why did more and more people accept its importance and
pay attention to it afterwards? It is not easy to find ready answers
from ancient literature. However, we can say, since almost every
scholar in history had the same or similar opinions on qi, they all
accepted that qi comprised the origin or sub-origin of the cosmos, so
the concept of qi was not confined to one academic group or one era,
but existed throughout the development of Chinese culture. Thus this
very concept embodies and in a compressed form many important
views and characteristics are innate to Chinese culture. On the other
hand, qi's material reality, as air and all things of gaseous state, was
most suitable to express and embody those consistent and united
viewpoints and characteristics of Chinese philosophy and Chinese
culture, and thus our Chinese ancestors chose an important role for
the concept of qi.
From the above analysis, we can reasonably infer that the forma-
tion and development of the concept of qi must be closely related to
the life philosophy that a lot of important schools held. The relation
of the concept of qi with life philosophy is as follows:
l. People know from general knowledge that breath is the most
important condition for the existence of human life. In remote antiq-
uity, the Chinese found that appropriate adjustments to breathing can
relieve fatigue and improve health. This is the origin of qigong (qi
exercises). Zhuang Zi said: "True man breathes very deeply. True
man breathes through his heels, ordinary people breathe through their
throat" (Da Zong Shi of Zhuang Zi ).
l The book of Huangdi Neijing
states: "True man pays attention to adjusting his breath and makes
his spirit keep independent and quiet" (Shanggu Jianzhen fun of
Suwen).''l The true man is wiser than a sage according to Taoism. A
conclusion could be drawn naturally from these sources that qi is the
source of life for the human body. Lao Zi said: "The space between
heaven and earth is like a bellows. It appears empty but is inexhausti-
ble. The wind goes out continually as soon as the bellows moves, and
as a result, the universe is full of vitality" (Lao Zi, Chapter 5).
know that wind is formed of air, namely qi. So in the light of Lao Zi,
the bellows are similar to the lungs of the human body. The wind is
just the breath of the universe, and qi is the root of the universe's life.
People depend on qi for their vitality, and all things on earth
depended qi for their birth and form. In ancient China, people
believed life to be the fundamental attribute of the universe: therefore,
the importance of qi in the universe seems obvious.
2. The ancient Chinese noticed that the four seasons, fair and cloudy
weather, day and night have decisive influences on all things' germina-
tion, growth, decline and death. They attributed this influence to
heaven, and heaven consisted of qi. In this way, people could use the
concept of qi to signify the great effect that heaven has on the procrea-
tion and multiplication of all things. The role of qi can thus be better
3. The ancient Chinese regarded life as the foundational attribute of
the universe and paid special attention to it. This strengthened the
tendency in ancient Chinese thinking to stress the functional and the
dynamic state of things as opposed to the substance of things. Owing
to the mobility and fluidity of qi, we can see that it is a convenient
concept for explaining and showing rhythms of life and the function
of the universe, and it makes sense to take qi as the basis for all things
on earth.
The concept of qi actually has two aspects: one is material, the
other functional. The functional aspect of qi is more important. Thus
according to the theory of traditional Chinese medicine, the vitality of
the human body relies on yuanqi*
(original qz). Yuanqi is translated
into English as "(inborn) vital energy."
4. If we observe the world in terms of life, all things on earth should
be an organic whole. Life and the universe were seen as closely con-
nected with each other. It accords with this logic to use the invisible
and non-orderly qi to describe how a visible and orderly whole comes
into being and then disintegrates. This is the theory of qihua*
(changes in qz).
5. The continuity of human life depends on the marriage of man
and woman. Plants and animals are also separated into male and
female. Therefore, ancient Chinese scholars _inferred that heaven and
earth also bear all things through sexual relations, with heaven and
earth being the parents of all things. Since the universe is alive, all
things on earth should also be divided into two kinds- male and
female. Thereupon, ancient Chinese scholars used the concepts of yin
and yang to generalize the sexual nature of all things: this is the logical
process behind the formation of the concept of yin-yang. The principle
of yin-yang is an important part of life philosophy, advocating that it
is universally true that all things can be divided into two parts-yin
and yang. According to this, qi-the original component of the
universe- is also divided into yinqi and yangqi. Life philosophy used
qi to explain the functions of yin and yang in all things, and the
interaction of yin and yang with each other, using yinqi and yangqi to
account for the two aspects of the universe, i.e. yin and yang.
6. Qi strengthened the tendency of ancient Chinese scholars to
emphasize time more than space with regard to the existence of all
things and their life. This is because the form of a life being promi-
nently displays the property of time. Under the influence of this tend-
ency of thinking, the concept of qi includes the property of time. As
mentioned above, ancient Chinese scholars thought that the alterna-
tion of day and night, the four seasons and solar terms were governed
and arranged by heaven. Thus the term tianshz"*
- heaven-time,
meaning weather, climate, season, opportunity, timeliness and so on,
all of which are connected with heaven. But heaven consists of qi. Qi
divides into yinqi and yangqi. Thus it is the growth and the decline and
the transformation of yinqi and yangqi that produce day and night
and the four seasons. Therefore, it is owing to the effect of qi that
heaven can govern and arrange day and night and the four seasons.
From the viewpoint of life philosophy, the motion of qi has peri-
odicity and rhythm.
These opinions about qi and time had a great impact on tradi-
tional Chinese medicine, a medicine of rhythms in a certain sense. The
rhythms of the human body are explained through qi's rhythms in
traditional Chinese medicine.
7. Another characteristic of traditional Chinese thinking is a par-
ticular stress on the continuity of all things. The forming and the
strengthening of this characteristic is related to life philosophy. The
process of life displays a clear continuity, and qi, as atmosphere or
other material in a gaseous state, is a continuous mass as observed by
the sensory organs of the human body. This contributed to the view
that qi was the origin of the universe or the basis for forming all things
on earth.
8. Long long ago, ancient Chinese scholars recognized three states
of matter,: gaseous, liquid and solid, in addition to their transforma-
tion. Ancient Chinese scholars also thought that after death, an
organism is transformed from a visible thing (in the solid state) into
invisible gas, namely qi, which then goes back into the natural world.
The gas, i.e. qi, can also be transformed into a visible living organism
under given conditions. Therefore, qi is not only the medium which
links up organisms and all things on earth, but also the basis for
making the universe a united whole.
9. Life philosophy must lead to and strengthen the concept of
wholeness. This must impel people to actively discover and study the
varied connections between all things on earth, including the connec-
tion between information and reaction*
inside the organism and
between the organism and the environment and so on. It is convenient
to use qi as a way of describing the connections and relations which
people cannot see with their eyes and observe with difficulty. There-
fore, qi has become something that embodies and realizes varied
The concept of qi formed and developed under the direct influence
of life philosophy, making its vision of a living universe more com-
plete and systematic in terms of theory. The concept of qi was origi-
nally based on breathing, with qi as atmosphere. However, because of
the influence of life philosophy, qi was transformed into a very impor-
tant philosophic concept after many more abstract properties not
related to breathing were added. The wisdom, temperament and feel-
ings of the Chinese people appear vividly in this concept. The concept
of qi became a living spirit in the theoretical structure of each field in
traditional Chinese culture.
Theories of traditional Chinese medicine came into being later
than the philosophic concept of qi. Therefore, the meaning of qi had
become more abstract and extensive than simply the air that was
breathed. Apparently it was quite difficult to apply this philosophic
concept to a medical science which was specific and based on clinical
practice and experience. The concept of qi in philosophy only exists as
abstract thinking and imagination, yet any concept in medical science
always has to be employed to express a specific thing no matter how
wide its range of applicatiop is.
How did medical specialists solve this contradiction? Essentially,
they came to regard the concept of qi as a symbolic-theoretical
model. Under the precondition of keeping most of the philosophical
connotations of qi, qi was made to correspond to the connections,
functions and substances of certain parts of the human body, and
then, the relevant physiological and pathological attributes known
through the clinical observation of the whole of human body were
attached separately to the concept of qi. Finally, qi was given different
names to delimit and further specify it, such as weiqi, *
yingqi, *
and so on. In this way, in medi-
cine, the concept of qi was limited to representing certain parts of the
human body. This model gradually developed into a highly systema-
tized medical theory based on clinical observation, verification, and
continuous revision over a long period of time.
In general, traditional Chinese medicine set up four types of mod-
els regarding qi. They reflect the four basic properties that belong to
the human body.
1. Qi as the intermediary in the transition between living substances
and physiological functions.
Traditional Chinese medicine founded the concepts ofjing,*
and shen. *
ling is a living substance. Shen refers to the spirit and
general body functions. Qi is something betweenjing and shen, some-
thing material as well as functional. As material, it is invisible and too
delicate to have any content. Although it is a function and acts as the
energy of life, it is also clearly a kind of substance because it can
change directly to jing and vice versa. Traditional Chinese medicine
believes that there is an intermediary existing in the course of the
transition of living substances and functions of life. It is like a bridge
between them. This medium is qi.
2. Qi as the medium between the body's internal organs and the four
limbs, between the body's surface and the inside, and between the
body and the external environment.
According to traditional Chinese medicine, there is a kind of qi in
the human body. It moves all over the body along jingluo, *
and it
not only pushes the blood forward to transport nutrition to each part
of the body, but also transmits information to link the body into a
whole. In addition, as early as the Warring State period (770-221
B.c.), ancient Chinese scholars discovered that invisible information
transmission over long distances can occur between two organisms.
For example, the book of Lushi chunqiu states: "One person lived in
the state of Qin in West China, another person he loved lived in the
state of Qi in East China. When the person in Qi died, the person in
Qin immediately felt uneasy for no apparent reason. It may have
happened because jingqi transmitted the information between them"
(Jingtong of Lushi chunqiu).'
l The so-calledjingqi is one kind of qi. It
is the "cream" in all kinds of qi. The writer of Lushi chunqiu believed
that jingqi existed which could transmit information both in cosmic
space and in organisms. It is thus clear that a connotation involved in
the concept of qi includes information and its transmission. Qi, as the
carrier of information, has the capability of leaping over extremely
wide spaces.
3. Inside qi and outside qi generated by qigong
These qi have many functions, such as dispelling pathogenetic
factors, nourishing the body, raising intelligence and regulating qi,
blood andjing/uo.*
In addition, these qi can make the body perform
extraordinary feats.
4. Pathogenetic xieqz"*
Xieqi means "evil qi." It can cause disease. For instance, in tradi-
tional Chinese medicine, there are six yin xieqi, *
i.e. feng*
qi, shu*
qi, shi*
qi, zao*
qi and huo*
qi. Xieqi are not the
components of the normal body. Many kinds of xieqi come from the
environment. In order to study the pathogenetic xieqi, traditional
Chinese medicine used its basic symbolic-theoretical model. The
ancient doctors knew the properties and characteristics of xieqi and
the means of dispelling xieqi through observing and analysing the
different responses of the normal body to xieqi and the relationships
between medical measures and changes in the disease.
The concept of qi in traditional Chinese medicine has very rich
connotations, much more so than the four aspects discussed above.
Of course, to classify qi more precisely belongs to fields of special
research in traditional Chinese medicine. It must be pointed out that
owing to the melding of the philosophic concept of qi with traditional
Chinese medicine, and the use of the symbolic-theoretical model,
traditional Chinese medicine has discovered and studied areas and
phenomena which are hard to conceive through the methodology and
conceptual framework of Western medical science. For example,
without using the concept of qi and the symbolic-theoretical model,
the establishment of the theory of jingluo*
would have hardly been
Though the study of these fields is at an early stage, it is undeni-
ably a great contribution of the ancient Chinese life philosophy and
the concept of qi in traditional Chinese medicine, both of which have
opened roads for deeper research on the human body.
Discussing the concept of life breath through a comparison
between Eastern and Western medicine makes a great deal of sense in
understanding the spirit of Chinese culture and the differences
between Eastern and Western culture.
Ancient Chinese philosophy and traditional Chinese medicine at-
tached importance to qi. Ancient European philosophy and medicine
also attached importance to air. In ancient Greece, Anaximenes
thought that air was the origin of all things on earth. Empedocles set
forward the theory of four elements. He viewed fire, air, water, and
earth as the basic forms of the universe. Thus air is one of four
elements. In the field of medicine, the Hippocratic school founded the
theory of pneuma. According_ to this theory, pneuma is the substance
of the human body. It plays the role of keeping a balance in the body,
and stems from air breathed. Thus, ancient Eastern and Western
philosophy and medicine have something in common. However, the
European people did not produce any comprehensive theory like that
involving Chinese qi. Equally, traditional Chinese medicine did not
found any precise anatomy of the human body.
Why is this? Essentially, ancient Chinese culture and European
culture had the different ways of thinking, or different tendencies in
their thinking.
What were the characteristics of ancient Chinese thinking? Gener-
ally speaking, traditional Chinese ways of thinking have the character-
istics of what might be termed "female thinking". In other words,
Chinese traditional thinking falls under the yin*
category. In my
opinion, traditional Chinese ways of thinking have shown no
difference with basic tendencies of female thinking. We can thus
reasonably say that traditional Chinese ways of thinking have
feminine traits, as follows:
1. A precocious subjective consciousness
2. The tendency to mix subject and object together
3. The central idea of wholeness
4. Paying attention to function and relation, not substance
5. Valuing time more highly than space
6. Skill at thinking in images, but not so much skill in logical
7. Skill at thinking of intuitively
These are all aspects of traditional Chinese thinking; moreover, in
the light of modern psychology they are traits of female thinking as
well. These traits of thinking were what made ancient Chinese
scholars attach importance to life, place great value on air breathed,
and to develop the philosophical concepts of qi and the medical con-
cept of qi. If the ancient Chinese people had not borne these traits of
thinking, they would not have founded the concept of qi which we see
today. By the way, according to modern psychology, male and female
thinking are matched and balanced in the level of intelligence, but
have important differences _in the distribution of that intelligence.
The strong subjective consciousness of the ancient Chinese people
led them to attach importance to man's self. The attention of tradi-
tional Western thinking was in the direction of matter, but the atten-
tion of Chinese traditional thinking directed toward the human realm.
This difference is also similar to differences in tendencies of thought
between male and female. Thus Chinese traditional philosophy
belonged to the philosophy of life and traditional Chinese medicine
flourished in ancient times. Traditional Western medicine took man
as a substance to study, but traditional Chinese medicine took man as
a living thing, stressing the traits of wholeness and the life of man. At
the same time, ancient Chinese scholars united medicine, ethics, mana-
gerial science, aesthetics and philosophy, and so on into one whole.
Owing to a strong subjective consciousness, the ancient Chinese
people took man as the center of the universe, mixing subject and
object together, as a result of the idea "heaven and man in harmoni-
ous union".*
From this, ancient Chinese scholars analogized the
properties of all things on earth according to the knowledge of man
himself, regarded life as the basic property of the universe, and there-
fore believed that air breathed is the root of life of the universe, and
finally, made the concept of qi an important category of philosophy
which had a wide range.
The concept of qi has two aspects. One is material, another is
functional. And the functional aspect is more important to the con-
cept of qi. It reflects the fact that Chinese ancient scholars paid great
attention to the functions and the relationships of all things. We know
the functions of qi were concrete and various: particularly in tradi-
tional Chinese medicine. But the substance of qi was abstract and
blurred. This also embodies a central tendency of Chinese traditional
Chinese traditional thinking attached importance to image, and
was good at thinking in images. This can be proved by the Chinese
pictograph. This trait of thinking in images still shows through the
concept of qi. The substance of qi was abstract, but its function had a
clear image. Ancient Chinese doctors knew and expressed the func-
tional properties of qi through the signs of the body, personal feelings
and experience, or in other words, through images. So a basic term in
traditional Chinese medicine-"analyse the signs of the body"*
means "analyse the images of the body". *
The concept of qi, as a
model of the human body and pathogeny was founded by observing
and analysing the images of signs of the human body.
In a word, Chinese traditional ways of thinking made it possible to
found life philosophical category of qi and the medical concept of qi
as a medical model.
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Animal Spirits and Eighteenth-Century
British Medicine
Wei/come Institute for the History of Medicine
183 Euston Road, London, NWJ 2BE
United Kingdom
N his treatise on The English malady published in 1733, the English
physician George Cheyne declared that:
The Doctrine of Spirits, to explain the animal Functions and their
Diseases, has been so readily and universally receiv'd from the
Days of the Arabian Physicians (and higher) down to our present
Times, that scarce one (except here and there a Heretick of late)
has call'd this Catholick Doctrine in question.
Even those who harboured doubts about the correctness of this the-
ory were content for the sake of convenience to make use of this
"common Dialect." Thanks to the efforts of philosophers and
mathematicians, as well as physicians, what had initially been a "rude
and imperfect" system had now been developed into a "more consist-
ent and less absurd Theory."
The doctrine Cheyne described can be viewed as a linear descend-
ant of the Galenic notion of a "psychic pneuma" which was secerned
in the brain and then distributed throughout the body by means of the
nerves. Despite the vicissitudes this doctrine had undergone through
the centuries, it retained its identity and continued to attract wide-
spread support as late as the eighteenth century. Perhaps the most
eminent supporter of the theory during this period was the Swiss
physiologist Albrecht von Haller ( 1708-77). This persistence was in
part due to the survival into the nineteenth century of the Galenic
notion of the anatomy and physiology of the nervous system.
l On the
Galenic view, the brain was the seat of the psychic principle; it was
also "undeniably the source of all the Nerves of the body".
l The mind
exercised its influence over the body by means of these nervous cords;
as Cheyne put it, "the Intelligent Principle, or Soul, resides somewhere
in the Brain, where all the Nerves, or Instruments of Sensation termi-
nate, like a Musician in a finely fram'd and well tun'd Organ Case; ...
these Nerves are like Keys, which, being struck on or touch'd, convey
the Sound and Harmony to this sentient Principle, or Musician. "
The doctrine of animal spirits provided a putative mechanism for
explaining the interaction of mind and body. The chief tenets of this
theory can be summarized as follows:
1. That there was a substance- sometimes called a "fluid" on
other occasions a "vapour" or "spirit"- secreted in the brain.
2. This substance was conveyed by the nerves to the different parts
of the body.
3. Sensory impressions were transmitted from the external organs
by the agency of this fluid to the brain; here they became present
to consciousness.
4. Conversely, the impulses of the will were transmitted to the
muscles by means of the nervous fluid which was the efficient
cause of muscular contraction.
There was room for considerable disagreement on detail within
this general framework. The mode of transmission of the nervous
fluid, for example, was contentious. Some favoured the notion that
the nerves formed hollow tubes and that the fluid was conveyed along
them in the same was that blood or lymph travelled through their
appropriate vessels. The fact that even with the assistance of the most
powerful magnifying lenses, no cavity was visible in the nerves was,
however, a stumbling-block to this notion. Others, such as Kinneir,
maintained that the nerves were solid cords; the fluid was transmitted
along them by a mechanism analogous to capillary motion. s)
There was, moreover, no consistency of terminology among
authors who adopted some version of this system. As well as nervous
fluid, the substance secreted by the brain was on occasion called,
among other names, the succus nervosus, liquidium nervorum, liquor
encepahli, and "animal spirits." In part, these terms were interchange-
able; some of them, however, conveyed subtly different shades of
meaning. By means of the name an author chose to use different
attributes could be predicated of the nervous something. These ambi-
guities added considerably to the flexibility and therefore serviceabil-
ity of the theory.
Disagreement over the manner in which the nervous fluid per-
formed its function was also apparent. Some clung to the notion of it
as a subtle, highly tenuous substance whose operations were inscruta-
ble. Others, influenced by the mechanistic philosophy of the
seventeenth-century and especially by Descartes physiological ideas,
employed a grosser concept of the nervous subtance and of its effect
on other parts of the body. Malcolm Flemyng, for instance, declared
the "simplest and most natural account of voluntary muscular
motion" to be that: "The will determines a flux of animal spirits
through nerves. . . into the cylindrical cavities of fleshy muscular
fibres, thereby increasing their diameters, and shortening their axes
with a certain degree of force, according to the strength of the
muscle. "
Other variations and points of disagreement could be adduced. In
addition to the functions of the animal spirits outlined above, for
example, some authors maintained that the nerve juice performed a
nutritive role- contributing to the growth and maintenance of the
brain and spinal marrow as well as to that of the nerves themselves;
some even maintained that all bodily parts depended on this source
for nutrition.
These were variations within a generally accepted framework. The
eighteenth century saw, however, a fundamental challenge to the doc-
trine of animal spirits. Critics of this ancient system maintained that it
was gratuitous to hypothesize the existence of some nervous fluid;
"some there be," admitted James Gibbs, "who have deny'd or
doubted the Being of Animal Spirits, one Reason may be, because
They knew not what to make of them; like Atheists, who are not free
to acknowledge a Deity, because they think it not convenient for them
that there should be any such Being."
These physiological sceptics maintained that vibrations along
solid nerves sufficed to explain all the operations previously ascribed
to the motions of the nervous fluid. These vibrations were either
thought to occur in the gross substance of the nerves or in the subtle
"ether" supposedly diffused throughout all matter. The latter view
owed much to Sir Isaac Newton's speculations upon the way in which
the physical forces acted. Newton himself suggested that this universal
ether might supply an explanation for nervous action. S)
Among the best known expositions of this position was found in
Cheyne's The English malady.
) He argued that none of the versions of
the doctrine of animal spirits was tenable: they all imputed logically
incompatible attributes to the supposed nervous fluid. If, as some
alleged, the fluid was analogous to light,
(the most subtil, active and penetrating Fluid apparent in our
System) which would make them quickly penetrate, fly through,
tear break, and consume their rare and tender Prisons [i.e., the
nerves], which would be of no more Use to them, to determine
them to regular and uniform Motions, than Glass Tubes are to
Light. And were they like urinous or inflammable Spirits; yet
neither would such slender Prisons contain them any Time, or
convey them uniformly for regular Purposes. And lastly, if they
were like Water or aqueous Fluids, they could neither have Activ-
ity nor Subtilty sufficient to solve the Appearances, nor could they
move with Velocity enough to answer the Purposes of Volition,
Sensation, and voluntary or involuntary Motions, under the more
gross and sluggish Form, and would even then ouze thro' their
containing Tubes.
In short, "give them what Nature you will, [the animal spirits] will
never answer the animal Functions and Appearances."
In Cheyne's view, the doctrine of animal spirits arose out of the
use of a misguided analogy to solve "The most difficult Problem in all
the Animal Oeconomy ... to give any tolerable Account of Muscular
Action or Animal Motion." The apparent "Similitude of a Machin [sic]
put into Action and Motion by the Force of Water convey'd in Pipes,
was the readiest Resemblance the Lazy could find to explain Muscular
Motion by." From this supposition, "It was easy ... to forge a thin
imperceptible Fluid, passing and re-passing through the Nerves, to
blow up the Muscles, and thereby to lengthen one of their Dimen-
sions, in order to shorten the other. On such a slender and imaginary
Similitude, the precarious Hypothesis of Animal Spirits seems to be
built. "
Cheyne's own view was that the phenomena of muscular motion,
together with "the other abstruse Appearances in the Animal and
Vegetable Kingdoms," were best explained on the hypothesis
expounded by Newton of "an infinitely subtil, elastick Fluid, or
Spirit ... distended thro' this whole System, penetrating all Bodies
with the greatest Facility, infinitely active and volatile" .
Despite these arguments, and despite the invocation of Newton's
considerable authority, the doctrine of animal spirits did not succumb
to the attacks made upon it. On the contrary, it retained advocates
throughout the eighteenth century who mounted a vigorous defence
of its validity. In the remainder of this paper, I wish to consider the
grounds upon which they rested their case; to explore the rationale of
the doctrine of animal spirits. I will then proceed to consider the uses
this system may have possessed within the economy of eighteenth-
century British medicine.
It is easy to dismiss the theory of animal spirits, much as Cheyne
did, as the result of careless reasoning or of the servile acceptance of
traditional wisdom. But advocates of the system had an array of
arguments at their disposal to substantiate their claims. An examina-
tion of these casts light on why the theory was considered tenable;
and, more generally, provides an insight into the forms of evidence
and argument that were deemed legitimate and relevant to adduce in
the resolution of issues of this kind.
In his 1797 lectures on the Theory of Medicine at Edinburgh
University, Andrew Duncan discussed the doctrine of animal spirits in
the context of his general treatment of the animal fluids. He acknowl-
edged, however, that the nervous fluid possessed a unique epistemo-
logical status that distinguished it from the other substances discussed
in this part of his course. "With respect to theN [ervous]. Fluid we are
not in the same Situation as with any of the other Fluids we have
described; all the others are the Objects of Sense, & most of them have
been examined both in the way of Chemical Analysis & Microscp
Observations. But none of these Modes of Investigation can be
employed on the N. Fluid." The first enquiry to be made about the
nervous fluid was therefore "Whether or not it really exists."
Despite its elusive nature, Duncan maintained, it was possible to
adduce empirical evidence which made the existence of a nervous fluid
probable. The importance of the nerves in the operations of the
animal economy was generally acknowledged; it was difficult, how-
ever, to account for their functions if they were merely solid cords.
The physical appearance of the nerves did not support the view that
they were vibratory media; and "Besides, did the Nerves perform their
functions by Vibration, Sensation should be strongest in the parts
which have the greatest rigidity, because these Vibrations would be
most easily propagated. But on the contrary we find yet Sensibility is
destroyed by the rigidity of the parts."
l On these and comparable
grounds the doctrine of a nervous fluid seemed, on balance, the more
probable explanation.
Further "Arguments for the Existence of this fluid are adduced
from the Analogy of the other parts of the body;"
l it was, in other
words, legitimate to seek elucidation of the way in which the nervous
system worked by reference to what was known of the functions of
other, less obscure organs. In particular, throughout the eighteenth
century proponents of the doctrine of animal spirits insisted on an
analogy between the brain and the glands of the body.
In the lectures on physiology he gave in London in the 1750s
Malcolm Flemyng simply assumed the validity of this analogy: "the
primary function of the brain being to separate a fluid from the blood,
by the influx of which into the nerves the actions of these filaments are
performed; it was requisite to pave the way towards the understand-
ing of the functions of the brain and nerves, by previously explaining
animal secretion, and the structure and uses of glands."
This was
"the most generally received opinion of physiologists, however
strongly it is controverted by some".
Alexander Monro, Professor of Anatomy at Edinburgh, in 1732
similarly asserted that the brain secreted the nervous fluid "in the
same Way as is done by other Glands to their Excretories".
In a
later edition of the same work Monro expatiated upon the "strong
Analogy of the Brain and Nerves to other Glands of the Body and
their Excretories" at greater length. Those who argued for the exis-
tence of a nervous fluid
think that the vascular Texture of the Cortex of the Encephalon
and Medulla Spinalis; the Continuation of the Cortex in forming
the medullary Substance, the fibrous Texture and succulent State
of this Medulla, and its being wholly employed to form the
Nerves, where the fibrous Texture is evident; all these Things, say
they, conspire to shew such a strong Analogy between these Parts
and the other Glands of the Body, as carries a Conviction that
there is a Liquor secreted in the Encephalon and Medulla Spinalis,
to be sent out by the Nerves to the different Parts of the Body.
The analogy between the brain and kidney was, in Monro's view,
particularly striking.
Monro conceded that this analogy was open to objections. Per-
haps the most obvious of these was:" ... We see the Cavities and can
examine the Liquors in the Excretories of other Glands much smaller
than the Brain, which cannot be done in the Nerves." He claimed,
however, to have a satisfactory response to this criticism. He granted
that " . . . Microscopes, Injections, and all the other Arts hitherto
employed have not shewn the Cavities of the nervous Fibrils, or the
Liquors contained in them"; but, in view of the minute size of the
nerve fibres, this was not surprising. Moreover, mere invisibility was
not an insuperable objection to the existence of a structure or sub-
stance: the existence of such entities was a legitimate and necessary
inference from universally-accepted axioms about the workings of the
animal body. Monro argued that
so long as such a Number of little Animals can every Hour be
brought to the Framers of this Objection, in which they can as
little demonstrate the Vessels or contained Fluids, it will not be
allowed to be conclusive Reasoning, that because ocular Demon-
stration cannot be given of Pipes, therefore they do not exist. For
if we have any notion of an Animal, it is its being a Hydraulick
Machine, which has Liquors moving in it as long as it has Life; if
therefore such little Animals have Vessels and Liquors which we
cannot see, why may not some of the Vessels and Liquors of the
human Body be also invisible to us.
Objections to the brain/gland comparison could thus be obviated
by a series of further analogies and collateral arguments. Monro made
explicit one of the fundamental strengths of the doctrine of animal
spirits as an explanation of nervous function: it was consonant with
the dominant physiological model. If the other organs consisted of
fluids passing through tubes, it was natural to suppose that the ner-
vous system was similarly constituted. Further, since this notion of
the living body as a "Hydraulick Machine" was the only model of
organism then available, it had to be as applicable to the smallest as
well as to the largest animal. A microrganization of tubes and fluids
must by definition exist in minute life-forms; by analogy, a similar
magnitude of organization could be assumed to exist in the texture
of larger animals. In Flemyng's words, "There are animalcules so
minute, as to appear, when viewed through the best glasses, to be little
bigger than points; but these must consist of a variety of organised
parts, much less than their wholes. Why then may there not be vessels
in the human body so small that their cavities cannot any how be
Elsewhere Flemyng stated that the harmony between the theory of
animal spirits and other aspects of contemporary physiological doc-
trine was one of its strengths and attractions. It was "the chief advan-
tage of our theory, to shew all to be consistent with and analogous to
animal nature, as considered in itself, and as it were, within its own
estate, without going abroad for, and obtruding foreign and unneces-
sary beings or properties".
) Such "foreign and unnecessary" terms
would, presumably, include the ether- a concept drawn from physi-
cal science. Monro also took the view that the importation of this
concept into physiological discourse was unhelpful creating more
problems than it solved. "We know not," he insisted, "sufficiently the
Properties of an Aether pervading every Thing, to pretend to apply it
to the animal Functions, especially where we must suppose it sent a
great Way in a long Cord, in which we cannot conceive how it should
be confined; which are Difficulties not to be surmounted in account-
ing for the Functions of the Nerves by Means of such an Aether".
The self-sufficiency and internal coherence of physiological doc-
trine were therefore normative principles that could be invoked in
support of the system of animal spirits. The plausibility and rhetorical
force of the brain/gland analogy needs to be seen against this back-
ground. There was, however, also a felt need to place the doctrine
upon an experimental basis; although invisible, the effects of the
nervous fluid might under the proper conditions be perceived. Con-
versely, experiments might also serve to refute competing theories of
nervous function. Flemyng referred to investigations undertaken by a
Dr Stewart in which
He hung a live frog, tied by the two fore legs, upon two pins, at a
moderate distance from one another, and in that position he clipt
off it's head with sharp scizzars; then he gently put a smooth
surgeon's probe into the hole of the first vertebra of the neck,
through which the spinal marrow passes, easily touching spinal
marrow; upon which the inferior extremities ... were all in an
instant bent upwards with a convulsive motion.
There was nothing in the stimulus applied, Flemyng argued, "that
hath the least tendency either to excite elastic tremor, or to create
spasm by acrimony".
The most crucial experiment cited by Flemyng and other advo-
cates of the doctrine of a nervous fluid was, however, one performed
by Lorenzo Bellini and repeated by Alexander Monro "with exact
good Success", and which
does not appear capable of being accounted for, unless a Fluid is
allowed in the Nerves. It is this: After opening the Thorax of a
living Dog, catch hold of, and compress one or both phrenic
Nerves; immediately the Diaphragm ceases to act: Remove the
compressing Force, this Muscle again contracts: Grip the Nerve
some way above the Diaphragm, and it again becomes inactive:
Then with the other Hand strip down the Nerve from the first
Hand to the Diaphragm, this Muscle again contracts: After strip-
ping the Nerve thus down twice or thrice, the Muscle will contract
no more, though that Action of Stripping is repeated, unless the
first Hand is taken away or removed higher; when the Experiment
will again succeed. The natural Account of all these Appearances
would seem to me no other, than that the Course of the nervous
Fluid is interrupted by the Compression, and that a mechanical
Force being applied to supply that natural propelling Force of the
Brain, & c. the stagnating Part of the Fluid between the gripping
Fingers and the Muscle is squeezed into the muscular Fibres, and
occasions their Contractions: but as soon as that Part of the Nerve
is exhausted of its Fluid, then can no such effect follow from
stripping the Nerve, till a new Quantity of Fluids are brought
down from the Part of the Nerve which had not been evacuated.
If this experiment proved the existence of a fluid in the motor nerves,
then it was legitimate that a similar fluid also mediated sensation.
These proofs and arguments formed the chief bases of the doctrine
of the animal spirits in eighteenth-century Britain. Duncan added one
other, derived from "some Phenomena in morbid Cases, particularly
that appearance in the Symptomatic Epilepsy, which is called Aura
Epileptica, where the Motions of the Nerves fluid may even be felt".
But although he leaned towards the doctrine of animal spirits,
Duncan was far more reserved about the evidence adduced in its
favour than earlier authors. Thus, while he numbered the experiment
on the phrenic nerve among the arguments for the existence of a
nervous juice, he added: "This Argument is not conclusive for we may
easily conceive how Compression may stop the Nerves Influence, tho'
it depend on other Circumstances than a Fluid. "
l The contrast with
Monro's dogmatic interpretation of this experiment is striking.
Debates about the existence of a nervous fluid did not, however,
occur in a purely theoretical context; throughout the period these
discussions were seen to have practical implications. In the final sec-
tion of this paper I shall consider how theory was seen to impinge
upon practice.
When reading eighteenth-century physiological texts it is impor-
tant to bear in mind that their authors were rarely "pure" scientists
who engaged in these speculations for their own sake or merely to
advance knowledge. They were, on the contrary, for the most part
physicians who saw their theoretical labours as bearing directly upon
their clinical practice.
They operated with assumptions about the interrelations of the
theoretical and practical aspects of medicine derived from the normal
organization of the medical curriculum in the eighteenth-century
European university. According to this schema, medical knowledge
comprised three grand divisions: physiology, pathology, and thera-
peutics. These were seen as interdependent. Physiology explained the
workings of the body in health; it was therefore a necessary founda-
tion for pathology, which dealt with the deviation from this standard
that constituted disease. Pathology was, in turn, necessary to the
rational treatment of disease which aimed to return the body to its
physiological condition.
l Such assumptions were apparent when
Flemyng came to consider the "utility" of his enquiry into the nature
of the nervous fluid: "As the same impetum faciens, or active fluid,
hath a very large share of influence on the disorders of the animal
machine, the clearer, juster, and fuller ideas we have of its nature and
constituent parts, the more masterly and comprehensive will our
knowledge be of the various diseases in which it is materially con-
cerned, and of the methods and remedies requisite for their cure. "
This approach to the practice of medicine did not belittle the
importance of clinical experience; but it did insist that the rational
treatment of disease depended upon the application of general princi-
ples to particular cases. In Kinneir's words, "As long as the general
principles are certain, a practice founded upon these, coinciding with
just observations of the causes, effects, and symptoms of diseases, as
well as of the nature, operation and efficacy of remedies, is a sufficient
light to enable a Physician to form his judgment of a case with some
certainty, and to prescribe accordingly."
The supposed relevance of
theory to practice was therefore central to the legitimacy of the physi-
ological enterprise. It provided a normative framework or regulatory
principle by which theoretical constructs could be evaluated and
priorities for enquiry established. Kinneir, for instance, admitted that
the question of whether or not the nerves were hollow had not been
settled by his investigations; he was content to admit that the issue
would probably always remain open. But he maintained that "by
what has been said, and will follow from thence, some clearer notions
may be formed, than what have perhaps occurred to others, from
which some improvements in the practical part of Physick may pro-
ceed".321 On the other hand, the ultimate pragmatic orientation of
theory imposed a discipline upon speculation: mere theory was dis-
credited and reckless and irresponsible hypothesizing condemned,
for forming hypotheses without attending to facts, is often the
production of error, and apt to mislead, in place of clearing
up a point, and consequently can be of no service to mankind; for
it is good to our fellow creature, which ought to be the end of a
Physician's knowledge, and the rule to direct him in his re-
searches. If we cannot with all our faculties discover the absolute
nature of things, we can still find out the relation that they bear to
us, and their tendency either to preserve or obstruct health.
In his 1712 discussion of scrofula James Gibbs gave an example of
how the doctrine of animal spirits might be applied to elucidating the
nature of one class of disease and its cognates. Scrofula could. he
argued, act upon the animal spirits to produce a wide range of patho-
logical conditions: "Sometimes the Passages of the Spirits are so
obstructed in the Nerves, as to produce Paralytic Impediments, and at
other times the Spirits are irritated into Convulsive Ferments, and all
these disorders appear to proceed fro_m a Scrophulous Original in
Persons afflicted with other Strumous Symptoms, and are all remov'd
by Medicines appropriated to the Cure of Scrophulous Diseases
As mentioned above, the precise nature of the substance circulat-
ing in the nervous tubes was a subject of considerable disagreement.
Gibbs elected to "compare the Animal Spirits to the Vapours of
generous Fermenting Liquors, which we know are of such Force, as
frequently to break the Vessel which contains them".
l This concept
of the animal spirits provided him with a resource with which to
account for the manner in which the nervous substance acted in the
healthy body and hence to explain how its dysfunctions might occa-
sion disease. In the case of secretion, the "Spiritous Vapour ... de-
scending thro', and filling the Cavity of the Nervous Fibres, are [sic] in
a sort of Turgescence as Fermenting Liquors are. This Turgescence in
the Fibre causes a Contraction of the Fibre in its length, as a Rope
being wet, grows shorter; and this Contraction must necessarily pro-
duce a Constriction of the Glandulous Membranes, which the Ner-
vous Fluids surround and encompass". It followed that "a defect of
the Animal Spirits will cause a Relaxation of the Gland, and such a
relaxation will prevent both the Fermentative Operation and just
Secretion of the Gland so relaxt".
In another essay Gibbs turned more particularly to therapeutics.
Proceeding from the premise that disease arose from an excess or
deficiency in the ferment of the animal spirits, he went on to explore
the remedies that could be rationally prescribed to return them to
their natural state. When "the Animal Spirits in general are in too
great a Ferment, Acid Spirits, which are qualify'd to intrude among
the Animal Spirits, appear most proper for reducing them into Order
and Tranquillity."
l Of all medicines opium had the most remarkable
effects on the animal spirits; it "sometimes contributes to the strength
and agility of the Animal Spirits, sometimes excites them to i"egular
and distressing Ferments, as I have observed in Hysterick Persons, and
sometimes, if taken in a quantity beyond what the Spirits are dispos'd
to bear, the Sulphurs of the Opium encumber and overload the Spirits
with a mortal Oppression, so that they never manage to their natural
expansion again. "
Kinneir also expounded a pathological theory based upon dys-
function of the nervous fluid. His exposition highlighted the advan-
tages that this notion of the workings of the nervous system possessed
over its rivals: it was readily integrated into the humoral system that
remained influential in eighteenth-century medical thinking and prac-
) Because the nervous fluid was secemed out of the blood sup-
plied to the brain, it was ultimately dependent upon the quality and
proper circulation of the blood for its own healthy composition and
efficacy. The "quality and quantity of our blood," in its tum,
depend upon what is taken into the body, or the six Non-naturals,
viz. air, meat and drink, motion and rest, passions of the mind,
things contained or discharged, sleep and watching. A right or
wrong use of any of these non-naturals, occasions a good or a bad
state of health, and consequently the requisites for good juices, as
they all flow from the blood, depends intirely upon them. But
whatever qualities the nervous juice derives from a wrong use of
any of those, it is only the excess of those qualities and quantities
of the blood, that produceth distempers ...
Obvious therapeutic conclusions followed from these premises. If,
as Kinneir asserted, all disorders proceeded from disorders of the
blood and circulation which vitiated the actions of the other body
fluids, then "all methods of cure are conducted by discharges, as
bleedings, purgings, promoting urine, and increasing the insensible
perspiration; by attenuating, stimulating, vomiting, dilution and
thickening; and, in fine, by every thing that increases or diminishes the
circulatory motions, so as to bring them to the true standard for
accomplishing all the animal functions necessary to a state of
The doctrine of a nervous fluid thus led in Kinneir's writing to a
convenient endorsement of the standard therapeutic armamentarium
of eighteenth-century orthodox physic: "all the practice of Physick,"
he declared, "mostly depends upon filling and emptying".
l It could
also be made to underwrite the skills necessary for the successful
treatment of disease. Although he expounded universal principles of
the nature and treatment of disease, Kinneir emphasized that these
doctrines had to be adapted to each individual case:
In some people the blood may be more disposed . . . to certain
kinds of humours, than in others, under equal directions in the
Non-naturals; and in this disposition there may be as great variety
as there is of faces. This variety is the reason why there can be no
specific remedy, nor particular diet effectual in all cases; for sim-
ilar distempers require different methods of cure in different per-
sons, it being evident from daily experience, that one medicine will
be of service to one, as well as one method of diet, that are hurtful
to another in the same case.
The art of the skilful physician was to devise a therapeutic strategy
appropriate to each individual case.
This notion of the good physician as one who applies himself to
the understanding and management of the unique characteristics of
his patient, is one of the features of eighteenth-century "Bedside"
medicine stressed by N.D. Jewson. He maintains that humoralism
and heroic remedies of depletion were also central to this system.
Jewson argues that this kind of medicine was most appropriate to an
interaction between an aristocratic patient and a lower class physi-
cian. Kinneir, as a medical practitioner in the fashionable spa town of
Bath, certainly catered for an upper-class clientele.
l The medical
theory that he produced, including his doctrine of the nervous fluid,
can be viewed as an a posteriori rationalisation of an established
medical regime.
But it had also a more specific polemical purpose. As a physician
at Bath, Kinneir had a vested interest in promoting the therapeutic
virtues of its waters. In his treatise he lamented, however, that other
members of the Faculty had of late been inclined to deprecate the
value of this form of treatment. He deplored the fact that
the mode should govern as much in Physick as it does in dress. A
leading man in his profession, takes a fancy to some methods of
practice; others, out of complaisance to his person, or deference to
his authority, adapt the same into theirs ... Hence it comes, that
the method of cure by bathing in chronick cases is so much de-
cried, and so generally dissused, when heretofore Bathing was the
only remedy; some now run upon excessive bleedings, purgings,
emeticks, &c.
Kinneir's treatise on the nervous fluid represented an attempt to
reverse this unfortunate trend in medical fashion by demonstrating
the rationality of resorting to the Bath waters as a treatment of choice
for a wide range of complaints. In his own words, "My intention in
this short Essay was not only to clear up, in some measure, the
doctrine of the Nerves ... ; but also to shew the usefulness of drinking
the Bath waters, and particularly of Bathing in most cases".
Kinneir attempted to show that this conclusion could be derived
from his theory of the nervous fluid and the morbid alterations to
which it was subject. An obstructed perspiration could lead to an
engorgement of the vessels and consequent bodily congestion.
Because the nerves were dependent upon a healthy circulation of
bodily fluids for their natural action, they too would suffer and
numerous nervous complaints ensue. This congestion could be
relieved by various methods:
For instance, the Cold Bath upon immersion so shakes and com-
presses the whole nervous system, that even the minutest capil-
laries feel the influence; and the pressure, with the sudden chill
produces such an impetus, as to crisp the fibres, and force open the
smallest passages. By this means the velocity of the circulating
fluids is increased, and the impending load discharged through the
pores of the skin; and instead of keeping back the perspirable
matter, which had contracted such qualities as to occasion the
various complaints for which the Bath was advised; the frequent
clippings freely dislodge what affected the nervous termination
with uneasy and painful sensations; so that after bathing, one is
brisk and lively, and feels a lightness and agility of body ... by
which we find that the motion of the blood is accelerated, and the
. 48)
Succus Nervosus duly diffused through the Nerves ...
Kinneir especially recommended bathing of the head which
ensured "a speedier conveyance . . . of the salubrious effects of the
water to the scalp and brain, contributing to promote the secretion of
the Succus Nervosus into the Nerves". He recognised, however, that
there might be resistance to this practice from lady patients "from
their coming to Bath with fine dressed heads".
Kinneir acknowledged that congestion could be relieved by other
methods than bathing. But he drew upon the researches of Keil and
Pitcairne to demonstrate that perspiration was by far the most effica-
cious means of obtaining this end. so) He placed special emphasis upon
hypochondriacal and hysterical nervous complaints, which were
engendered by the indulgent lifestyle of his customary patients, and
were, he maintained, most likely to benefit from the regime he
Kinneir's claim that the primary causes of the hypochondria and
hysteria of his patients were "either luxury, too intent and constant
study, sloth and laziness, or want of labour and exercise" is reminis-
cent of Cheyne's diagnosis of the English Malady as the result of "the
Inactivity and sedentary Occupations of the better Sort (among whom
this Evil mostly rages)".
) Both works can be seen as reflecting a
widely disseminated concern with nervous complaints as a major
problem of society in general, and of the "better sort" in particular.
Much of the discourse about animals spirits in the eighteenth
century may be considered as an aspect of this preoccupation with
nervous disorders, their causes and cures. Cheyne was aware that
"The Existence of animals Spirits, has been chiefly contriv'd to solve
the Appearances of nervous Distempers, viz. Obstructions of the
Nerves, or their incapacity to act under some Circumstances." As we
have seen, he did not, however, accept that the theory of a nervous
fluid supplied the best explanation of these morbid phenomena, main-
taining that "if these Appearances can be accounted for, more con-
formably to the Analogy of Nature without this Support than by it,
then the Dispute will be at an End, and [animal spirits] useless."
Indeed, far from guiding physicians to a rational understanding and
treatment of nervous complaints, Cheyne felt that this doctrine led
them to adopt misguided and damaging therapies.
J He concluded
that "the Notion of animal Spirits is of the same Leaven with the
substantial Forms of Aristotle, and the celestial System of Ptolemy. "
But it is worth noting that, despite the obvious differences between
an opponent of animal spirits like Cheyne and an advocate like Kin-
neir, they both shared considerable common ground. Both operated
within the system of orthodox medicine outlined above; both catered
to an upper class clientele-Cheyne too practised in Bath. Both,
moreover, were committed to a thoroughly secular and naturalistic
account of nervous diseases. While Kinneir merely assumed these
limits to legitimate explanation, Cheyne made them quite explicit. At
the beginning of the English malady he wrote: "What I pretend to
have done in some Degree in the following Treatise, is, That I have
explain'd the Nature and causes of Nervous Distempers (which have
hitherto been reckon'd Witchcraft, Enchantment, Sorcery and Posses-
sion, and have been the constant Resource oflgnorance) from Princi-
ples easy, natural and intelligible, deduc'd from the best and soundest
Natural Philosophy". 5
) Such determination to account for these ail-
ments upon purely naturalistic principles was one of the features that
distinguished eighteenth-century medicine from that of the preceding
era when supernatural causes of disease were readily admitted.
By referring all nervous disorders- including those which we
would today call psychiatric complaints- to natural causes, Cheyne
thought to make them less stigmatizing and so to facilitate the interac-
tion between physician and patient. He lamented that
nervous Distempers especially, are under some Kind of Disgrace
and Imputation, in the Opinion of the Vulgar and Unlearned; they
pass among the Multitude, for a lower degree of Lunacy, and the
first Step towards a distemper'd Brain ... So that often when I
have been consulted in a Case before I was acquainted with the
Character and Temper of the Patient, and found it to be what is
commonly call'd Nervous, I have been in the utmost Difficulty,
when desir'd to define or name the Distemper, for fear of affront-
ing them, or fixing a Reproach on a Family or Person.
Notwithstanding these prejudices, "the Disease is as much a bodily
Distemper ... as the Small-Pox or a Fever" and should be treated
Cheyne here raised the important question of how psychological
disorders were to be conceptualized. In keeping with the general trend
of eighteenth-century medicine, he did not draw a sharp distinction
between bodily and mental complaints. Part of the utility of the doc-
trine of animal spirits was that it was well-adapted to reinforce this
bias and to enable medical theorists to employ a vocabulary that
accommodated both psychological and physiological functions and
dysfunctions within a common framework.
The nervous fluid was seen to operate at the interface between
mind and body. Monro conceded that
We have perhaps no Idea of the Manner how Mind and Body act
upon each other; but if we allow that the one is affected by the
other, and that the Fluid of the Nerves (whatever Name People
please to give it) is a principal instrument which the Mind makes
use of to influence the Actions of the Body, or to inform itself of
the Impressions made on the Body, we must allow that the Mind
can direct this Instrument differently, particularly as to Quantity
and Celerity.
These alterations of the nervous juice would influence the state of the
entire body. Conversely, the impressions made upon the nervous fluid
by various physical influences could impinge upon the mind.
Gibbs took these reciprocal influences for granted in his writings.
Among the causes of scrofula he listed was "Sadness, or a long Dejec-
tion of the Spirits". He noted van Helmont's observation that "a
dread of Poverty had occasioned Madness in some Persons, and Scro-
phulous Disorders in others".
l The potential offered by the ambigui-
ties of the term "animal spirits" should be emphasized: this could be
taken either figuratively - as referring to a mental state, or literally as
denoting a physical substance, or in both these ways simultaneously.
Ambiguity might be thought a weakness in a theory. But in this
case the imprecision of meaning attached to "animal spirits" was
among the attractions of the theory to eighteenth-century medicine. It
lent tacit support to the notion that mind and body were- at least in
this life- inextricably linked. Physicians could easily slide from
psyche to soma in their accounts of disease by employing a vocabu-
lary that deliberately obscured the profound problems involved in any
account of the manner in which the interrelation between the two
might be conceptualized.
In this paper I have tried to give an account of the doctrine of
animal spirits as it was articulated in eighteenth-century British medi-
cine. The controversial status of this theory, along with disagreements
on matters of detail among its proponents, has also been noted.
My chief aim, however, has been to demonstrate the need to
consider theoretical discourse of this sort in relation to the practical
activities of those who engaged in these debates. Their motives for
engaging in such theorizing may have been various: a desire for a
reputation for learning was no doubt prominent among them. But
throughout these texts one finds an insistence upon the subordination
of theory to practice; we must therefore consider what forms of prac-
tice might have been best served by the theoretical construct in ques-
tion. My general argument is that the doctrine of animals spirits
readily accommodated key features of the system of "Bedside" medi-
cine that was definitive of eighteenth-century practice. It also reflected
a current preoccupation with "nervous" diseases as an affliction
peculiarly endemic among the better sort of society- the client -group
which Bedside medicine sought to satisfy. The theory had the addi-
tional advantage of encompassing both the mental and the physical
aspects of these complaints in naturalistic and non-pejorative terms.
A number of issues remain for further investigation. Prominent
among these is whether the ontological status of concepts like the
nervous fluid changed in the course of the eighteenth century. A
comparison of Monro's and Duncan's views suggests that a much
more pragmatic and instrumental attitude to such notions was evident
by the 1790s: the nervous fluid was deemed "real" because it supplied
the most satisfactory (though not perfect) explanation for a range of
phenomena. The impact of contemporary epistemological debates
upon physiological thinking would clearly be of relevance here; in
Scotland especially there was at the end of the eighteenth century a
strong philosophical aversion to any resort to "hypothetical" entities
to explain natural phenomena.
1) G. Cheyne, The English malady; or a treatise of nervous diseases of all kinds, as
spleen, vapours, lowness of spirits, hypochondriacal and hysterical distempers, etc.,
(G. Strahan, London, 1733), 77-8. On Cheyne see: R. Porter, "Introductory
essay" in G. Cheyne, The English malady; or a treatise of nervous diseases of all
kinds (Routledge Reprint Series in the History of Medicine, London, 1990);
G.S. Rousseau, "Mysticism and millenarianism: 'Immortal Dr Cheyne'" in R.
Popkin, Millenarianism and messianism in the enlightenment (University of Cali-
fornia Press, Berkeley, 1987), 81-124.
2) E. Clarke, and L.S. Jacyna, Nineteenth-century origins ofneuroscientific concepts
(University of California Press, Berkeley, 1987), 29-30. For an account of the
place of animal spirits within Galen's wider physiological scheme see: J.D.
Spillane, The doctrine of the nerves: Chapters in the history of neurology (Oxford
University Press, Oxford, 1981), 31-32.
3) David Kinneir, A new essay on the nerves, and the doctrine of the animal spirits
rationally considered; Shewing the great benefit and true use of bathing and
drinking the bath waters, in all nervous disorders, and obstructions: With two
dissertations on the gout, and on digestion with the distempers of the stomach and
intestines, 2nd ed. (W. Innys and R. Manby, London, 1739), 1.
4) Cheyne (fn. 1), 4-5.
5) Kinneir (fn. 3), 33.
6) Malcolm Flemyng, An introduction to physiology, being a course of lectures upon
the most important parts of the animal oeconomy (J. Nourse, London, 1759), 167.
7) James Gibbs, Observations of various eminent cures of scrophu/ous distempers
commonly called the King's evil; With some new considerations of the structure of
the glands, and of animal secretion; Of the influence of the moon on human bodies,
mechanically explain'd; and other PHAENOMENA relating to the causes of
SCROPHULOUS DISEASES. To which is added, an ESSAY, concerning the
ANIMAL SPIRITS, and the cure of convulsions: Together with a SHORT
ACCOUNT of the forms and qualities of the essential particles of salts and
sulphurs (Ralph Simpson, London, 1712), 26.
8) See S.W. Jackson, "Force and kindred notions in eighteenth-century neurophy-
siology and medical psychology" Bull. Hist. Med, 44 (1970), 401-2.
9) For an account of Cheyne's life and work see: Porter (fn. 1).
10) Cheyne (fn. 1), 81-2.
11) Ibid., 74-75.
12) Ibid., 75.
13) Ibid., 82.
14) Ibid.
15) On the brain/gland analogy see Clarke and Jacyna (fn. 2), 77-8.
16) Flemyng (fn. 6), 130.
17) Ibid., 146.
18) A. Monro, The anatomy of the humane bones. To which are added, an anatomical
treatise of the nerves; an account of the reciprocal motions of the heart; and a
description of the humane lacteal sac and duct, 2nd. ed. (T. and W. Ruddimans,
Edinburgh, 1732), 4.
19) A. Monro, The anatomy of the human bones and nerves: With an account of the
reciprocal motions of the heart, and a description of the human lacteal sac, 3rd ed.
(W. Monro and W. Drummond, Edinburgh, 1741), 14-15.
20) Ibid., 15-16.
21) Flemyng (fn. 6) 156-7.
22) M. Flemyng, The nature of the nervous fluid, or animal spirits, demonstrated
With an introductory preface (A. Millar, London, 1751), viii.
23) Monro (fn. 19), 24.
24) Flemyng (fn. 6), 165-6.
25) Monro (fn. 18), 5-6.
26) Duncan (fn. 12), 83.
27) Ibid.
28) A.R. Cunningham, "Aspects of the history of medical education in Britain in
the 17th and early 18th centuries" (Ph.D. Dissertation, London, 1974), 128ff.
29) Flemyng (fn. 22), xix-xx.
30) Kinneir (fn. 3), 22.
31) Ibid., 27.
32) Ibid., 47.
33) Gibbs (fn. 7) 8; see also 38-40.
34) Ibid., 27. .
35) Ibid., 28-9.
36) "An essay concerning the animal spirits, and the cure of convulsions; Together
with a short account of the forms and qualities of the essential particles of salts
and sulphurs," in Gibbs (fn. 7), 23.
37) Ibid., 5-6.
38) In contrast, Porter sees the doctrine of nerves as solid cords as an alternative to
humoralism: R. Porter, Mind-forg'd manacles: A history of madness in England
from the restoration to the regency (Penguin, London, 1990), 181.
39) Kinneir (fn. 3), 56.
40) Ibid., 61.
41) Ibid., 77.
42) Ibid., 57-8.
43) N.D. Jewson, "Medical knowledge and the patronage system in 18th century
England," Sociology, 8 (1974), 369-385.
44) See R.S. Neale, Bath 1680-1850 a social history. Or a valley of pleasure, yet a sink
of iniquity (Routledge, London, 1981).
45) Kinneir (fn. 3), 82.
46) Ibid., 63.
47) Ibid., 66-7.
48) Ibid., 75.
49) Ibid., 76-7.
50) Ibid., 87-90.
51) Cheyne (fn. 1), ii.
52) Ibid., 83-4.
53) Ibid., 89.
54) Ibid., 85.
55) Ibid., x.
56) M. Macdonald, Mystical bedlam: Madness, anxiety, and healing in seventeenth-
century England (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1981), especially
chapter 5.
57) Ibid., 260-2.
58) Monro (fn. 19), 28.
59) Gibbs (fn. 7), 5; see also 30.
60) See: G.N. Cantor, "Henry Brougham and the Scottish methodological tradi-
tion," Stud. Hist. Phil. Sci., 2 (1971), 69-89.
Zhou Tian Gong or the Cosmic Orbit
"The Circulation of Qi in the Body"
Faculty of Letters Osaka City University
Sugimoto-cho, Sumiyoshi-ku, Osaka
had the chance of living in Shanghai for six months from April to
October in 1987. During this time I studied with Professor Zhu Rui
in the Literature Department of the University of Shanghai. My
time in Shanghai was completely free except for the private lessons I
received from Professor Zhu once a week on the history of Chinese
ideology. Since for some time, I had a personal interest in Chinese
qigong (health promotion exercises), I called on some qigong teachers
to learn qigong exercises in the land of their origin. Naturally, I visited
the Shanghai Qigong Institute*
which is the main authority on
qigong in Shanghai, but unfortunately I was not permitted to study
there. Consequently, the teachers I studied with were all private prac-
titioners of qigong.
I learned a variety of qigong and tai chi (traditional Chinese
shadow boxing) exercises, as listed below. Since it took some time to
find teachers I could study with and also I took some trips out of
Shanghai, I did not have sufficient time to master these exercises.
Nevertheless, I did have the opportunity to get first hand experience of
the following traditional exercise systems currently popular in China:
1. He xiang zhuang*
(crane style qigong) Dr. Zhu
2. Zhan zhuang gong*
(standing qigong) Dr. Liu
3. Wai qigong*
(external qigong) Dr. Chen
4. Ba duan jin*
(eight brocade exercises) Dr. Wang
5. Jian hua tai ji quan*
(simplified tai chz) Dr. Wang
In addition to learning these exercise systems, I received moxibus-
tion treatments from Dr. Zhang*
which was a secret method handed
down for generations in her family. I also received acupuncture from
Dr. Chen,*
who treated me using a traditional method called zi wu liu
zhu zhen,*
a system of acupuncture based on diurnal rhythms of qi
circulation. In this system acupuncture points are treated according to
the season and the time of day, and this is based on the concept of
correlation between Heaven and man. This is not unrelated to the
theme of this report, but acupuncture is another subject in itself so I
will limit my discussion to traditional Chinese exercise systems.
Among the exercises listed above, zhan zhuang gong (standing
qigong) taught by Dr. Liu is most closely associated with the theme of
this report. This style of qigong originally developed as a method for
strengthening the lower body in Chinese martial arts and later came
to be included within the rubric of qigong as a health promoting
exercise. Standing qigong basically consists of maintaining a half
squatting stance for long periods. There are some variations, and the
method Dr. Liu taught me was quite unique. His method of holding a
standing pose in front of an old tree with knees slightly bent, arms
dangling, and the head tilted slightly forward so as to keep one's
center of gravity forward, is unlike the posture in other styles of
standing qigong. (Typically the head is kept erect and lowering the
head is avoided.) The breathing is kept natural, and when absent
thoughts arise in the course of the exercise, one places his awareness
on the acupuncture point yongquan*
on the soles. Dr. Liu asserted
with confidence that if a person continued to exercise this way for one
hour every morning and evening for three months, one could not only
become free of disease by achieving circulation of qi through the ren
and du channels,*
but would also gain the ability to cure the diseases
of others. Since I did not maintain the strict practice of this exercise
according to his instructions, I was not able to achieve the circulation
of qi through the ren and du channels, but nevertheless I was deeply
impress with Dr. Liu's method of zhou tian gong*
or Cosmic Orbit.
There was great interest in the Cosmic Orbit among the teachers
and practitioners of qigong in Shanghai. When I asked Dr. Zhou,*
who taught me he xiang zhuang (crane style qigong), about the Cosmic
Orbit she sharply criticised the standing qigong of Dr. Liu saying that,
"the Cosmic Orbit is not such a simple thing that can be accomplished
in just three months." Be that as it may, in her strong criticism was a
clear recognition of the importance of the Cosmic Orbit.
On a street corner in Shanghai I saw a poster recruiting students
for Cosmic Orbit classes. It seemed to be of a different style than the
one taught by Dr. Liu. This poster was a good example of how the
Cosmic Orbit, an ancient method for longevity, still remains popular
to this day among the people of China. At the top of the poster, the
word qigong*
was written in big letters in red ink. Under this was the
name of the place the classes were held: Wushu Lilun Yanjiuguan*
of Shanghai. This was followed by an explanation of the Cosmic
Orbit as follows:
The Microcosmic Orbit is the aim which has been pursued in
all the schools of martial arts and mysticism from ancient times.
The reason for this is that the Microcosmic Orbit is one of the
main orbits sustaining vital activity in the human body, and once
the Microcosmic Orbit is opened, the Macrocosmic Orbit opens
by itself and all the channels of energy flow in the body are
harmonized so that all diseases are cured. Our method of zhenqi
yunxing xiao zhoutian gong,*
or the Microcosmic Orbit by circu-
lation of true qi, is based on wubu liangong fa,*
or the five
stepping exercise method. Our method proceeds gradually from
beginning to advanced levels and follows a natural progression so
that it is possible to open up the Microcosmic Orbit in about one
hundred days. We have many years of teaching experience and
have instructed students from the age of seven to over eighty, so
that they were able to achieve the Microcosmic Orbit in the time
stated. Such results cannot be obtained by studying in other
schools. This method of circulating of true qi dramatically awak-
ens the latent power in each individual and the aim of curing
illnesses and prolonging life can be achieved by controlling and
focusing this power. When true qi is concentrated in a certain area
of the body, regardless of the location, physiological changes take
place and any pathological condition there is improved. Our
method is particularly effective for neurosis, gastroptosis, heart
disease, arthritis, cirrhosis of the liver, hypertension, rubella
myelitis, and gastric and intestinal ulcers.
This big surge of interest in the Cosmic Orbit is not a localized
phenomena limited to Shanghai, but is instead a widespread trend in
circles of qigong practitioners throughout China. Looking through
any one of the numerous periodicals on qigong published in China,
there is always one or two articles concerning personal experiences or
theories related to the Cosmic Orbit.
Hu Yao Zhen,*
one of the most influential qigong experts in
China, has written the book "Jingdong Qigong", *
and in the very
first page of his book, in the preface, he states that the Micro and

Macrocosmic Orbits can be established just by practicing this qigong
alone. The second page of this book includes a figure known as Rendu
Ermai Shengjiang Tu*
(ren and du two channel ascending and
descending diagram). This is held to be one of the Huatuo Liu Neigong
(diagram of sustaining internal qigong of huatuo ), and the
following explanation is added:
"The du channel pertains to yang and is made to ascend to
(the brain) and the ren channel pertains to yin and is made to
descend to lower dantian*
(point in lower abdomen)."
In the book Zhongguo Qigong Xue*
by Ma Ji Ren, *
which was
recently translated into Japanese, forty pages in the appendix is allot-
ted to the subject of the Micro and Macrocosmic Orbits. Also in
Zhonghua Qigong Xue*
by Hu Chun Shen,*
a chapter is devoted to
the theory of the Cosmic Orbit. Furthermore, in tai ji quan, which was
originally developed as a martial art, the Cosmic Orbit is sometimes
discussed in relation to breathing techniques.
Let us take a closer look at how the Cosmic Orbit is actually
achieved in qigong practiced today. A qigong master, Qin Zhong
San, *
explains his method of standing qigong in his book by break-
ing it down into six stages, and he describes the posture, breathing,
intention and mental focus, and the effects, as well as the period of
practice for each stage, which is unusual for books of this type.
) His
method is presented in a chart format covering the total training
period of 750 days. This books is explicitly a manual for achieving the
Cosmic Orbit. I will translate just the portion describing the second
stage below for reference. This stage is called "qian huxi"*
or sub-
merged breath and also carries the subtitle "yinyang xunhuan xiao
or yin-yang circulation- The Microcosmic Orbit.
Posture- sanyuansi, *
a style of standing qigong in which the feet are
shoulder width apart, the arms are held out in front of the chest,
and the hands are formed as if holding a ball.
*23 iJE}L
*26 ,ff, ifi A.
*28 "lill#$
*29 =
*30 illl11&
Breathing- Exhale with the mouth slightly open, holding the teeth
gently together. The tongue rests on the floor of the mouth and
the lower abdomen is expanded while the whole body is relaxed.
Inhale through the nose with the mouth closed, and keep the teeth
together. Position the tongue so it is touching the roof of the
mouth and depress the lower abdomen. At the same time grasp
the earth with the toes and pull in the anus. Breathing must be
slow and gentle as well as thin and even.
Intention and Focus- When exhaling imagine the qi descending
from the crown to the chest and down into the lower abdomen.
When inhaling, imagine the qi moving from the lower abdomen
to the anus, the tail bone, up through the spine and the neck to
reach the cerebrum. The body must be relaxed and the mind
remain alert so as to guide the qi by one's intention. Avoid becom-
ing tense by practicing qibao sanzhang. *
(To grasp the arms
inward with the exhale using 70 percent of one's strength and
opening the arms with the inhale using 30 percent strength. This
actually need not be done on a physical level, but just as a mental
Effects- Cures lung disease, gastrointestinal conditions, and hear
conditions, and lowers high blood pressure.
Training Period- Ninety days
Next I would like to introduce an account of the personal expe-
riences of Chen Kuan Jin*
with the Cosmic Orbit. This practitioner
was paralyzed in both legs from his childhood. In 1947, when he was
thirty, he learned from a certain qigong master how to achieve the
Microcosmic Orbit by practicing in the seated posture. He continued
this practice for many years without incident. On the night of March
15, 1956, he suddenly began to feel an intense itch around his coccyx,
but it went away in half a day. At midnight on May 3 of the same
year, his legs began to move suddenly, but this also ceased in two
days. After this incident, however, he felt a creeping sensation around
his coccyx, like the wriggling of an earthworm, and this sensation
persisted for three months. On the night of August 18, his body began
to rock back and forth spontaneously. The movement in his head and
neck was particularly vigorous. This movement became more intense
later in the day and even the bed in which he was sitting began to
move. On the night of October 19, his coccyx grew hot and this heat
spread throughout the rest of his body so that he felt as though he
were sitting in front of a hearth. On New Years Eve of the same year,
when he was practicing in the cross legged position, he felt heat in the
coccyx which then moved up the spine and stopped at the point called
at the base of the neck. Since the heat did not move from
there, he used his intention to guide it up to the crown. Then he
guided the heat down his face, chest, and abdomen, and finally con-
solidated it at dantian. After repeating this practice for two days, the
heat began to travel spontaneously from the coccyx up past dazhui to
the point baihui*
on the crown. The heat collected here and began to
go around and around in circles, and he felt intense pressure on his
head as if the mountain Taishan*
were on his head. His head then
rocked side to side sixty-three times. After two years, on the night of
May 14, 1958 for the first time the heat spontaneously went up his
back and went down his front side. Thus the circulation of qi through
the ren and du channels was established. Ever since this time he feels
the qi moving up and down with every in breath and out breath, and
his body became strong so that all his illnesses have been completely
Based on his own experience, Mr. Chen explains how to achieve
the Microcosmic Orbit. There are two features worth noting about his
instructions. The first is that once heat is felt in the lower abdomen
after three months of practice, straightaway one must use his inten-
tion to guide the heat through the ren and du channels. The second
feature is his advocacy of curing disease by guiding the qi to the
affected part after the Microcosmic Orbit has been achieved. As will
be discussed later, these are age old practices traditionally employed
in internal alchemy. The first practice corresponds to the process of
in which dan, or heat, is generated, and thereafter this qi is
made to circulate in the Microcosmic Orbit. The second practice takes
after ancient methods of treating disease by moving qi, which was
referred to in the poster introduced earlier.
Let me summarize the features of the Cosmic Orbit in modern
qigong which can be gathered from the preceding discussion.
1) There are many variations in posture. For example, standing, sit-
ting, and active movement such as tai ji.
2) When the Microcosmic Orbit is opened, a special sensation of qi
can be felt moving up and down the ren and du channels.
3) The Cosmic Orbit often begins with a feeling of heat in the lower
dantian (abdominal point).
4) There are different approaches, and in some methods the breathing
is kept natural and all the person has to do is to continue to stand
or sit to achieve the Cosmic Orbit. (e.g. Dr. Liu's method)
5) In another method, a person imagines (guides by intention) inter-
nal qi rising along the spine while inhaling external qi, and sinking
down the midline on the front while exhaling external qi. (e.g. Dr.
Qin's method)
6) In yet another method, the breathing is kept natural while a person
just uses his intention to induce circulation of qi. (e.g. Dr. Chen's
7) Once the flow of qi is opened through the ren and du channels, a
person becomes completely free of disease.
8) Unlike the internal alchemy (neidan) developed in the Tang and
Song Dynasties, there is no concept of the generation of dan from
the intercourse of yin qi and yang qi.
It might be added that the cosmic orbit has been attracting some
interest in Japan in recent years, and it is being studied from different
perspectives and its application is being attempted even in medice.
The Cosmic Orbit in modern qigong evolved through the long
history of health promotion practices in China. I will trace the devel-
opment of the Cosmic Orbit in the chapters which follow. In modern
times the Cosmic Orbit is a method for circulating qi around the
body. People in China have known qigong techniques for circulating
qi through the body since ancient times. It was called xingqi*
yunqi. *
These methods, however, did not involve the circulation of
qi through the ren and du channels. Nevertheless, today these methods
are regarded as the earliest origin of the Cosmic Orbit. The often cited
xingqi yupei ming,*
thought to date to the Warring States period
(403-221o.c.), is the oldest extant text of xingqi. This inscription con-
sists of only forty-five seal characters cut into jade. It begins with the
two characters for xingqi and concludes with the statement, "to follow
is to live and to go against is to die." It is very difficult to know what
was meant by this. Some consider this to be a reference to the circula-
tion of true qi in qigong, such as that in the Microcosmic Orbit. Yet it
has not been established whether there was even a distinction between
internal qi and external qi in that period. What is clear at least from
this inscription is that the Chinese have had keen interest in breathing
methods and the circulation of qi since ancient times.
Inquiring into the roots of the Cosmic Orbit, we cannot fall to
notice the reference to how zhenren*
(true man) breathe in dazong-
shi*43 of Zuang Zi. *
This Taoist text says the common man breathes
with his throat and the true man breathes with his heels. Zhongxi, *
or heel breath, was formerly considered to be just a metaphor. Recent
studies, however, have made it clear that this interpretation was mis-
taken since heel breath was a concept based on in ancient Chinese
medicine and physiology, which presumed a route of qi reaching the
heels with each inhalation. Examining the xingqi yupei ming just
mentioned as roughly contemporary material in a contrastive study,
*4' r r ~ : t t t l u t
*42 JI:A
Hidemi Ishida *
defines zhongqi as the respiration of qi descending
and ascending through the body from the oral cavity down to the
heels that corresponds to the descending of Heaven qi and the ascend-
ing of Earth qi. Furthermore, Ishida boldly suggests that the concept
of zhongxi included the route of qi in the first process of internal
alchemy, that of "intercourse of heart and kidney.
Another method of circulating qi, in addition to breathing, was
exercising, as is inferred by the phrase daoyin-xingqi. *
The circula-
tion of qi was achieved by various physical movements. Daoyin is
thought to have included xingqi-diaoxi*
(guiding qi- breath con-
trol) and massage from the beginning, and to be practiced for therapy,
health promotion, and longevity by occultists and physicians.
l There
is the possibility that the heel breath mentioned in Zhuang Zi was
achieved with special exercises such as those depicted in the daoyin
figures excavated from the Ma Wang Dui*
The great French scholar, Henri Maspero, presumed that the
circulation of qi was achieved by neiguan, *
or inner sight, and stated
as follows:
"The Taoist views the interior of his body by inner sight, and
guides qi by his concentration, leading qi through veins or all the
various channels in his body by visual guidance. In this way, he can
guide qi anywhere we desires. When becoming ill, or when the chan-
nels become blocked and the normal movement of air is obstructed,
he guides qi to the distubed area to restore the circulation of qi. This
brings about the cure."
This passage enlarges on "Huangting Waijing Jing*
(A.D. 356)
Maspero seemed to regard the qi guided by inner sight as external qi,
taken in from the outside by respiration. This is clear because he
stated in another one of his essays that many books referring to the
theory and techniques of circulating internal qi appeared from the
latter part of the Tang Dynasty to the Sung Dynasty. Sl
In Yanqi Jue*
of Yunji Qiqian,*
which Maspero cited and
*49 .!!(;Etl
placed in the latter Tang Dynasty (8th or 9th century), attention is
drawn to the difference between internal qi and external qi, and it
states that it is certainly not external qi but internal qi which is circu-
lated in the body. Therefore, it is evident that before that time a clear
distinction had not been made between internal qi and external qi, and
that xingqi in general referred to the circulation of external qi. I will
translate the relevant portion of Yanqi Jue below.
The special delight in taking in internal qi lies in yanqi. In general
people draw in external qi (air) and consider this to be internal qi, and
are unable to distinguish between the two. How it possible to discuss
yanqi with (this level of understanding)? Those who place importance
on breathing techniques must be aware of this, or otherwise they will
make mistakes. Our body is originally created from the source qi of
Heaven and Earth. Therefore source qi (or internal qz) must also exist
independently in the body. When one takes in qi or breathes, this
external qi interacts with the internal qi of the body. Thus when one
exhales, the (internal) qi in qihai (the lower dantian) follows the breath
up to the throat.
This is followed by instructions on how to lead internal qi to lower
dantian by means of intention and massage. But Xingqi Jue, *
follows Yanqi Jue, is more important to our discussion. The process of
circulating the internal qi collected at lower dantian through the body
is described as follows:
Lower dantian is close to the two rear openings, and this is
connected to niwan*
at the top by the spinal channels. Niwan is
the name for the fluid in the palace ofthe brain. After taking in qi
three times in rapid succession, imagine the internal source qi
received at lower dantian going to the two openings by using
intention. The one must visualize the following: Two lines of white
qi ascending on either side of the spine as if being pulled upward,
and these go straight into the brain to foment the palaces in the
head. After this the qi descends over hair, the face, the neck, the
arms, and to the fingers of both hands as if completely covering
them. This qi dispersed over the body then gathersand descends
through the chest to middle dantian. This is the spirit in the palace
of the heart. Next the qi moistens the five viscera and goes through
the lower dantian to reach the three stars (the penis and testicles).
Splitting into two lines, the qi continues downward through the
femurs, the knees, the lower legs, the feet, and finally ends up at
the acupuncture point yongquan. *
(acupuncture point in the
center of each sole)
Let us examine the above description in greater detail. First let me
summarize the course followed by the internal qi.
Lower dantian- two openings- spinal channels- brain- hair-
face- neck- arms- fingers- chest- middle dantian- five viscera
-lower dantian- penis- femurs- knees -legs-feet- yongquan
Although this route is not described in terms of the ren and du
channels, a prototype of the Micro and Macrocosmic Orbits is already
apparent in this course of qi circulation. That is, the course of qi
movement goes in a circle by beginning at lower dantian and returning
again to lower dantian, and further, the qi travels down the legs to
reach the soles. Furthermore, the various qi circulation patterns in
Cosmic Orbit techniques (the Cosmic Orbit used so far in the narrow
sense of the term is just one of these patterns) is apparent in its nascent
form. At this point I would like to classify into several types the qi
circulation routes for the Cosmic Orbit in the wide sense.
1) Circulation through the ren and du channels. This is the so called
Microcosmic Orbit in which qi goes up the backside and down the
frontside. It is also known as xiao he che. *
2) Circulation not only through the ren and du channels, but also
through the eight extraordinary channels. This is the so called
Macrocosmic Orbit. It is also known as da heche. *
(In this paper
type 1) and 2) are collectively referred to as the Cosmic Orbit.)
3) Ascending movement from the coccyx up to the brain. This is the
so called reverse current of the Yellow River, and is also termed
"zhouhou feijin jing. "*
4) A type consisting of the circulation of 1) and circulation through
the five viscera.
5) Circulation up and down between the upper, middle, and lower
6) Descending movement from the brain down to the coccyx.
7) The direct route penetrating zhonghuang. *
60 111
From the above classification, it can be seen that the above pas-
sage of Xingqi Jue includes the types listed under 1 ), 2), 4), and 5). The
method of circulating qi in the Xingqi Jue is one of leading qi by
conscious intention alone. This method is the same as item 6) of the
methods summarized in chapter 1.
The Xingqi Jue refers to the "internal source qi received at the
lower dantian." This corresponds to huangya, *
which is the sprout of
in the theory of neidan, or the internal alchemy of a later
period. In terms of the modern practices of the Cosmic Orbit, this
corresponds to the heat generated at lower dantian, which was men-
tioned earlier. Thus the Xingqi Jue can be regarded as a forerunner to
the theory of internal alchemy, in which it was held that the circula-
tion of qi is accomplished after forming dan.
There are two more things in Xingqi Jue which must not be over-
looked. These are the statements, "lower dantian is close to the two
rear cavities," and "the two lines of white qi." I think the concept of
two cavities and two lines of qi is connected, but I am unsure as to
which acupuncture points and which channels they refer to. "Two
cavities" near lower dantian makes me think of the two kidneys. I
have only a vague idea of what the two channels leading to the brain
refer to. As one example, it is said that "there are two channels in the
brain and these go down both sides of the spine to the point three
(Chinese) inches below the navel (place known as qihai, or sea of
This concept most likely originated from the following passage in
the sixtieth chapter of Suwen of the Huandi Neijing (Yellow Emperor's
Inner Classic):
"The du channel ... originates along with the tai yang channel of
the leg at the inner canthus of the eyes and goes over the forehead up
to the crown where it joins and connects with the brain . . . it goes
internally on either side of the spine to reach the waist ... connecting
to the kidneys where it terminates."
This passage describes the course of the du channel in women, but
it is can be supposed that the du channel was considered to be two
lines in ancient times.
Since these channels are not discussed much in Taoism or Chinese
medicine, it could be that they came from India. In fact, there are
striking similarities to the doctrine of Tantra Yoga. Tantra Yoga
embodies the concept of awakening and drawing up Kundalini (snake
energy), which is cohered around the perineum. Thus crude sexual
and animal energy is transformed into spiritual energy and ultimately
this is radiated from the crown out into the universe. The route by
which this Kundalini ascends, opening chakras (seven vital centers
between the periuem and the crown) along the way, is the two chan-
nels called Lalana (Ida) and Rasana (Pinga/a). The Kundalini must
transmute these two channels to pen up a new "middle way". That is,
to open up and rise through the middle channel Sushumna. It may be
possible that Huang Zhen,*
the author of Xingqi Jue, considered the
Lalana and Rasana to be the "two channels".
It is not the intention in this paper to compare Tantra Yoga and
Taoist practices of longevity, so I will put this issue aside. It must,
however, be noted in connection to this that there is a remarkable
similarity between the Taoist sexual practice called huanjing bunao, *
or drawing semen up to nourish the brain, and that ofTantra Yoga in
which Kundalini (which can be equated to semen) is drawn up the
Careful study of the Xingqi Jue does in fact reveal remnants of
Taoist sexual practices. In the statement "two lines of white qi
ascend ... into the brain," the "white qi" reminds one of the semen
mentioned in the huanjing bunao technique. The practice of drawing
up qi from the lower dantian to the brain in itself is an adaptation
from huanjing bunao. Also the terms huanjing bunao and intercourse
can be found in the latter half of the Xingqi Jue, which I did not
present here. Even though the Xingqi Jue retains traces of Taoist
sexual practices, the practices in this tt:xt must surely be a step
removed from sexual practices.
On the other hand, Sun Si Miao,*
a Taoist in the early Tang
Dynasty, makes clear reference to such sexual practices in his famous
medical text.
"If one desires longevity and immortality, first he must play with a
woman and swallow her saliva. After both having become excited in
this way, one must clench his fist and focus his awareness on dantian,
the point three inches below the navel. By doing this, red qi appears
there and the inside of it turns yellow while the outside turns white.
Eventually this is transformed into the sun and moon. After moving
around in dantian, the sun and moon go up to niyuan*
(same as
niwan, or the brain) and join together to become one. I3J
The sun and moon mentioned in the above passage are related in
some convoluted way with the white qi in the Xingqi Jue and therefore
perhaps with the two channels in the Tantra Yoga mentioned above.
The great Dutch dilettante van Gulik stated that the technique of
huanjing bunao of Sun Si Miao bear a striking resemblance to the
techniques of sexual mysticism of Tantra, particularly in Kundalini
Yoga. He further asserted that there had to be a historical connection
between the two systems of Chinese and Indian sexual mysticism.
I would tend to agree with van Gulik, but the main point I wish to
make about the writing of Sun Si Miao is this: In Chinese sexual
mysticism sexual intercourse was eventually replaced by the mental
imagery of the union of the sun and the moon. In a later period this
sexual symbolism of union of the sun and the moon was converted
into that of kan*
and /i*
of the eight trigrams in the theory of inner
l The offspring of this symbolic sexual union was the genera-
tion of neidan. We are already touching on type 3) of the routes of qi
circulation presented earlier. I will expand on this ascending pathway
in the next chaper.
The practice of drawing up qi from the coccyx to the brain in
internal alchemy originated from huanjing bunao of Taoist sexual
practices. The continuity between the theory of internal alchemy and
sexual practices has been pointed out by many scholars,
l but the
continuity in these two practices is worth stressing again. Huanjing
bunao is a technique in which a man stops just before ejaculation. The
jing, *
or essence, which is about to manifest as a physical substance,
semen, is immediately drawn up along the pine to the brain (niwan),
and thus this vital crystalization of energy is conserved.
It is stated in the Shizhi Pian*
of Baopuzi*
that, "there are more
than ten schools of sexual practices, but the main point in all of them
is the one practice of huanjing bunao." So it is the most essential
technique among all the sexual practices. We must bear in mind,
however, that this was not the only link between sexual practices and
the theory of internal alchemy. It goes without saying that the concept
of generating dan, the offspring of the intercourse of yin and yang,
originated purely from Taoist sexual practices. Furthermore, it should
be noted concerning the intercourse of yin and yang that, even before
Sun Si Miao's "union of the sun and moon," there were other schools
which used symbolic imagery for sex while actually performing sex.
In the fourth century, long before the theory of internal alchemy
became established, a Buddhist monk named Dao An*
made the
following remark:
"Those Taoists feel free to write huangshu*
words like open the gate of life, and hold the infant of true man, or
play by turning the dragon and tiger-these are common phrases
from huangshu." (from Er jiao lun of Guanghong Mingjz)
We cannot be certain from just this as to what exactly huangshu
were and it is also unclear as to what sexual practices were performed
according to these texts. From the above statement, however, it is
inferred that there were other techniques of sexual practice other than
huanjing bunao. The phrase "dragon and tiger" is common to both
and neidan (internal alchemy). The expression "infant of
true man" came in advance of the theory of internal alchemy, which
advocated generating dan in one's body. The "infant" was, in fact, a
metaphor for this dan. It can be said that sexual practices uniting male
and female qi was not completely displaced by internal alchemy to
lose its place among the techniques of longevity. There was actually
a school known as Yinyang Shuang Xiupai, *
which continued to
practice sexual mysticism within the context of internal alchemy.
As I have stated repeatedly, Taoist sexual practices were carried
over into internal alchemy in the techniques of "reverse current of qi
to niwan" and "intercourse of dragan and tiger". Shangdong Xindan
Jingjue, *
the text I will cite next, is thought to date from the middle
of the Tang Dynasty.
This is a text on internal alchemy which is one
of the first to use the term "the way of neidan." The term huangjing
bunao is also used unchanged in reference to circulating qi, and thus
this text clearly demonstrates the continuity between sexual practices
and internal alchemy. During the Tang Dynasty huanjing bunao was
also referred to as yindan*
in contrast to jindan, which was called
yangdan. *7819)
There are tens of methods of conserving essence and circulating
qi, but all of these will not be listed here. The central practice. is
huanjing bunao. This must be practiced during the six yang times,
*75 ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ . ) { ~ ~
that is, between the zi*
time and the wu*
time. It may also be
done at a time yang arizes in the body. At this time one may go
into a quiet room, but one can do this regardless of whether he is
moving, standing, sitting, or lying down. Basically one must main-
tain purity of the body inside and out and achieve a state of
oneness with qi, like the suppleness of a baby. Then one builds a
fire at yutan*
and weilu*
(the coccyx). This qi is then moved
straight up on both sides of the spine through the two gates to
ascend the three mountains. This is continued until Mount Yu-
jing*83 is reached. After a long time, the brain becomes filled with
qi naturally.
The Yuanqi Lun, *
volume fifty-six of Yunji Qijian, *
Shangqing Dongzhen Pin*
and states as follows. This passage
explains why filling the brain with qi causes longevity.
"The method of diyi huifeng*
is to revert back to the source of
the one hundred channels so as to reinforce the brain above and
invigorate the source qi below. When the brain is filled, the spirit
becomes perfect, and when the spirit is perfect, the qi becomes perfect.
When the qi is perfect, the body becomes perfect. When the body
becomes perfect, the one hundred joints become adjusted inside and
the eight evils are extinguished on the outside."
Lu You, *
a great poet of the Southern Song Dynasty, was also
renouned as a great health promotion expert, and he tried all the
various Taoist techniques of his time. We know that he personally
experienced the "reverse current of the Yellow River," which was
adapted from huanjing bunao. This is clear from the following lines
from his poems:
Bright red flame is constantly shining below.
The surging Yellow River is flowing in reverse.
(Mozuo, Vol. 25 of Jiannan shigao)
*83 .Z:li'l
.87 'lff-@.1.1\
Yellow current does not flow into the sea.
Surging (upward) reaching kunlun (the head)
(op. cit. Ganhuai, Vol. 28)
In these lines, the "bright red flame" and "shining below" refer to
the sprout of neidan generated at the lower dantian. As mentioned
earlier, this is sometimes experienced as heat. The current of the
Yellow River which "does not flow into the sea" and "reaching
kunlun" implies the ascendingjingqi, or semen energy. Also studying
Lu's other poems recording his practices of circulating qi, the qi is
drawn up to the brain and stops there; we cannot find any reference
to qi going down the front of the body. It seems that for Lu, this
method was complete in itself. Further, in these poems, there is no
mention of the intercourse of the two qi of yin and yang. This could
mean that he understood internal alchemy from the standpoint of the
one qi theory.
This method of "reverse current of the Yellow River" was rejected
in later years as "being the lowest method for longevity" in the more
sophisticated theory of internal alchemy as expounded in the Lun
Dadao Pian*
of Zhonglu Chuandao Ji. *
This important Taoist text,
which takes the form of a dialogue between a teacher and student
(Zhong Li Guan*
and Lu Dong Bin*
) is held to have been com-
piled in the last half of the eleventh century.
) The distinguishing
feature of this text is its repeated emphasis on the intercourse of yin
and yang, based on the contention that all creation was a result of
The concept of generating neidan by the intercourse of yin and
yang originates from sexual practices involving the actual sexual
union of man and woman. This practice was eventually replaced with
symbolic representation. In terms of internal alchemy, it became the
formation of huangya (or the sprout of dan) by the intercourse of the
heart and kidney (or the dragon and tiger). In this scheme, however,
*90 il{i:.ii.
huangya is not complete as dan. In order to build up huangya to
become the all powerful medicine, jindan, or da dan, *
it had to be
placed on he che*
to be circulated around the body. Thus in Zhong/u
Chuandao Ji, the huanjing bunao of Taoist sexual practices is converted
into what is termed zhouhou feijin Jing. This practice required that qi
be drawn up to the brain and then returned to lower dantian. The
term ren and du channels, however, does not appear in Zhong/u
Chuandao Ji. This practice is described simply in terms of qi ascending
and descending between the dantians, which is called huandan. *
This methods of qi circulation comes under type 5) according to my
earlier classification.
In the Zhong/u Chuandao Ji the practice of circulating qi is com-
plete only by pairing the dan formed by sexual intercourse and the
Cosmic Orbit. This approach is not unique to Zhonglu Chuandao Ji,
but became the basic scheme in most theories of internal alchemy
after the Song Dynasty. For example, this scheme can be found in the
preface to Dadan Zhizhi*
written by Qiu Chu Ji*
in the Yuan
Dynasty. Qiu proposed a practice of qi circulation which proceeded
from the intercourse of fire and water to the circulation of qi around
the body and ended with the perfection of da dan. Qiu provides a clear
explanation of why intercouse and circulation of qi had to be coupled
as follows:
"Something like a grain of rice is formed by the intercourse of the
dragon and tiger. Even if this circulated back to huangting, *
ever, it cannot be refined and condensed without heat. On the other
hand, only empty qi collects in dantian with the circulation and heat
alone. "
Further in the Dadan Zhizhi, the small huandan*
is distinguished
from the great huandan*
as follows:
"Qi passes from the kidney to the liver, from the liver to the
spleen, from the spleen to the heart, from the heart to the spleen, and
from the heart back to the kidney. This is circulation according to the five
*9s iiR
* R r n H ~
*99 ,J,iiR
.wo *iiR
phases, and is called small huandan. Qi passing from upper dantian to
middle dantian and then to the lower dantian, going back and forth
among the three dantian is called great huandan. "
Small huandan is fairly close to type 4), and great huandan belongs
to type 5) of the earlier classification. The course of qi in these schemes
are somewhat different from that in the Micro and Macrocosmic
Orbits. Nevertheless, they may be regarded as qi circulation methods
in a transitional stage toward becoming the Micro and Macrocosmic
Cosmic Orbit, or zhoutian, was originally a term in Chinese
astronomy meaning a rotation of 360 degrees. An example of this type
of orbit is given in the commentary of Kong Ying Da*
on the
Yueling Pian*
of the Lijz"*
as follows:
"The twenty-eight fixed stars and all the other stars circle to the
left with Heaven. Every day and night they travel one revolution and
one degree to make a total of 365 revolutions and one quarter."
The stars make one revolution in the heavens every day and night,
and the sun makes one revolution a year along its orbit. This term in
astronomy for the orbit of the sun, moon, and stars was adopted for
the circulation of qi around the body in Taoist internal alchemy, with
its correspondence between the microcosm and the macrocosm. In
other words, man was considered to be a miniature replica of the
universe. There is some difference between the Macrocosmic Orbit
and the Microcosmic Orbit in the theory of internal alchemy. There
was even a theory which made the orbit of the stars correspond to the
Microcosmic Orbit and the orbit of the sun to the Macrocosmic
One of the earliest examples of the use of the term Orbit in Taoist
literature appears in Zhouyi Santongqi*
as follows:
* 101 fUJi.i!
*102 ,EJ f;l(
IOl ~ L ~ c
$104 j f ~ ~ 1 5 1 ~
"The bar goes up and down, and revolves (orbits) around with
great force."
The above passage was actually derived from the Zhouyi San-
tongqi Fahui*
written by Yu Yan*
during the Yuan Dynasty. In
texts such as Zhouyi Santongqi Fenzhang Tongzhenyi*
by Peng
the oldest extant text, Orbit is written as haiqz"*
or harmful
qi. Yu Yan stated that Orbit, or zhoutian, was actually miscopied as
in an old text and that there was no grounds to change
zhouqi to haiqi. In his commentary Zhouyi Santongqi Shiyi, *
Yan interprets the above passage in the following manner:
"The shape of Heaven is like a bullet, and it Orbits night and day.
In a days time, the south end and north end of Heaven that is the bar,
goes up and down. The human body is like Heaven, so it has the bar
of Heaven above, and the pivot of Earth below. When both the bar of
Heaven and the pivot of Earth can be turned, and the movement of
the upper part and lower part correspond to each other, one orbit
around the body can be accomplished with one breath." (Daozang,
Vol. 34, p. 26976)
Also in the Yuan Dynasty, the famous author of Jindan Dayao, *
Chen Zhi Xu,*
a generation younger than Yu Yan, stated as follows
in Guizhong Zhinan:*
The intercourse of kan and li is also called the Microcosmic
Orbit. This intercourse begins after practicing the basic exercise
for one hundred days. Water (kan) and fire (/z) go up and down to
the middle palace, and the yin and yang mingle in the three legged
vessel. Clouds lift, the rain stops, qi collects, and the spirit con-
denses. These are its indication ... The intercourse of qian*
is also called the Macrocosmic Orbit. This intercourse
begins after the intercourse of kan and li. The intercourse of qian
and kun occurs after the medicine (dan) has already emerged."
*lOs II
o1 11
*113 llili3&.clit
*116 Ill
(Daozang, Vol. 7, p. 5078)
This passage shows that the Cosmic Orbit was already well estab-
lished in the Yuan Dynasty both as a technical term of internal
alchemy as well as a practice of circulating qi. There was good reason
for Yu Yan's choice of the term Orbit in his text, quoted earlier. Yu's
text, particularly his new theory, played an important role in estab-
lishing the Cosmic Orbit as a major force in the practice of internal
alchemy. As stated already, there was a strong inclination in Taoism
and internal alchemy toward the concept of a correspondence
between the microcosm and the macrocosm. Yu Yan took this con-
cept all the way to develop a theory incorporating the rotation of
Heaven into the human body based on the premise of the corre-
spondence between the universe and the human body. A modern
scholar Li Yuan Guo*
states as follows concerning Yu Yan's place
in the history of internal alchemy:
Yu Yan's method of dan was simple and straightforward. It
brushed aside the complicated and confusing methods from the
Southern Song Dynasty. Yu placed the primary emphasis on
opening the two channels of ren and du ... This method is much
simpler and more appropriate than the method of internal smelt-
ing with four steps from the Southern Song Dynasty. (The four
steps are, building a foundation, refining jing (essence) into qi,
refining qi into shen, *
or spirit, and returning shen back to the
void.) Yu Yan never mentioned "refining qi into shen" or "return-
ing shen back to the void." Thus very little trace of religious or
mystical overtones remained in his method. It was thus stripped of
elements of spiritualism. Without question this was a radical
reformation which Yu Yan brought about in the practices of
internal alchemy from the Southern Song Dynasty.
Since the universe and the human body resemble one another, the
movement of the sun and the moon in the universe must be similar to
'.k. gp
Figure I
Figure 2
26891. 26892. 26897.
the circulation of qi in the human body. Based on this concept, Yun
Yan drew up a diagram which simultaneously depicted on one plane
the directions in the universe and the cyclical flow of time. (See Fig. 1,
by Santongqi Fahui, Vol. 5 in Daozang, Vol. 34, p. 26891, 26892,
26982.) He then applied this concept to the human body, and stated as
follows about the movement of qi in the body:
"Qi reaches the coccyx at the zi time, (in the Chinese time system
each time period is two hours and begins with zi, which is from 11
a.m. to 1 p.m.) and then it goes to the waist at the chou*
times, to the spine at the mao, *
and si*
times, to the
brain at the wu time, to the chest at the wei*
and shen*
times, and returns to the abdomen at the xu*
and hai*
times. This is the (cycle of) qi circulation in a day. A similar circula-
tion also occurs with each breath. Qi ascends from below to above
during inhalation, and descends from below to above during exhala-
tion." (Yiwai Biezhuan, Daozang, Vol. 34, p. 27068)
Locations on the body can be correlated to times of the day using
the same scheme as the diagram created by Yu Yan. (See Fig. 2.)
Although Yu did not use the term ren and du channels in the above
passage, it is clear from his writing, even without reference to the
earlier commentary of Li Yuan Guo, that Yu Yan attached great
importance to these channels.
That the head is qian (Heaven) and the abdomen is kun
(Earth), is absolutely the same as Heaven and Earth. The ascend-
ing and descending movement of the two qi in the body also
corresponds to that of Heaven and Earth. The Neizhi Tongxuan
states as follows: "The sun and moon always orbit
around the ecliptic and the equator. Many zhenren (true men)
devised methods of internal alchemy based on this knowledge.
Their method corresponds to the movement of Heaven and Earth.
The reason they drew upon this movement was to obtain the same
*119 fl:
*120 'iii
*121 gp
*124 *
effect as Heaven and Earth." The essential point of their method
was the two channels of ren and du. This is because the ren and du
channels are the sea of yin and yang, and they are the basis on
which the origin of the five qi are founded. The ren channel starts
from below zhongj1"*
and goes up above the (pubic) hairline, and
travels over the abdomen to guanyuan*
and then goes up to the
throat. This channel serves as the sea of yin channels. The du
channel starts from the cavity in the lowermost part of the abdo-
men and ascends along the spinal column to fengfu*
and then
goes over the forehead to reach the bridge of the nose. This chan-
nel serves as the sea of yang channels. The reason for the name ren
of the ren channel is because it is by this that women conceive and
nurture a fetus. The reason for the name du of the du channel
because it governs the sea of channels and vessels.
Deer have a long life. Deer become white when they are five
hundred years old. They become blue when they are one thousand
years old. This is because their du channel is opened very well.
The turtle, crane, and toad live as long as a thousand years
because their ren channel is opened very well. It is stated in the
Nanhua Zhenjing*
: "When one always lives by relying on the du
channel, the body can be kept healthy and a person can live to a
ripe old age." When one can open the two channels, the one
hundred channels will all open and natural circulation (of q1) is
established and all problems such as obstruction and stagnation
disappear. The way to longevity and far-reaching vision without a
doubt lies in these two channels.
As indicated in chapter 3, the basic method for generating dan
was formulated by combining sexual practices and qi circulation of
the Cosmic Orbit. In a manner of speaking, one method is with sex
and the other is without sex. So it is a combination of the concept of
two qi with that of one qi. Yu Yan also referred to sexual intercourse.
He said, "Heaven and Earth generate all things by the intercourse of
yin and yang. It is impossible for anything to be created without
intercourse." (Santong qi Fahui, Vol. 5, Daozang, p. 26925)
Time and again Yu Yan mentions the generation of jindan, or
great medicine by the intercourse of shen (spirit) and qi. (Santong qi
Fahui, Vol. 6, Daozang, p. 26954) Looking at the following paragraph,
however, we can assume that he incorporated the intercourse of shen
and qi into his theory of qi circulation in the_ attempt to unify every-
thing under the Cosmic Orbit. The paragraph below also shows that
Yu's method of the Cosmic Orbit was practiced with the respiration
of external qi.
In the days of old, practitioners of the way of dan devoted
themselves exclusively to the way (dao), thinking of nothing,
forgetting all methods, keeping their heart pure and clear. They
embodied the qi of chonghe (principal harmony) with their minds
in a quiet and steady state. Their exhalation was very fine and
their inhalation was long and continuous. (Their ql) ascended to
the brain and descended to reach mingmen. Thus their shen and qi
were joined without one moments break. When neidan was about
to emerge in this way, yuanqi collected in dantian of its own
accord. So the one qi of Heaven and Earth was shared (by man
and the universe) and this one qi was controlled at will. In ancient
times when the Yellow Emperor resided in his palace with a great
garden and viewed the inside of his body for three months, he
must have been using this method." (Santong qi Fahui, Vol. 8,
Daozang, p. 26969)
The passage which follows the above paragraph provides some
explanation for why the Cosmic Orbit gave a person a long life.
This method is extremely simple. When one gains continuous
control of his qi for twenty-four hours a day and achieves unity of
shen and qi, he will attain longevity. By making the shen and qi orbit
with the sun and moon, and revolve with the River of Heaven, as
ceaseless as these rotations become, so will one's life become endless.
This is followed again by a more concrete explanation of the
union of shen and qi in Yu Yan's method of Cosmic Orbit.
If shen does not govern the exhalation, it becomes imperfect,
even if only one breath. Also if shen does not govern the inhala-
tion, it becomes imperfect, even if only one breath. What is impor-
tant is that the heart and breath be closely connected so that the
shen and qi protect each other constantly, and awareness is main-
tained without break and thee remain united. This is precisely
what exalts both the physical body and shen to a sublime state and
both the way and truth can be embodied.
Judging from the above statement, breathing of external qi plays
an important part in Yu Yan's method. His method is not one of
leaving the movement of internal qi to itself, but of leading internal qi
with the assistance of external qi, or respiration. This respiration,
however, must always be controlled by the heart and shen (con-
sciousness and awareness). This is apparent by the phrases "the shen
govern" and "the heart and breath be closely connected." The shen is
related not only to external qi, but also with internal qi. This is clear
from the words "shen and qi protect each other". Further, "the inter-
course of shen and qi" implies the state in which internal qi is con-
trolled by shen and the two are unified. Actually, what must be unified
is the three aspects of shen, internal qi, and external qi.
Applying the above mentioned principles to deduce Yu's method
of Cosmic Orbit in practical terms, it is must have been something like
this: While inhaling external qi, one's awareness was drawn up along
the du channel from the coccyx to the brain. (In so doing it was
believed that the internal qi ascended by moving in concert with one's
awareness and external qi.) Next while exhaling, awareness (and thus
internal qi also) was moved downward along the ren channel from the
face to lower dantian. In short, while inhaling, the practitioner
imagines qi ascending from the coccyx to the brain, and while exhal-
ing, he imagines qi descending from his face to lower dantian. Should
this assumption be correct, it can be stated that Yu Yan's method was
not any different from the Cosmic Orbit practiced today.
In trying to define his method of Cosmic Orbit, Yu Yan drew
from a great number of sources, and one source he cites gives a clear
outline of what he meant by the Cosmic Orbit.
"It is neither xingqi (moving qz) or cunxiang*
(visualization), nor
is it zhouhou feijin jing (drawing qi up from the coccyx to niwan) or
exercising the heart (mind) to think of the spine. This is the true and
fundamental way of breathing the qi of taihe*
(great harmony) to
maintain and defend nature." (Santong qi Fahui, Vol. 5, p. 26936)
The successors to Yu Yan of the Yuan Dynasty in the history of
internal alchemy were Wu Shou Yang*
or Chong Xu Zi*
of the
latter Ming Dynasty and Liu Hua Yang*
of the Qing Dynasty. Wu
Shou Yang belonged to the Qiu Chu Ji*
School, the northern
branch of the Longmen*
School, which was part of Quanzhen-
jiao*141 Sect of Daoism. Wu claimed to be the eighth headmaster of
the Longmen School. Liu Hua Yang was first educated in Confucian-
ism, and later took up Zen Buddhism, and finally ended up studying
Taoism. Thus he was very knowledgeable in all three philosophies.
Since Liu studied Wu's approach of Taoist internal alchemy, when a
new sect of Taoism was formed based on their work, it was named the
Wu-Liu School. Their main work consisted in the coupled volume of
Wu-Liu Xianzong. *
The main emphasis of their method was on the
way of opening the ren and du channels.
Wu set forth a method by which qi was ideally circulated 360
times a day. Nevertheless, it was not Wu but Liu who had the greatest
influence on Taoist thought. Huimingjing*
by Liu Hua Yang retains
much of Buddist philosophy. Also, Liu's Jinxian Zhenglun*
gives a
more simple and effective description, so it not only went through
edition after edition in China, but was translated into Japanese in
1927 by Koen Ito*
under the title, Rentan Syuyo Ho. *
Japanese edition was translated back into Chinese in 1931 by Yin Shi
under the title, Neigong LiamJan Mijue.*
*134 f:ttt
m :t:fo
*136 ffi'ifl!l
*137 f!l!it-T
* 138 tJP1!1

*141 ::i:JlfX
ilflil :il:ia

The main point of the discussion in the Jinxian Zhenglun is the
method of the Microcosmic Orbit. And it is said that this book covers
every aspect of the Microcosmic Orbit. In chapter nine of this book is
Zhoutian Tushuo, *
or illustration of Cosmic Orbit, which shows the
course of qi in the Cosmic Orbit and gives a simple overview of this
theory of internal alchemy. Further, in chapter eleven, there is the
Rendu Ermai Tushuo, *
or illustration of ren and du channels, as an
attempt to put an end to the confusion and controversy regarding the
location of the two channels. This book scarcely refers to the inter-
course of yin and yang, but instead emphasizes a method of Cosmic
Orbit using both the respiration of external qi and conscious intention
as seen in Yu Yan's method. The theory that Yu Yan presented,
however, was not clearly presented as a method, and was only given in
a fragmented manner in his commentaries. Therefore it is of great
significance that Liu Hua Yang wrote a manual on how to practice
the Cosmic Orbit.
A book on internal alchemy named Taiyi Jinhua Zongzhi*
introduced in the West by C.G. Jung and R. Wilhelm.
l In China this
book was published under the name Lu Dong Bin,*
but he is not
the real author since this text did not appear until the Qing Dynasty.
Be that as it may, this book occupies an important place in the history
of internal alchemy. As may be apparent from the fact that this book
was published in a set with Huiming jing by Liu Hua Yang, the central
theme in Taiyi Jinhua Zongzhi is also the Cosmic Orbit. Space does
not permit a thorough discussion of this important work, but I would
like to point out one thing. The eleventh chapter of this book is Kanli
Jiaogou (intercourse of kan and lz) and the twelfth chapter is Zhoutian
(Cosmic Orbit). The twelfth chapter contains the following passage:
"One orbit occurs in one day and one orbit occurs in each time
(two hour period). The intercourse of kan and li constitutes one orbit.
Our internal intercourse is thus the revolution of Heaven."
It is very difficult to know what was meant by this passage, but it
*152 :Sifali!(
may be said that here again is an attempt to unify the concepts of
intercourse and circulation of qi.
Now we will go directly from the Qing Dynasty to the Republic of
China. When discussing the history of the Cosmic Orbit in modern
times, one cannot overlook Yinshi Zi Jingzuo Fa, *
written by Jiang
Wei Qiao*
(1873 -1958). Jiang was a noted educator and a scholar
of Buddhism. His book advocated quiet sitting (meditation) based on
his personal experience as a young man. Since I have already intro-
duced this book in another essal
I will not go into it in depth here.
Briefly, the point of this book is the attainment of the Cosmic Orbit
by quiet sitting. One simply sits comfortably and breathes naturally,
but one must be diligent in this practice of quiet sitting. One day, all of
a sudden, the lower dantian begins to shake and this changes to a
sensation of heat. (This corresponds to the sprouting of dan by the
intercourse of yin and yang mentioned in classical texts.) Eventually
the body begins to shake all over. At this time, one makes the energy
circulate along the ren and du channels using conscious intention. This
is the just of Jiang's method, and this method is identical to that used
by Chen Kuan Jin, as discussed in chapter l. Jiang's book not only
created a sensation at the time it was published, but is still widely read
and is cited by modern qigong books. Naturally there are some points
in this book which may be criticized, but in all fairness, it cannot be
denied that this book has had a key influence on passive qigong in the
modern era.
In this paper I have traced the development of modern methods of
the Cosmic Orbit. Let me summarize the foregoing discussion, which
may have been somewhat complicated.
It was well known in ancient China that qi circulated in the body
along established routes, even without reference to Huangdi Neijing
(Yellow Emperor's Inner Classic). We must, however, bear in mind
that the existence of a route of qi circulation is one thing, and qi
actually circulating along these routes is quite another. It is a basic
assumption in Chinese medicine that, when qi circulates smoothly
along these routes as it is supposed to, diseases never occur in the first
place. This concept is the same as that in Taoist approaches to longev-
ity (or health preservation), which developed in tandem with Chinese
medicine. Even if a route for qi exists, when qi is not flowing un-
obstructed, it is the same as if the route did not exist. This may be
likened to a path to a heavenly garden, Tao hua yuan,*
becomes overgrown with weeds so that nobody passes that way
Taoism attaches greater importance to the eight extraordinary
channels (especially the ren and du channels) than to the twelve
ordinary channels. Although there has been some controversy about
the route and location of the two most important channels, the ren
and the du, these were recognized from the ealiest times because they
appear in the sixtieth chapter of Suwen (Basic Questions) of the
Huangdi Neijing (Yellow Emperor's Inner Classic) as well as in the
twenty-sixth and twenty-seventh chapters of the Nanjing*
of Difficulties). Zhou Da Hong*
of the Guangzhou Zhongshan
Medical School*
explains the significance of the obstruction and
opening of the ren and du channels as follows:
"The ren channel governs yin and the du channel governs yang.
As soon as a person is born, the ren and du channels become blocked.
Thus the intercourse of yin and yang does not occur, and the path
between the front route (ren channel) and the rear route (du channel)
is cut off. Therefore, qi in dantian does not go to the coccyx, and also
acupuncture points become blocked so the movement of qi is
obstructed and consequently qi becomes stagnated. This is why it is so
important to open the ren and du channels by practicing methods of
moving qi. "
There are two main reasons why special importance is attached to
the ren and du channels. Firstly, it is believed that once these two
channels are opened, all other channels in the body open up spon-
taneously. Secondly, in line with the concept of the correlation
between the macrocosm and the microcosm, it is believed that once
the Cosmic Orbit is achieved in one's body, the same immutable
nature of Heaven and Earth, which orbit continuously, can be
Tracing the roots of the Cosmic Orbit, we find methods of moving
qi (xingqz) at its origin. Huanjing Bunao, an esoteric sexual practice
with a history as old as methods of circulating qi, can be considered a
kind of qi circulation method in its own right. The route of qi leading
up from the coccyx to the brain first became established with huanjing
bunao, but in this method, only the rear ascending route (du channel)
is discussed and no mention is made of the front descending route
(ren channel).
The theory of internal alchemy which began in the Tang Dynasty,
became established as a complete system in the Song Dynasty by
incorporating qi circulation methods, sexual practices, and taixi*
abdominal breathing, from preceding periods. Thus huanjing bunao
was renamed zhouhoufeijinjing, or huanghe niliu, and assimilated into
the theory of internal alchemy. Furthermore, the sexual practice was
sublimated to become a symbolic intercourse between yin and yang
(otherwise kan and li, or dragon and tiger), which did not require a
partner. In this way the theory of internal alchemy, consisting of
generating dan by the intercourse of yin and yang, and then causing
this qi to orbit, became established. The method of progressing from
"intercourse" to an "orbit", as mentioned above, had already
appeared in the Zonglu Chuandao Ji. But there was no mention of
circulating qi along the ren and du channels, and instead of zhoutian
(Cosmic Orbit), the term huandan (returning dan) was used. Practices
almost identical with the modern form of the Cosmic Orbit first
appeared in the Yuan Dynasty in Yu Yan's writing. Probably Yu was
the first to use the term Cosmit Orbit. Yu Yan carried on the
traditional method of internal alchemy incorporating both the
"intercourse" and the "orbit", but he changed the concept of the
intercourse between yin and yang to that between spirit and qi.
Books devoted to the subject of the Cosmic Orbit were written in
the Ming and Qing Dynasties by Wu Shou Yang and Liu Hua Yang,
and these books received a widespread recognition and readership. It
was the work of Jiang Wei Qiao, however, that served as the bridge
between the classical approaches of Cosmic Orbit and qigong in the
modern age. When Jiang was a young man he contracted tuberculo-
sis, and among the many medical books his father brought his to read,
he came across the "Macro and Microcosmic Orbits of the Taoists".
Based on this he began to practice quiet sitting. After a number of
years, he finally achieved the Cosmic Orbit and cured his illness. Jiang
wrote a book on quiet sitting (actually about the Cosmic Orbit) in
simple language based on his experience. His book was very well
received especially among ailing individuals.
1) Chen Yan Lin, "Taijiquan Daojian Hansanshou Hepian" (Taijiquan Sabre,
Sword, Staff, and Manual Technique Compendium), Guoguang Shuji (1943)
Vol. 1, 7a and lOa.
2) Qin Zhong San, Qigong Liaofa he Baojian (Qigong therapy and health promo-
tion), (Shanghai Kexue Jishu Chuban, 1984).
3) "Xiao Zhoutian Liangongfa" (Method of Practicing for the Microcosmic Orbit)
Qigong Jingxuan (Renmin Tiyu Chubanshe, 1981), 77.
4) Yayama Toshihiko, "Syoshuten ni Itaru Michi" (Path to the Microcosmic
Orbit), Special Issue Takarajima, No. 103, Ki wa Chosen Suru (Challenges with
5) Ishida Hidemi, Shosokuko (Thoughts on Heel Breath) in Chugoku Kodai Yousei
Shisou no Sogoteki Kenkyu (Comprehensive Study of Ancient Chinese Health
Preservation), (Hirakawa Shuppansha, 1988).
6) Sakade Yoshinobu, "Doinko" (Thoughts on Daoyin) Ikeda Suetoshi Hakase
Kinen Toyogaku Ronshu, 1989.
7) Kawakatsu Yoshio, Translation of Henri Maspero's writing in Dokyo (Taoism),
(Heibonsha, 1978), 129, 261 (72).
8) Mochida Kimiko (trans.), Dokyo no Yosei Jyutsu (Methods of Health Preserva-
tion in Taoism), (Serika Shobo, 1983), 62.
9) Ishida Hidemi, Ki Nagareru Shintai (The Body in which Ki Flows), (Hirakawa
Shuppansha, 1987), 230, 223.
10) See note 5) above, 107.
ll) Wang Mu, preface to Daojiao Wufa Danfa jingxuan, Vol. l (Zhongyi Guji
Chubanshe, 1987).
12) Daixi Jingwei Lun of Daozang, Vol. 31, p. 24578.
13) Sun Si Miao, Qianjin Yaofang, Vol. 27, Fangzhong Buyi.
14) E. J. Brill Leiden, 1974, Sexual Life in Ancient China, 200, 339. Japanese transla-
tion by Matsudaira Ioko (Serika Shobo, 1988).
15) Andrew Weil, The Marriage of the Sun and Moon. Japanese translation by Ueno
Keiichi (Nippon Kyobusha, 1986).
16) See note 9) above, 202, 228, etc.
17) Li Yuan Guo, Daojiao Qigong Yangsheng Xue (Qigong Health Promotion Prac-
tices in Taoism), (Sichuan Province Social Science Press, 1988), 410 forward.
18) Sakauchi Shigeo, "Sholo Dendoshu to Naitan Shiso" (Zhonglu Chuandaoji
and the Ideology of Neidan), Chugoku Shisoshi Kenkyu (Journal of History of
Chinese Thought), Vol. 7, 75.
19) Yunji Qiqian, Vol. 64, Wangwu Zhenren Koushou Yindan Mijue Lingpian.
Also see ibid, 229.
20) Daozang, Vol. 32, p. 25790.
21) See note 18).
22) Zhonglu Chuandao Ji, Lun Huandan.
23) Some argue that this text was not written by Qiu Chu Ji. See p. 257 of Zhong-
guo Qigong Xueshu Fazhan Shi (Historical Development of Chinese Qigong)
by Wang and Zhou (Hunan Science and Technology Press, 1989).
24) Similar passages can be found in p. 3063 of Shouzhen Taiji Hunyuan Zhixuen
Tu (Daozang Yiwen Ban, Vol. 4, p. 3062).
25) Hu Chun Shen, Zhonghua Qigong Xue (Study of Chinese Qigong), (Sichuan
University Press, 1989), 116.
26) See note 17), 408, 409.
27) Santongqi Fahui, Vol. 5, Daozang, Vol. 34, p. 26934. The same passage can also
be found in Yiwai Biezhuan of the Daozang, Vol. 34, p. 27076.
28) Taiyi Jinhua Zongji was translated into Japanese by Yuasa and Sadakata under
the title "Ogon no Hana no Himitsu"(Jinmon Shoin, 1980).
29) Miura Kunio, "Ki no Fukken- Kiko to Dokyo" (The Reinstatement of Qi-
Qigong and Taoism), in Essays Commemorating the Retirement of Prof Ito
Sohei (Kyuko Shoin, 1986).
30) Zhou Da Hong, "Qigong Yuanliu Luekao" (Overview of the Origins of
Qigong), in Qigong Jingxuan, (Renmin Tiyu Chubanshe, 1981), 343.
The Interpretation of Qi According to Japanese
Herbalists "Two Theories of Etiology in
Eighteenth Century Japan"
The Oriental Medicine Research Center of the Kitasato Institute
5-9-1 Shirokane, Minato-ku, Tokyo, Japan
HE development of medicine in Japan up to the eighteenth
century was under the constant influence of Chinese Medicine.
For this reason traditional Japanese medicine has been criticized by
some as lacking originality. Nevertheless, careful study shows that
Japanese medicine, instead of being a simple imitation of Chinese
medicine, is a uniquely Japanese adaptation of medical concepts. The
main features of this Japanese adaptation was the emphasis on practi-
cal and directly applicable aspects of Chinese medicine, and the avoid-
ance of abstract and speculative aspects.
A neo-classical movement in medicine known as the Koho*
School occurred in the seventeenth and eighteen centuries, and several
key features of the Japanese adaptation of Chinese medical ideas
became very apparent in this period. The term koho means old way or
ancient method, and it implied the use of ancient prescriptions or
methods of treatment. Basically this referred to the use of prescrip-
tions from the "Shang Han Lun",*
a treatise on febrile diseases writ-
ten by Zhang Zhong Jing. *
The sources of ancient methods applied
by the Koho School practitioners were in fact quite varied. Neverthe-
less, it is widely accepted that the herbalists of the Koho School did
promote a specific trend of reformation in Japanese medicine.
This reformist trend was characterized by "doing away with spec-
ulation and putting clinical experience first." This trend was actually
the first clear expression of a spirit of criticism in the adoption of
Chinese medicine in Japan. This medical reformation is known to
have had its ideological foundations in the contemporary Neo-
Confucianist movement in Japan.
This essay will examine the influence of this reformist trend on the
perception of qi or vital energy in traditional Japanese medicine. This
will be accomplished by comparing two theories of etiology in the
Koho School, set forth by Goto Gonzan*
(1653-1733) and Yoshi-
masu Todo*
(1702-1773), two leaders in the Koho School. These
theories are ikki-ryutai-setsu*
(theory of stagnation of one qz) and
(theory of all diseases originating from one
Qi is an essential concept in traditional medicine and no practi-
tioner denied its existence. But, since qi can neither be seen with the
eyes or held in the hands, when Japanese physicians in the eighteenth
century decided to do away with speculation to establish a new prag-
matic approach, they had in some way to account for the intangible
element of qi. The main theme of this essay is therefore the attempt of
Koho School herbalists to come to grips with qi in a tangible and
materialistic fashion.
In kanpo,*
or Chinese herbal medicine as it developed in Japan,
the oldest bible for pharmaco-therapeutics is the medical treatise
"Shang Han Lun", which was presumably compiled by Zhang
Zhong Jing in the third century. This is practical textbook of
pharmaco-therapeutics is essentially based on clinical experience in
China, and little regard is given to the systematization of medical
theories. In contrast to this "Huangdi Neijing"*
or the "Yellow
Emperor's Inner Classic", compiled in the first century is regarded to
be the first document published that endeavored to systematize the
theories of Chinese medicine. This text became the bible for physi-
cians specializing in acupuncture and moxibustion. The systematiza-
tion of theories in "Huangdi Neijing" was based on the principles of
yin-yang and five phases (Wu Xing).*
Interestingly, the term qi is so
ubiquitous in "Huangdi Neijing" that this work can even be construed
as a textbook for the "medicine of qi''. As a matter of fact, treatments
using drugs are scarcely described in "Huangdi Neijing".
The Jin-Yuan*" period (1115-1369) was a turning point in the
history of Chinese medicine. The two great bibles of medicine in that
period, "Shang Han Lun" and "Huangdi Neijing" became the starting
point for the systematization of medicine and pharmacology was
expounded in line with the basic theoretical framework provided by
the latter text. The "Shang Han Lun", the oldest and most authorita-
tive textbook of herbal therapy in traditional Chinese medicine, pro-
vided classical examples of treatments using crude drugs. The move-
ment to systematize medicine during the Jin-Yuan period was aimed
at expressing the properties of crude drugs in relation to qiwei.*
(Qi refers to the nature of the drug and wei, to the taste.) The charac-
teristics of qiwei were classified according to the yin-yang and five
phases system. This approach eventually led to the systematization of
pharmacology based on the meridian theory and the concept of
"guiding drugs". After the Jin-Yuan period the concepts of the
"Huangdi Neijing" and "Shang Han Lun" were no longer separated in
Although one can find slight differences in the attitudes of the
Japanese who adopted Chinese medicine, generally speaking their
perceptions remained consistent with those held in China. The Japa-
nese created areas of agreement in which they adopted only those
concepts that seemed concrete and practical. This was the main ideo-
logical trend in medieval Japan. In the seventeenth and eighteenth
centuries, Chinese medicine of the Jin-Yuan-Ming*
prompted much criticism in the Japanese medical community. Suspi-
cions rose over philosophical and speculative expressions within Chi-
nese medicine. At this point the trend in Japanese medicine shifted
decisively toward the purging of all abstract elements derived from
"Huangdi Neijing", which were added to "Shang Han Lun". This trend
is reflected in the incorporation of the concept of qi in Japanese
The main features of the interpretation of qi in Chinese medicine
are as follows:
1. Qi in the realm of nature is most closely associated with air and
2. Qi is drawn into the human body by breathing.
3. Qi harmonizes the delicate relationship between the universe
(macrocosm) and the human body (microcosm).
4. Qi, whether in the universe or the human body, is the very source
of life. Qi continually circulates throughout the body and governs
the functioning of the viscera. Qi originates in the body just after
conception in the space between the kidneys, the so-called shen-
jian. *
This qi is called "prenatal ql'' and this particular type of qi
is also known as yuanqi*
and serves as the source of life within
the human body. Qi acquired by eating and drinking are referred
to as "postnatal ql''. This qi serves to directly replenish the original
source of energy. Qi of breathing is called zongqi. *
The lungs are
considered to be the most essential organ in relation to qi because
they transmit energy into the liver, heart, kidneys, and spleen, and
into the lungs themselves. These five organs are called wuzang, *
which literally means five viscera. These organs in the abdominal
and thoracic cavities store qi. The qi stored in the wuzang, when
released, travels through meridians and blood vessels. The wuzang
are interdependent and comprise an intricate system of mutual
balance by variously promoting or inhibiting each other's activity.
The state of health is a condition in which qi in all the five viscera
are in balance.
5. When an imbalance of qi causes physiological abnormalities, dis-
ease inevitably results. Also exposure to deleterious external condi-
tions such as extreme heat or cold causes disease when harmful qi
enters the body and becomes xieqi,*
which means miasma or
"poisonous qi''. Generally there are six different categories of poi-
sonous qi. The question then arises, "how does this xieqi enter the
body?" To answer this basic question, we must start by examining
the relationship between poisonous qi and what is known as the
"normal qi" of the body. Normal qi promotes physiological func-
tions and prevents the infiltration of poisonous qi. Disturbances in
physiological functions is explained by looking into whether the qi
of yin and yang in the body are in proper balance, in quantitative
terms. The pathological condition is determined by investigating
how fast or slow the poisonous qi is disseminating in the body, or
otherwise by the location (in the viscera or meridians) where the qi
stagnates most frequently.
6. In general, treatment is rendered to either expel the poisonous qi
from the body or to strengthen the normal qi which defends the
The above six features of qi serve as a general outline for the
physiology, pathology, and therapeutics of qi as expounded in
"Huangdi Neijing". In the centuries that followed, these features were
incorporated into a systematized theory of yin-yang and five phases
as well as that of pharmacology. It was not made clear in ancient
China whether qi had any material basis. It was not until the Song*
period (960-1279) that thinkers began to seriously consider the issue
$18 $ ~ $19 *
of how qi could be identified in a concrete manner. In the seventeenth
century arguments about the excessively speculative nature of Chinese
medicine intensified in the Japanese medical community. The abstract
and metaphysical concept of qi, in particular, was the target of sharp
criticism by practitioners of the Koho School. Their contentions
about the concept of qi can be summarized as follows:
l. Is qi abstract or concrete?
2. Can qi deficiency be replenished by medicine?
3. What is the significance of the meridian theory as applied to guid-
ing drugs? What relationship do crude drugs have to the qi of
yin-yang and five phases? In short, is there any significance at all to
the properties in relation to qi which are ascribed to the various
4. From a purely clinical perspective, is it really necessary to adhere
to the various principles of qi systematized in accordance with the
yin-yang and five phases principles? Furthermore, is the emphasis
on qi in etiology and pathology really necessary to explain the
occurrence of disease?
As far as the drugs themselves were concerned, they all had certain
properties, so in this respect qi had some substance. For this reason,
few physicians denied the existence of qi. Be that as it may, they could
not overlook the fact that qi was intangible and could not be seen.
The purpose of the discussion which follows is to examine how
Japanese physicians in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries
incorporated the concept of qi in their clinical work. Thus the efforts
on the part Japanese physicians to do away with speculative notions
prevalent in Chinese medicine will be brought to light, and we shall
see how they tried to create a more materialistic and pragmatic
approach by identifying qi as something that was visible and tangible
in a strict sense.
The ikki-ryutai-setsu is a theory of etiology in which the cause of
disease attributed to the stagnation of qi that circulates throughout
the body. This theory closely parallels the traditional Chinese concept
of etiology as already explained in the previous section. Thus it cannot
be regarded as a new theory. This naturally raises questions about the
true significance of this theory. Goto Gonzan's own writing, "Shisetsu
Hikki", *
was one vehicle by which he advanced his own medical
theories. In his work Goto stated the two most important aspects of
ikki-ryutai-setsu as follows:
First he stated, "Don't be misled by what the Song and Ming
scholars had to say about yin-yang balance and visceral corre-
spondence. It is sufficient to know that all diseases result from the
stagnation of qi."
Goto's approach was to shelve the theories of yin-yang balance
and visceral correspondence based on "Huangdi Neijing" as excessive
speculation on the part of scholars since the Song period. His idea was
to set aside all conjecture about etiology for the time being and to just
hold to the simple and clear-cut concept of etiology in traditional
Chinese medicine, which viewed disease in terms of the flow or the
obstruction in the flow of qi. In "Shisetsu Hikki" Goto goes on
further to state, "All one needs to do is to understand the general
framework of traditional Chinese medicine. There is no need to con-
sider etiology in great depth." Goto's approach to etiology was that
which de-emphasized the cause of disease.
The second important aspect of Goto's theory is stated as follows:
"As the causes of disease there are qi stagnation due to wind, cold,
and dampness, qi stagnation due to food and drink, and qi stagnation
caused by extremes in emotions. Even though there are a variety of
causes to diseases, they are all simply the result of stagnation in
(source qz)."
This statement was made as a refutation to the etiological theories
advanced by Chen Yan*
in his work "SanyinFang"*
written in the
Song period. It is held that "Sanyin Fang" was based on and devel-
2o lilillBiU2
*21 7 [ ; ~
*22 - ~
*23 =:t;/J
oped the ideology of health promotion as set forth by Lu Bu Wei*
"Lushi Chunqiu". *
Health promotion or yangsheng*
was an strong
current within Chinese medicine in this period and its aim was to
increase the vitality of the body to protect it against various patho-
genic factors. Chen Yen's work exerted a great influence on Jin-Yuan
medicine in China and on Japanese medicine in the sixteenth and
seventeenth centuries. In "Sanyin Fang" etiology is categorized into
three categories. These are internal factors, external factors, and mis-
cellaneous factors.
The emotions comprise the internal factors, or neiyin, *
and these
become injurious to the body when they adversely affect what is
termed shen*
(spirit) in "Lushi Chunqiu". These emotional factors
are known as the "seven emotions" and include joy, anger, worry,
grief, sorrow, fear, and fright. These emotions when in excess become
lodged in the abdomen and gradually spread to other parts of the
The category of external factors, or waiyin, *
includes meteoro-
logical conditions, which are known as the "six climatic factors".
These are heat, cold, dryness, dampness, wind, and fire. These factors
are held to upset what is termed jing*
(essence) in "Lushi Chunqiu".
They make their way into the body from the outside and settle in the
meridians. Then they spread to the viscera and disrupt their function.
The category of miscellaneous factors, or bunei buwai yin*
unnatural occurrences or those things man brought upon himself by
lack of moderation. Eight unnatural conditions including injury and
starvation are listed. Excesses in diet constitute an important miscel-
laneous factor, and it is mentioned in "Lushi Chunqiu" how imbal-
ances in the five tastes, or wuwei,*
(salty, sour, bitter, pungent, and
sweet) can bring harm to the body. The category of miscellaneous
factors was created in "Sanyin Fang" to include the five tastes as well
as other factors that caused ill health which were neither internal or
Goto Gonzan's ikki-ryutai-setsu was not a total denial of"Sanyin
Fang" in which internal, external, and miscellaneous factors were held
to be the cause of disease in all circumstances. Nevertheless, Goto
added in his own words that disease occurs only when these factors
present an insurmountable obstacle to the natural circulation of qi
through the body. Goto added that this fact must be borne in mind at
all times before beginning to discuss diseases. This line of thinking
considering qi to be a defensive agent for the body was merely in
conformance with traditional Chinese medicine, and there was
nothing extraordinary about it. It must also be noted that, in the years
which followed, all kinds of explanations were added to the original
ikki-ryutai-setsu by Goto's pupils. The lack of authenticity in this
theory of etiology by Goto therefore is immediately noticeable, even
in the quote given above. Yet, the theory still bears Goto's name.
Ikki-ryutai-setsu was continuously amended by Goto's pupils who
had probably become overly conscious of Yoshimasu Todo's
manbyo-ichidoku-setsu. Goto's theory was rearranged in a manner to
bring it more in line with traditional Chinese medicine. For this rea-
son, Goto's theory always has to be taken with a grain of salt.
The gist of ikki-ryutai-setsu is apparent from the quote given
above. Qi is regarded as a defensive agent in the body. The following
three points reinforced this viewpoint.
I. Even if there were an internal pathogenic factor, if there were no
significant stagnation in the circulation of vital energy, the internal
factor could never act as a factor of pathogenesis in the body. In
other words, qi, or vital energy, is analogous to a defensive agent in
the body.
2. If a stagnation in qi were to be triggered by depression or failure to
observe the rules of proper diet, then this will immediately bring
about an imbalance of vital energy. In one part of the body yuanqi
(source qz) might become pent up, while in another place yuanqi
may be totally absent. When yuanqi becomes stagnated inside the
body, this eventually causes neishangbing,*
or disease by internal
injury. Conversely, in places where yuanqi is absent, in no time at
all external factors take advantage of this susceptibility and invade
through the vacancy. This causes waishangbing, *
or disease by
external injury.
3. Differences can be detected in various diseases by examining the
following things:
a. the depth at which qi is congested
b. visible or palpable differences in the area where the external
factors have become lodged
c. the severity of the condition and how fast it develops
One can infer from the above analysis that Goto and his followers
intended to legitimatize the meridian theory by advancing ikki-ryutai-
setsu. For example, Kagawa Shu-an,*
one of the most distinguished
students of Goto, stated as follows:
Generally a disease always involves the body as a whole, and
not just a particular part. There is no disease involving one
specific meridian or one particular organ. If the outside of the
body is afflicted, so is the inside, and vice versa. All the internal
organs are connected to each other. If any one part of the body is
affected, the whole body is affected, because every corner of the
body is filled with qi, which is by no means separable.
Kagawa carried his argument to the utmost extreme so as to even
rule out parts of the "Shang Han Lun", which contained a few specu-
lative concepts. In all fairness, however, it must be noted that Goto
himself did not necessarily give his stamp of approval to such radical
statements of his students.
Yoshimasu Todo once stated that "I really cannot say that there is
no cause for diseases, but if I did say something about this, it would
be pure conjecture on my part. Therefore I prefer not to make any
statement about it."
As already mentioned in the preceding section, Goto's ikki-ryutai-
setsu was a theory of etiology in which the very significance of etiolog-
ical factors was played down and the stagnation of qi itself was
regarded as the sole factor responsible for the occurrence of disease.
Yoshimasu's theories were advanced along the similar lines. The fol-
lowing passage by Y oshimasu indicates his rejection of all speculation:
It is nonsense for me to discuss the etiology of a disease
because the etiology is more or less a product of speculation. For
example, a patient with purulent stools may suffer from intestinal
abscess, and another patient with purulent expectoration may
suffer from lung abscess. But how is it possible to know that these
patients suffer from intestinal abscess or lung abscess unless the
chest or abdomen are opened? So these so-called etiologies are
products of speculation. Purulent stools and expectoration are
beyond doubt. We therefore depend on what is really seen and
examined and nothing else.
Yoshimasu Todo's theory inherited many aspects of Goto's ikki-
ryutai-setsu, except that Y oshimasu denounced parts of Go to's theory
which he thought involved too much speculation. For instance,
Yoshimasu emphatically stated that Goto's concept of jiqi*
nated qz) was nothing but pure conjecture. There is a brief but clear
statement in Iji Wakumon,*
a text by Yoshimasu which is in ques-
tion and answer form giving basic explanations and instructions. "All
poisons have a form, but jiqi does not. Therefore we prefer to call it
poison rather thanjiqi." This statement embodies Yoshimasu's intel-
lectual approach which was the inclination to consider as valid only
those things which were clearly perceptible or visible to the eye.
Comparing Goto and Yoshimasu's etiological theories, Otsuka
saw a distinct difference between ikki-ryutai-setsu and
manbyo-ichidoku-setsu as follows:
Ikki-ryutai-setsu places its primary emphasis on the signifi-
cance of qi as a medium that circulates around the body. Being an
internal factor, qi can therefore be regarded as a defensive agent of
the body. Because of this characteristic, when qi degenerates it can
create the cause for disease.
On the other hand, manbyo-ichidoku-setsu focuses on the sig-
nificance of a substance called doku,*
or poison, as the main
constituent of disease. It is important to bear in mind that poison
is neither hereditary nor intrinsic by nature. In other words, it is
something acquired and is considered to be an extrinsic substance.
Be that as it may, poison forms inside the body, triggered by a
variety of factors. In order to purge the poisonous substance in the
body, we have to counter this poison with poisonous drugs. The
method of administering poisonous drugs varies depending on the
location of the poison inside the body.
Since the way drugs are administered differs according to the
location of the poisonous substance in the body, this inevitably
creates a large variety of ways in which drugs are administered.
Nevertheless, an important concept in manbyo-ichidoku-setsu is
that all poisons are identical regardless of where they are located
in the body. The thing that poses the greatest problem in manbyo-
ichidoku-setsu is how to determine the location of the poison and
the changes they produce there. Manbyo-ichidoku-setsu is unique
in the long history of traditional medicine in China and Japan in
that it is the only approach to pathology that is based entirely on
the idea of solid pathology.
As already mentioned, ikki-ryutai-setsu in general has much in
common with humeral pathology, which bears a certain resemblance
to vitalism in the West. Manbyo-ichidoku-setsu, on the other hand,
seems to share a common denominator with solid pathology. It must
be noted, however, that neither of these theories can escape the criti-
cism that they are far from complete and that they are unfit to be
called theories of pathology in the real sense. Also these theories have
not been established as full-fledged conceptual models of etiology.
One way of examining these two theories is to look for their similari-
ties by viewing them to be aberration from what are generally con-
sidered as theories of etiology. Another way is to compare them as
two opposing theories of etiology to come up with differences between
them. Personally, I am of the opinion that t ~ e s e theories should not
be regarded as two opposing theories of etiology. The lowest common
denominator between manbyo-ichidoku-setsu and ikki-ryutai-setsu can
be found in the statement, "No more speculation. Only concentrate
on medical treatment."
According to "Huangdi Neijing" and "Sanyin Fang", a living
organism is composed of an intricate network of pathways of qi.
Thus in the traditional Chinese concept, within the antagonism of
neiyin and waiyin, qi is allocated in relation to the site the disease
originated according to the Sanyin Fang system. The main point of
ikki-ryutai-setsu was to keep the "reason" for a disease distinct from
the traditional philosophy of seeking harmony between man and
nature or the microcosm and macrocosm. This meant that it was not
necessary to question the cause for the occurrence of a disease prior to
the stagnation of qi. Everything therefore started with the stagnation
of qi and nothing more. When a person actually becomes ill, great
importance must be placed on the autonomy and independence of the
living individual. In this sense, it can be said that ikki-ryutai-setsu was
actually intended to counter the traditional medical concept that
placed strong emphasis on the inseparable relationship between the
individual and his environment.
Yoshimasu Todo stated that waiyin could not be a direct cause for
the occurrence of disease. He made this point clear in his work "lji
Wakumon" as follows:
Todo was asked: "I would like to know if the six qi which are
wind, cold, heat, dryness, humidity, and fire, can cause disease."
His answer was: "No, you do not become ill just by being
exposed to the six qi. This is because these qi are part of the
heavenly order, an order that governs the growth of all living
things. These (six qz) may be referred to as Heaven's qi. Those
who are easily affected by the six qi are affected because there is
poison in their body. Once they get rid of the poison, they do not
fall prey to a disease even when they expose themselves to cold
According to Yoshimasu's line of reasoning, all poisons are
degenerated forms of qi, which exist in the body divorced from the
process of life. Yoshimasu failed to realize, however, that this auto-
matically meant that the actual existence of such poison had to be
proven. His failure to do so made manbyo-ichidoku-setsu something
quite removed from solid pathology. What Yoshimasu really wanted
was some tangible substance to serve as the object of his therapy. This
substance had to be properly expressed with a distinct term that
would leave no room for speculation. In this sense, manbyo-ichidoku-
setsu was a result of his ideology placing great emphasis on "linguis-
tic" significance. This indicates how the core of Yoshimasu's famous
theory is colored by strong Confucian influence.
In any case, the introduction of ikki-ryutai-setsu and manbyo-
ichidoku-setsu in the eighteenth century by no means implied that two
completely new theories of etiology emerged in the Japanese medical
community. On the contrary, these theories should be considered as
part of a movement to totally reject Chinese medical concepts based
on theoretical and speculative approaches.
(1) The issue of what qi is
No metaphysical interpretation is given concerning qi. Goto's
interpretation of qi appeared in his work "Shisetsu Hikki," in which
he concludes that "qi is in fact something like wind." Yoshimasu, on
the other hand, wrote about his clinical experiences in "Kenju
as follows:
A young man of about twenty had been bed-ridden for many
years with a grave illness in which he vomited blood about once
every ten days. This autumn he vomited a great amount of blood
and became deathly ill. Then Yoshimasu Todo went to see him.
Just taking one look at this dying young man, Yoshimasu sensed
that he was not quite dead yet. So Y oshimasu took a few strands
of cotton and placed them right under the nostrils of the patient to
see if the cotton would move. There was slight movement back
and forth. So Yoshimasu palpated the patient's abdomen and
confirmed that there was a slight pulsation. Therefore he judged
that the patient's qi was not completely exhausted as of yet.
From the above account, it is clear that, in order to determine
whether a patient was still alive, Y oshimasu used strands of cotton to
check if the patient was still breathing. From the above points, it can
be concluded that both Goto and Y oshimasu recognized qi as some-
thing tangible in the form of air or the breath.
(2) Opposition to the use of tonic drugs
In Chinese medicine the importance of harmonizing the qi in the
body with that of nature received great emphasis after the Jin-Yuan
period. The qi of the body was divided according to the system of
the five viscera and balance among these was considered important. A
certain group of herbal medicines, which in Japan are termed
or crude drugs are. designated as buqi yao,*
or qi tonic
medicines. These qi tonic drugs are supposed to reinforce the qi in the
body which gradually becomes depleted. Both Goto Gonzan and
Y oshimasu Todo were opposed to the idea that buqi yao like
could increase one's vitality. In Goto's "Shisetsu Hikki,"
there is the statement, "Ginseng increases tension in the vital energy
and therefore, when herbal formulas containing ginseng is prescribed
continuously, vital energy becomes exhausted."
In "lji Wakumon," Yoshimasu gave the following answer to the
question, "Does ginseng actually supplement qi or not?
Yoshimasu said: "Yuanqi is qi which has its root in the universe.
When it resides in the human body, it takes the form of qi and is
under the direction of the Creator. Therefore qi is beyond any
human power to change or control. In other words, when qi
disappears it means death. The span of one's life is decided by the
will of Heaven. So there is no way we can supplement qi by
administering crude drugs such as herbs, roots, branches, or tree
Both Goto and Y oshimasu asserted that qi is hereditary by nature.
That is to say, something one is born with and that therefore there
was no way that one's life span could be extended by using tonic
drugs. They held that qi acquired after birth is only acquired by way
of food and drink and not through the use of tonic drugs. Thus
neither Goto nor Y oshimasu accepted the idea that buqi yao could be
administered to augment one's source of vital energy.
(3) Goto and Yoshimasu's standpoint as medical practitioners
Why were Goto and Y oshimasu so vehemently opposed to the
idea of tonifying qi? The main reasons are as follows:
Y oshimasu classified physicians into three categories to clarify
where he stood as a medical practitioner himself. The three categories
were shitsu-i,*
or practical doctor, inyo-i,*
or yin-yang doctor, and
or sorcerer doctor. A practical doctor was a doctor that cured
a patient's illness by herbal therapy. A yin-yang doctor was one who
just played around with concepts of yin-yang and five phases or
abstract notions of the viscera and meridians, but was unable to
actually treat a patient. Sorcery doctors were those who taught secrets
of longevity and everlasting youth as advocated by Taoists and mys-
tics. To put these categories of physicians in more contemporary
terms, the practical doctor would be a practitioner, the yin-yang
doctor would be medical scholars and critics, and a sorcery doctor
would be a health counselor. Yoshimasu argued that since most doc-
tors worshiped the theory of yin-yang and five phases, they brought
great harm to society. The same applied he said to the sorcery doctors
who played around with esoteric doctrines of everlasting youth.
Yoshimasu said, however, that fortunately there were not as many
sorcery doctors as there were yin-yang doctors so the amount of harm
sorcery doctors inflicted upon society was not as great.
Yoshimasu considered himself to be a practical doctor. His con-
tention was that he was the only physician who followed the true path
of a medical practitioner - a path which very few had followed after
the time of Zhang Zhong Jing, the author of "Shang Han Lun". Just
as the ideal practitioner according to Y oshimasu was a more narrowly
defined role for physicians, Goto's main concern was to find ways in
which to deal with actual diseases from his standpoint of being a true
practitioner. Thus they were critical of supplementary methods of
treatment to increase vitality by the administration of tonic drugs or
Taoist practices of yangsheng, or health promotion. Both Goto and
Y oshimasu considered eating and drinking to be the sole means by
which to maintain and enhance one's health. They saw medicine as
nothing more than a temporary means for treating disease, and not
something to be taken regularly. Yoshimasu sarcastically stated, "If
one could supplement yuanqi by taking ginseng, then people would
never die."
The speculative nature of the rationale for using tonic drugs was
criticized profusely by Goto and Yoshimasu. Neither were they fond
of the idea that crude drugs reacted selectively on specific viscera and
meridians. Behind this reluctance to accept traditional theories of
pharmacokinetics we must view the reality of clinical practice they
faced with changing disease trends. The traditional approach of
administering tonic drugs was an indirect method which was un-
economical as well as ineffective.
Given the fact that qi is invisible, how did Japanese physicians
perceive qi within the abnormal condition of disease in a way which
was convincing to everyone? One of the primary methods they
employed for this purpose was abdominal palpation. In "Shisetsu
Hikki" Goto Gonzan stated as follows:
In palpating the abdomen, when a pulsation is felt on the
midline between the pit of the stomach and the navel, this is
always a sign that qi has collected here to cause a pulsation.
This clearly demonstrates that Goto tried to grasp the phenomena
of qi stagnation in a more concrete manner through abdominal palpa-
tion. Yoshimasu Todo's approach was identical. Yoshimasu made the
following statements about abdominal palpation and poison, the sub-
stance he associated with abnormalities in qi:
Poison is something which forms in the body postnatally, and
since most poison is to be found in the abdomen, it can be per-
ceived as a tangible substance by means of abdominal palpation.
Having poison in the body dose not necessarily mean that
illness exists. Disease results when the poison moves around the
The abdomen is the source of all life. All diseases have their
root in the abdomen. Therefore, to examine disease, one must
always palpate the abdomen.
It is important to know that qi becomes afflicted when the
poison in the abdomen begins to move around the body.
The above statements indicate that even Y oshimasu could not
ignore the significance of qi. In order to stay away from any unneces-
sary speculation about qi, he was careful to avoid mentioning any-
thing about traditional concepts of physiology and pathology of qi.
He contended that all that was necessary was to have a concrete way
of detecting abnormalities of qi in a diseased state. Yoshimasu Todo
asserted the validity of employing abdominal palpation by quoting
the words of a legendary Chinese physician, Pian Que*
who said,
"All reactions to disease manifest on the surface of the body."
It is interesting to note that there are quite a number of expres-
sions in the Japanese language which refer to abnormalities of qi
(relating to emotional states, not diseases). The following are a few
Dancho-no-omoi-feeling of severed intestines (as if one's heart were
being torn open)
Harawata-no-niekuri-kaeru-omoi- feeling like the viscera were boil-
ing (as if one's blood boiled with rage)
Hara-no-mushi-ga-osamaranai- the bug in the belly will not keep still
(one's feelings cannot be appeased)
Hara-o-saguru- to search another's abdomen (to fathom what
another person really thinks or feels)
The last example, of course, has nothing to do with abdominal
palpation; Nevertheless, the strong association between the abdomen
and emotions (which are often equated to qi in Japan) is inherent in
the Japanese culture.
Physicians of the Koho School in Japan assumed a very critical
attitude in adopting Chinese medical concepts. Needless to say, the
academic foundations of their movement rested not on modern
science, but on Confucianism. The Neo-Confucianist movement in
Japan in the eighteenth century is called kogaku. *
This school of
philosophy was extremely critical of Chinese Confucianism of the
Song period. The same drive for reformation was spearheaded in the
field of medicine by the Koho School as was initiated by the Neo-
Confucianists in the realm of philosophy. It is important to note that
the aim of the Neo-Confucian movement in Japan was to do away
with Buddhism and Taoist concepts of yangsheng, or health promo-
tion and longevity.
In general the works of Ito Jinsai*
(1627-1705) had a strong
influence on Goto Gonzan, while Ogyu Sorai*
(1666-1728) had a
strong impact on Yoshimasu Todo's work. Nakamura Hajime,*
his famous work "Toyojin-no-Shiihoho"*
(Oriental way of thinking),
summarized the tendencies of the Japanese people to think in non-
rational ways. He outlined the following four features of Japanese
thinking in his book:
1. lack of ability to think with logical organization
2. poor development of logic and lack of ability to express abstract
3. tendency toward excessively emotional and intuitive thinking
4. preference for simple symbolic representations
These four tendencies are also conspicuous in the thinking of the
Neo-Confucian scholars of the Edo*
period (1600-1867). The works
of the Chinese Neo-Confucian schools of Zhu Zi*
and Wang Yang
were studied widely in Japan during the Edo period. The
question still remains, however, as to how well Japanese scholars
understood these works. Some examples will be given below regard-
ing this point to show that the Neo-Confucian scholars in Japan
disliked speculation about metaphysical matters. The Zhu Zi School
made a distinction between ll"*
(principle), or dao*
(way), and qi.
Dao was considered to be "above form" (metaphysical) and qi was
"below form" (physical). Western scholars sometimes translate the
former as form and the latter as material.
The Japanese scholar Kaibara Ekken*
(1650-1714) attempted to
understand Neo-Confucianism from the perspective practical of life in
Japan, but he was unable to understand the distinction between above
form and below form. He was inclined to understand both of these as
belonging to the physical realm of the senses. Kaibara stated, "In my
.so t t ~ { O J *
*51 <ft*'fj[;
s2 Jlli$AO).\t\tlt1i'itz
*sJ iiP *ss :EI!IRJl
.s4 *r .s6 J!l!
opinion 'form' means to be corporal, 'over' means to be in Heaven,
and 'below' means to be on Earth."
As to the meaning of Heaven and Earth Kaibara stated, "Those
things which 'form' shapes in Heaven are simply the sun, moon,
stars, and constellation. The phrase 'below form' refers to those
things which 'form' causes to appear on Earth. And all things that
have shapes of any form, such as mountains, rivers, the ground, and
men are receptacles (for ql)." Thus Kaibara was never inclined to
recognize a realm which transcends and underlies the natural world
recognizable to the senses.
As another example, Ogyu Sorai, a thinker who made much of the
"Will of Heaven," could not grasp the idea of Heaven as an abstract
concept. He could not conceive of Heaven as being distinct from the
visible heavens of the natural world. Because of this, he made state-
ments such as the following:
We need not wait to understand Heaven. We all know it.
When we look at Heaven (the heavens), it seems to be boundless
and beyond any measurement. It embraces the sun, moon, stars,
and constellations, and it is the place where all things receive their
destiny. It is the god of gods, holy beyond any comparison, and
nothing can rise to its height.
It is at least historically true that the neglect of logic is one clear
feature of traditional Japanese thinking. Direct experience and intui-
tion is favored much more than abstract concepts which are devoid of
any tangible connection with the world perceived by human beings.
The concept of dao, or way, in being incorporated into Japanese
thought was also interpreted from a more tangible and human per-
spective. Ito Jinsai, in particular, understood the way as being active
and representing the principle of growth and development. Ito
rejected the nihilism inherent in the philosophy of Lao Zi*
and he
stated as follows concerning Lao Zi's work:
Lao Zi says that everything emerges out of nothing, but
Heaven and Earth have covered all things from time immemorial,
and the sun and moon have always shined from time immemorial.
The four seasons have constantly alternated from time immemo-
rial. What changes with material has always changed its form
from time immemorial, and what changes does so with material
from time immemorial. Things inherit from and generate one
another, and living things go on perpetuating endlessly. How can
one see what is called "emptiness"?
To Ito, the universe was one big living entity, and the essence of
the universe was nothing other than its incessant life. Ito found justifi-
cation for his view of the universe as a living entity in the phrase from
the Book of Changes, "The great virtue of Heaven and Earth is called
life." In this same manner, Ito bestowed a characteristically Japanese
interpretation upon the works of Confucius. In the Analects of Con-
fucius it is stated as follows: "Concerning the river the master states
'what passes away passes thusly. It never ceases day or night."' The
medieval Chinese scholars interpreted this statement as being words
of lamentation that "everything passes away like the water of a river,
which once gone, never returns." According to Zhu Zi these words
are reflections of an objective observer in which the water of the river
symbolizes everything that is in incessant motion and flow.
The Japanese Neo-Confucian scholar Ito Jinsai, on the other
hand, interpreted these words entirely differently from the Chinese.
According to him, the river represents, "the virtue of the wise man
that is fresh everyday and never becomes stagnant." This whole pas-
sage is the expression of the exuberance of human vitality. In contrast
to the negative, passive, and indifferent character of the Chinese
interpretation, Ito's interpretation is positive, active, and full of hope.
He has great confidence in human activity. Ogyu Sorai, who was
diametrically opposed to Ito Jinsai concerning everything else,
extolled Ito's views as far as his attitude of dynamism was concerned.
Ogyu stated, "Master Ito's theory of living things and dead things is
indeed the supreme wisdom of a thousand years. He is strong advo-
cate of dynamism, and rejects the passive tendency of Chinese Confu-
cianists of the Song period. Heaven and Earth are living things and so
is man. Those who regard them as though they were tied up with a
rope are just snobs poisoned by useless learning." Most of the Confu-
cianists of the Song period advocated quiet sitting and having a
benevolent heart as methods of mental training. Ogyu ridiculed these
methods stating, "As I see it, even gambling appears superior of quiet
sitting and having benevolence in one's heart."
Ogyu Sorai emphasized facts rather than theories, and stressed the
superiority of the former over the latter. The ideological trends of the
Japanese Neo-Confucian scholars of that time can be summarized as
l. denial of abstract ideology
2. emphasis on practicality and dynamism
3. emphasis on morality
4. reformist tendency based on the rereading of classics (linguistic
This ideological framework, especially that constructed by Ito
Jinsai and Ogyu Sorai, became conspicuous in the Japanese interpre-
tation of qi, which formed the very foundation oftraditional Japanese
medicine. Therefore, it is strongly believed that the viewpoint on life,
as well as that on yuanqi and vital energy, held by Japanese physicians
such as Goto Gonzan, Yoshimasu Todo, and Nagoya Gen-i*
part and parcel of the viewpoint on life advocated by the Neo-
Confucian ideology of the period. In cognizing qi in the context of
medicine, none of these Japanese physicians, just as the Neo-
Confucian scholars in their time, were able to make a clear distinction
between qi in the natural world and qi in the human body. Further-
more, they also failed to distinguish the different kinds of qi in the
human body.
One can establish a characteristic pattern in the incorporation of
the concept of qi into Japanese medicine starting with the father of the
new interpretation, Nagoya Gen-i. This approach was passed on to
Goto Gonzan and finally Yoshimasu Todo developed this to its far-
thest extreme. Nagoya Gen-i attempted to incorporate the work of
Zhang Jing Yue*
(1563-1640) as the physiological model for qi in
Healthy state;
Excessive and overflowing
of ying qi
(course of energy, and something
coating like skin)
1ltfr, (mingmen)
(source of vital energy
and origin of yang q1)

Nagoya Gen-i

esteem of yang but despise of yin
Ito Jinsai
dynamic vitalism
Figure I
Balance of yin-yang of qi
1ltfr, (mingmen)
(source of vital energy and
origin of both of yin-yang q1)

Chang Chung Ching
esteem both of yin-yang
static vitalism
the microcosm of the body. The theories of the physiology and
pathology of qi were strongly advocated in China based on yin-yang
and the five phases by differentiating the qi of the five viscera and
viewing these in terms of the generating or controlling relationship or
the balance of yin water or yang fire. Zhang sought logical consistency
in this ideology by applying the passive perspective of life, which was
represented by the work of Zhu Zi. *
Because of Zhang's passive
perspective oflife, however, Nagoya ultimately rejected his viewpoint.
Basing his assumptions on the principles of yi, *
or divination, Zhang
did not question that yuanqi, the source energy for life in the micro-
cosm, originated from mingmen. *
This wellspring of yuanqi was
thought to be located in the space between the kidneys.
Nagoya, taking a more pragmatic view, could not comprehend
this abstract concept since there was no tangible entity located
between the kidneys. Accordingly, in his interpretation of yuanqi,
Table I
Nagoya Gen-i Goto Gonzan Yoshimasu Todo
Idea of life Yang qi, continuously smoothly circura- practitioner can not
created from mingmen tion of only one qi understand it, this
(tfii r ~ ; source of problem belongs to
energy), sanjiao ( . = _ ~ ; Heaven
triple energizer)
Correspondence affirmative, yang qi as denial denial
between Macro- defensive agent against
cosmos to Micro- cold qi as offensive
cosmos at the agent
pathological state
Etiology a little lack of yang qi only stagnation of occurrence of poison as
causes inversion of internal qi the degeneration of qi,
external evil qi which has no more any
correspondence to life
Therapy supplement of yang qi restoration of stage- exclusion of the foreign
ment qi matter as
named "poison"
Nagoya dispensed with abstract concepts such as the different qi for
the five viscera and the yin qi and yang qi within the kidneys. He
simply interpreted yuanqi to be the yang qi of mingmen, which burns
brightly in water (symbol for the kidneys). His interpretation for qi
was further simplified so that the qi of disease was basically cold qi
(yin q1) of the macrocosm (nature); the warm qi (yang ql) in the
microcosm (body) served to defend the body against invasion of cold
qi. Nagoya's ideological foundation for this interpretation rested on
the words of Ito Jinsai. Ito stated, "Yuanqi is vibrant and ever active."
Ito also spoke in terms of, "the one yuanqi which is alive and never
Goto Gonzan's view is also based on Ito's interpretation of
yuanqi. Goto proposed that only the stagnation of qi in the micro-
cosm was responsible for disease. Goto's interpretation of qi was also
characterized by the rejection of the concept of mingmen, which was
traditionally regarded as the source of yuanqi in the body. Goto
further advanced Ito's concept of one yuanqi as being a force which
permeated the macrocosm as well as the microcosm. This amounted
to a total denial of the traditional conceptual framework, with a
mutual correspondence between the microcosm and macrocosm.
Goto's contention was that a disease is a condition occurring when qi
in the body stagnated and that fundamentally there was no other
cause of disease.
Yoshimasu Todo argued that whatever the substance was that
stagnated in the body, it had already degenerated into a substance
foreign to the body. He named this substance doku, or poison.
Y oshimasu drew the conclusion that this foreign substance had to be
expelled from the body by means of poisonous drugs. His unprece-
dented viewpoint is evident in his statement, "Normal qi never dimin-
ishes even though poison may exist in the body." In other words,
Y oshimasu contradicted the traditional concept of pathology not to
mention modern pathology, in which disease is held to reduce one's
vitality and shorten one's life-span. Behind this radical stance of
Y oshimasu lay the strong influence of Ogyu Sorai.
As the first example of this there is the foreign substance Y oshi-
masu termed poison. He adhered to the dictum, "only speak about
things that can be seen." His concept of poison, however, had no
basis whatsoever in morphological studies like dissection. What
Y oshimasu meant by "substantial" was that the object had to have a
proper linguistic foundation. He sought verification of the substance
in the words of the classics. His approach to substantiation h ~ d its
origin in Ogyu Sorai's approach emphasizing the significance of
words as the starting point. This notion is referred to as kobunji
or literally classical lexicography. Yoshimasu developed his
theories by arbitrary reference to the classics. It is not appropriate
therefore, to directly relate the stance in the Koho School of "doing
away with speculation" to the Advent of positivism.
The second example is the strong influence of Ogyu's tenmei
theory on Todo's work. The main feature of Ogyu's tenmei theory
was his attitude toward fate as something that could not be fathomed
by a human being. Ogyu rejected Ito's concept of "the vibrant one
yuanqi," as pure speculation. Ogyu contended that only Heaven knew
the truth about life, and that it was disrespectful and blasphemous to
speak as if one knew all there was to know about the will of Heaven.
He stated, "The oldest classics do not mention qi," and refused to
accept speculation about the nature of qi. Ogyu's definition, "qi refers
to the qi of yongqi (courage)," is vague and is excessively emotional in
its implication. In any case, Yoshimasu's fatalistic stance that "life is
beyond the control of physicians," emerged out of this ideological
Some aspects of how the concept of qi was interpreted in a unique
way in eighteenth century Japan have been elucidated by the exami-
nation of two theories of etiology proposed by two physicians of the
Koho School, Goto Gonzan and Yoshimasu Todo. One of the fea-
tures of the Japanese interpretation of qi is the conspicuous incom-
pleteness of the physiology and pathology of qi within the context of
medicine due to the utter lack of conceptual development based on
abstract reasoning and logic. Therefore, in terms of the physiology of
qi, abstract conceptualization did not go beyond relating qi to air and
breathing. Also, in respect to the pathology of qi, the physicians of the
Koho School tried to limit themselves to very simplified and symbolic
The medical theories of Nagoya Gen-i, Goto Gonzan, and
Yoshimasu Todo clearly represent the orientation of the Koho
School. That is to say, both ikki-ryutai-setsu and manbyo-ichidoku-
setsu were theories of etiology which discouraged further speculation
regarding qi. The approach of the Koho School at the time to "do
away with speculation," in dealing with the concept of qi, effectively
dispensed with speculation regarding the process leading up to dis-
ease. In other words, all the traditional theories systematized concern-
ing the correspondence of internal qi and external qi, the disturbance
of internal qi, and the process of pathogenesis were refuted. To the
physicians of the Koho School, actual clinical experience took the
place of theories and they focused on the direct application of drugs
for specific disease conditions. The ideological foundation of this radi-
cal approach was rooted in the Neo-Confucian trend of that period.
This was also the reason that the attitude of "doing away with specu-
lation" did not lead to the concept of positivism as known today.
Putting a stop to further speculation regarding qi, on the part of
Japanese physicians, was not intended as a denial of the existence of
qi. A traditional practitioner could not help but grapple with the
concept of qi in his clinical work. When it came to describing this
phenomena, however, the practitioners of this period had strong
reservations about trying to verbalize it in a logically consistent
manner. Perhaps because of this attitude, the word qi in Japan today
is used mostly to describe intangible things like emotional states. In
other words, rather than being associated with scientific knowledge, in
Japan qi is related with implicit understanding. This trend in the
interpretation of qi is very distinct in Japan today.
The physicians of the Koho School had the notion that qi was
an invisible entity which actually did exist. They attempted to get a
grasp of the physical manifestations of qi and to describe this in a way
which could be understood by everyone. One result of their effort to
describe qi, which is invisible, as a tangible and verifiable entity was
the diagnostic technique of abdominal palpation, which is still prac-
ticed to this day. In the years after Yoshimasu, Japanese medicine
once more turned back toward the framework of traditional medi-
cine. In this sense, the thrust of the Kobo School in eighteenth century
Japan was mostly a divergence from traditional medicine and its
concepts. This phase may be viewed as aimless wandering, but it
actually gives indication of the vitality of that period. As another sign
of this vitality, out of the Kobo School emerged individuals instru-
mental in the acceptance of science of anatomy into Japanese medi-
cine and the eventual transition to modern medicine. In the realm of
traditional medicine, concepts of the physiology and pathology of qi
were gradually revived, but only in regard to practical matters relating
to the organization of accumulated experience about the application
of crude drugs. Thus, although the meaning of qi was reinterpreted in
Japanese medicine, Japanese physicians of the eighteenth century
never came up with a new and systematic interpretation for the
ancient concept of qi.
1) Yasuo Otsuka, Toyo-igaku-nyumon (Nihon-hyoron-sha, 1983), (in Japanese).
2) Yasuo Otsuka, "Chugoku-igaku-no-dento," Chi-no-kakumei-shi 6, Igakushiso-
to-ningen (Asakura-shoten, 1979), (in Japanese).
3) Otsuka, ed., "Kinsei-kagaku-shiso," Nihon-shiso-taikei 63 (Iwanami-shoten,
1971), (in Japanese).
4) Hajime Nakamura, Toyojin-no-shiihoho, three (Shunjyu-sha, 1962), (in Japa-
5) Shuzo Go, ed., Toto-zenshu (Tohodo-shoten, 1918), (in Japanese).
6) Toshiaki Maruyama, Toto-zenshu-to-Chugoku-kodai-igaku-Sono-keisei-to-shiso-
teki-haikei-oyobi-tokushitu (Tokyo-bijyutu, 1988), (in Japanese).
7) Yoshimitsu Kano, Chugoku-igaku-no-tanjyo (Tokyo-daigaku shuppan-kai,
1987), (in Japanese).
8) Kojiro Yoshikawa, et. al., Ogyu Sorai, Nihon-shiso-taikei 36, (Iwanami-shoten,
1973), (in Japanese).
9) Yasuchika Anzai, Nihon-jyuikenkyu (Ryugin-sha, 1943), (in Japanese).
10) Toshihiko Hanawa, "Goto Gonzan-no-Ikki-ryutai-setsu-ni-tsuite," Yakazu
Michiaki-sensei-kijyu-kinen-bunshu (Onchi-kai, 1983), (in Japanese).
II) Toshihiko Hanawa, "Ikki-ryutai-setsu-to-Manbyo-ichidoku-setsu-ni-tsuite,"
Kanpo-no-rinsho, Vol. 30, No. 10 (1983).
12) Toshihiko Hanawa, "Nagoya Gen-i ni tsuite," Kinsei-kanpo-igakusho-shusei
Vol. 102 (Meicho-shuppan 1984), (in Japanese).
The Concept of Qi in Early Chinese Ophthalmology
Institute of the History of Medicine
University of Munich
Lessingstr. 2, D-8000 Munich 2, Germany
NY investigation of the concept of qi*
in Chinese medicine comes
face to face with the multiplicity of contexts and usages for the
term. Confronted with such a variegated semantics, one can hardly
help but be astonished that Chinese medical thinkers, as far as we
know, never seriously questioned the concept of qi itself; for them, qi
was, throughout history, an indispensable and unquestioned notion.
For the modem western student of Chinese medicine, however, the
term obviously creates problems.
This is most strikingly revealed in the varied translations of Chi-
nese medical texts into Western languages. One sign of insecurity
regarding the meaning of qi is that its translators have almost always
seized on whatever facet of the concept was then currently fashionable
in western medicine. So in the 17th century, when the German physi-
cian Andreas Cleyer translated the Mai jing, *
he identified qi with
"spiritus," a concept in vogue in the medicine of his time. In the
earlier part ofthe 20th century the mechanistic aspect of qi ("breath")
or the kinetic aspect ("energy") were favoured by some translators;
more recently the informational aspect of qi has been emphasized. I)
The concept of qi in Chinese medicine and its literature does of
course lend itself to multiple explanations, but at the same time, it
230 JORGEN KovAcs
seems to encompass the entirety of all these notions. In fact, this
inclusiveness is precisely what poses a constant problem to modern
investigators accustomed to analytic terminology with clear def-
It was in the Zhou era that the concept of qi became established in
Chinese thinking as a key word in the description of various natural
phenomena, and of the relationship between man and nature.
Through these descriptions, one can see that qi means "breath,"
"air," and "atmosphere" in a concrete sense, as well as in a metaphor-
ical sense.
) Qi is spoken of as present in both the microcosmic world
of man and the macrocosmic space that surrounds and influences
him; its changes comprise the concept of time. From a certain per-
spective, hardly any issue in classical Chinese natural philosophy falls
outside the sphere of qi.
Nowhere, however, is qi of such central importance as in medical
theory, physiology, pathology, hygiene, and macrobiotics. In this
chapter, the role of qi as a concept shall be examined in relation to a
specialized field of medicine, ophthalmology.
Ophthalmology was considered a separate branch of medicine in
China from the Tang Dynasty onward. References to eye diseases can,
however, be found in earlier literature, much of which we know only
by their titles, the books themselves having been lost. Apart from
scattered references in literary works
) of the Zhou period, the
Huangdi neijing*
contains a number of passages related to the physi-
ology of the visual organs and to eye diseases. These constitute the
basis of a theory of ophthalmology that, from that period onward,
was preserved and accepted throughout traditional Chinese medicine.
According to the Neijing, the structure of the eye consists of the
same varied "substances" (today we would say "tissues") that consti-
tute the entirety of the human body. These substances include blood
), (seminal) essence (jing*
) and qi, a triad of eminent impor-
tance in physiology and pathology:
*3 til\Wi*J!Jl: .s ti'f
*4 Jfn.
The essence of the muscle flesh constitutes the lids; inside, the
essence of the tendons and the bones, the blood, and the qi are tied
up, and, together with the vessels, they constitute a connective
that upwardly belongs to the brain.
The integration of the eye into the entire system of the body is
conceived as follows:
Twelve conduit vessels, 365 network v e s s ~ l s , their blood and qi all
move up to the face and go to (their respective) hollow apertures,
their essence and yang qi rise and go to the eye and constitute the
eye-ball. S)
As for the visual function of the eye, the Neijing states:
The eye distinguishes the five colours.
It is the essence of splendour by which the 10,000 things are seen,
black and white are distinguished, long and short are recognized.
In later texts, similar statements are to be found; there, however,
the other two vital substances, blood and qi, are identified as being
responsible for undisturbed function of the eyes.
The position of the eye in the system of correspondences lies in its
special relationship with the liver:
The liver opens up an aperture at the eye. S)
This connection of liver and eye is apparently thought of as a
movement of qi from the liver, as a depot-organ, to the eye:
The liver-qi penetrates to the eyes; if the liver is balanced, then the
eyes can distinguish the five colours.
In the Wai tai bi yao, it clearly expressed that this movement was
considered to take place via a definite pathway.
The dependence of the eye and its visual functions on the liver is
expressed in the Neijing as follows:
The liver receives blood and enables (the eyes) to see.
Any disturbance of man's state of health may involve the eyes:
If qi is weak, the eyes are not clear.
The same is true when the body undergoes changes due to
advanced age:
At the age of 50 the qi of the liver starts to weaken, the leaves of
the liver start to become thin, the liquid of the gallbladder starts to
vanish, and the eyes start to become unclear.
Disease of an internal organ, particularly the liver, influences the
eyes even more:
As for liver diseases, there is pain on both flanks extending to the
upper abdomen, it causes man to easily become angry, in case of
depletion, the eyes ... cannot see.
Apart from "internal causes" of eye afflictions, there are also
"external causes" that may be responsible for eye problems such as
wind,feng, *
the evil, xie, *
or trauma. These may either harm the eye
directly, or by means of prior harm to internal organs.
The above quotations from the Neijing afford us an understanding
. of early ideas concerning the function and pathology of the eye.
Usually one or more of the triad of blood, (seminal) essence, and qi
are involved. In eye dysfunction, qi is involved, as either a deficiency
of qi or as a movement of pathological qi to the eyes.
Other passages in the Neijing refer to combinations of essence and
qi, or of blood and qi. The expressionjingqi*
may be interpreted as
"essence and qi" or as "the qi of essence"; the same holds for the term
which is sometimes used to denote "blood and qi" or "the qi
of blood."
*6 Ill. .s * R ~
*7 $ *9 l f n . ~
The jing (and) qi of the five depots and six palaces all rise and flow
to the eye and become essence. The nest of the essence is the
eyeball. The essence of the bones is the pupil; the essence of the
tendons is the black part of the eye; the essence of the blood are
the network-vessels; its nest, the essence of qi, constitutes the white
part of the eye; the essence of the muscle flesh constitutes the
Hence, in the Neijing we deal with three concepts that, in conjunc-
tion, are viewed as being responsible for both normal and pathologi-
cal morphology in the eyes, for both function and dysfunction. Of
these three concepts, qi appears to be the most active.
The entire extant body of ophthalmological literature subse-
quently produced in China is based on the guidelines laid out in the
Neijing. The work of almost two millennia following the Neijing does
not concern itself with these theoretical foundations, but represents
an accretion of more practical information, such as the details of
empirical observations, diagnostics, and treatment.
The earliest extant medical book containing a special section on
ophthalmology is the Zhu bing yuan hou lun,*
) published in AD
610 by Chao Yuan Fang. *
In Chao's book a multitude of differen-
tiated eye afflictions are listed, each presented under a heading that
may be taken as its name. Each of these nosographic units contains a
brief description of the etiology and/or pathogenesis of the affliction,
which are explained essentially along the lines of the Neijing. Fre-
quently, the individual nosographies start with a quotation from the
latter work:
The eye is the aperture of the liver.
However, Chao has given a new, more abstract tinge to this idea
by introducing the term hou,*
meaning "sign" or "indication." A
frequently repeated phrase is:
10 or Zhu bing yuan hou lun (ZBYHL) *12
The eye is the indicator (hou) of the liver.
Here again the primacy of the liver in the genesis of eye diseases is
emphasized, and qi is again viewed as the vehicle by which pathologi-
cal influences are transported to the eye, where the symptoms are
manifested. In Chao's words:
In man, the liver-qi communicates with the eye.
The heat-qi of the liver dashes to the eye.
In the Zhu bing yuan hou fun, aberrations of qi are again named as
the most frequent causes of eye afflictions, and the qi implicated may
be of any kind and in any form or combination: heat-qi, wind-qi,
poison-qi, evil qi, essential qi, blood-qi, deficiency of the qi of yin and
yang and of the depots.
With the Beiji qianjin yaofang*
l of Sun Si Miao,*
in 652, new etiological elements entered Chinese ophthalmology. Sun,
an eminent scholar, deeply versed in all currents of thinking in his
period- Confucian, Buddhist, and Taoist- included in his list of
etiological pathogens certain infringements of what was considered
proper life-style in one or more of these respective ideologies. These
infringements included such activities or states as excessive emotional-
ity, studying too hard at night, dietetic or sexual excesses, or even
leisure pursuits such as hunting and playing chess. Whether the activ-
ities were seen as exerting their detrimental effects directly upon the
eye or indirectly by first harming the liver is not clear in each case. The
fact that topical application of drugs is frequently recommended in
Sun's writings suggests the notion of direct influence. In any event, the
Bei ji qian jin yao fang documents an etiological schism, one group of
causes being based on the older, theoretical doctrine that relies on the
triad blood- essence- qi, and the other being more empirically
based. By Sun Si Miao's time, Indian Buddhist medicine had doubt-
*13 W J ~ . + ~ ~ : J J . or Bei ji quan jin yao fang (BJQJYF)
less already attained wide acceptance/
) and this may have been
responsible for the influx of foreign medical concepts to China.
Strong Indian influence is found in the Wai tai bi yao,*
) com-
piled by Wang Tao,*
and published in 752. The section on ophthal-
mology starts with a description of how the Chinese understood
Indian theories concerning the anatomy, physiology, and pathology
the eye. Some of these doctrines may have seemed truly foreign to the
Chinese of the time, for instance, the notion of the eye being built up
on different layers. Others, however, must have already been familiar,
such as the idea of a special "liver-duct" (gan guan},*
no doubt
interpreted by the Chinese as the pathway by which the liver-qi was
supposed to reach the eye, as was already assumed in the Neijing.
Certain eye afflictions such as the so-called "membranes," a term
loosely used for opacities of the cornea and for cataracts, were also
thought to develop when, to quote directly:
the liver duct is pierced.
This passage implies the notion of a loss of liver-qi through a leak
in a tube-like structure responsible for the permanent flow of qi from
the liver to the eye.
The nosographic section proper, consisting mostly of quotations
and borrowings from earlier texts including the Zhu bing yuan hou lun,
however, follows very much along the lines of orthodox Chinese
theory. A passage of the "Four Prescriptions against Misty Shades"
shall be quoted here as it summarizes in an exemplary manner the
doctrines of the period:
The origin of the disease is that the essence splendor Uing hua}*
of the five depot (-organs) and the six palace (-organs) all move up
and pour into the eye. The eye is the external indicator of the liver.
The liver stores blood. If the blood-qi is not sufficient the liver will
be depleted, so that it receives wind-evil. The wind-evil is transmit-
*1s 9 H H ! : ~ . or Wai tai bi yao (WTBY) *17 Ht*
*16 i#. *18 ffl;lj'ii
236 JORGEN KovAcs
ted to the essence-qi. Hence the essence-qi accumulates and devel-
ops on top of the white (part of the) eye, and it surrounds the rim
of the black (part of the) eye. The eye becomes variegated, unclear
and muddy. Black and white are not clearly (distinguished). Deal-
ing with this, one calls it "misty shade. "
When examining the Yanke long mu lun*
19 261
we do not find any
new notion of the role of qi in ophthalmology. Again there is mention
of a connection between the liver and the eye thought to consist of a
tangible structure:
The liver is upwardly linked with the conduit of [or: leading to]
the root of the eye connection.
Since the term mu xi ben*
refers to the inner canthus and the
lacrimal caruncle, we may assume that the liver-duct was thought to
end there.
Again, it is via this pathway that pathogenic qi was
thought to reach the eye. We find passages expressing the idea that qi
and that blood and qi "dash upwards."
Another patho-
genic notion involving the liver duct is based on a blockage within
that pathway: qi "cannot swiftly run through"
and qi and blood
"are blocked. "
Or qi is considered to be blocked at the eye itself:
warmth-qi struggles and comes to a halt at the two lids.
Qi may, however, also undergo general changes within the entire
system of the body. Such disturbances may relate to quantity, leading
to "depletion" or "excess" of qi, "overabundance" of blood and qi; or
the quality may be altered, leading to "cold" qi, "warm" qi, "weak-
ness" of qi and blood. Finally, qi may, in a general way, be
"unbalanced. "
The basic concepts on the role of qi in ophthalmology that had
developed up to that period are found again in later texts.
One of the major ophthalmological texts in the second millen-
nium, the Yin haijing wei,*
however, adds a few new facets to the
9 or Yan ke long mu lun (YKLML) z }Rjfij:*'ffflt (YHJW)
issue under discussion: these may be understood as details that were
part of the further systematization of Chinese medicine in general,
and of ophthalmology in particular. According to the Yin haijing wei,
the kidney is of virtually equal importance to the eyes as the liver. To
explain this, the classical concept of the five phases (wu xing)*
The eye is an external indicator of the liver. The liver is linked to
the (phase of) wood, and the kidney is linked to the (phase of)
water. Since water can generate wood, the liver is the son and the
kidney is the mother. How could (one consider) son and mother
as being separate from each other! When, therefore, the qi of liver
and kidney are abundant, then (the eyes) are bright, and vision is
clear. If the qi of the liver and kidney are deficient, vision will be
dim and confused.
Having opened up the theory to speculation on the basis of the
five phases, the Yin hai jing wei reflects on the influence of the other
depot-organs on the eye. With emphasis on the heart, the role of
blood in ophthalmopathology is strengthened again:
The qi of the liver and kidney in man operate in mutual interde-
pendence, but who is aware of [the fact that] the heart is the seat
of the spirit, and hence acts as an assistant to the liver and kidney?
This is what is called "one divides into two" and "two unite in
one." What does that mean? The heart is in charge of the blood,
while the liver stores the blood. Since blood can generate heat, in
all cases when heat moves up and manifests itself at the eye one
must clear the heart and cool the liver.
In fact, the Yin hai jing wei, more than any other text mentioned
before, insists on a holistic view when it states that in therapy ...
. . . none of the five viscera should be neglected.
On the role of the lung, the text states:
The lung is in charge of the qi . ... All "shades" originate in the
With the inclusion of the spleen into the group of organs that
influence the eye, the triad of blood, essence, and qi found in Tang
ophthalmology has received even stronger theoretical underpinnings.
The spleen is in charge of the flavours. When an abundance of the
five flavours nourishes the center (i.e. the stomach), then essence
spirit manifests itself externally, [that is: at the eye].
Consequently, therapy must be performed under the following
... the primary concern must be to regulate the blood and cause
the qi to move properly .... all one has to do is moisten and
nourish (the kidney) ... Any application of drugs must take into
account the patient's age, and whether his qi and his body are
depleted or replete.
It is in the Yin hai jing wei that the association of the five viscera
with the five spheres*
undergoes a detailed discussion and receives
ample application with respect to nosology. Qi, together with blood
and to a lesser degree (seminal) essence are the substances whose
balance and proper movement within the body must be maintained or
re-established by general treatment; even topical application of drugs
is thought to be appropriate to reach this effect:
Locally apply current medication in order to disperse the blood
and the qi.
Also surgical manipulations have to serve the aim of regulating
these vital substances in order to restore health:
Evil qi gathers at the lids and, as a result, the upper and the lower
lid turn red ... Clamp up the eyelids and expose the black part of
the eyeball in order to disperse the blood and the qi. If stagnating
blood accumulates in the eyelids, one may prick and n!bC :he::: '
At this point one may wonder exactly what, in concrete t e r m ~ . :he
Chinese physician of that period might have had in mind .,.ben he
tried to "disperse" pathologic accumulations of qi by means of topt-
cally applied drugs, the application of clamps, or pricking .,.ith a
) In the case of blood, the idea seems to make sense without
further explanation. As for the more elusive qi, he would have to rely
on speculation rather than empirical observation. And this again
opens up the question of the relationship between blood and qi. By
the time of the Yin hai jing wei the term xueqi*
appears to have
become so stereotyped that it apparently denotes a single entity,
which one would be tempted to interpret as "the qi of the blood."
There is, however, significant evidence against this interpretation.
The relationship between both these concepts, as found in the Yin hai
jing wei, is still the classic one as defined in many premodern texts:
Qi is the leader of the blood; blood is the mother of qi.
Examining the concept of qi in ophthalmological literature before
the first contacts of Chinese medicine with Western medicine (at the
end of the Ming Dynasty) is, by itself, not sufficient to completely
unveil the enigma of qi in its entirety. It is, however, possible to
demonstrate the importance of the concept and its ubiquitous use
in theoretical as well as practical issues of ancient Chinese
l) Cf. Liu, C.L. in the present Proceedings, p. l2l.
2) The Shuo wen jie zi Olt:ScM*) interprets the character as originally meaning
"cloud," or "mist."lt must, however, be emphasized that etymology does not
have much bearing on the analysis ofthis concept as employed in later medical
3) Relevant passages are found in classic works such as the Shan haijing (UJift*!),
240 J ORGEN KovAcs
Shi jing ( ), Xun Zi ( iU .:r- ), Zhuang Zi ( Jl-=f ), Mo Zi and others.
4) lUi, Ch. 80 ( ).
5) Ch. 4 ( ).
6) iiM:, Ch. 17 (IJJR!l).
7) Ch. 17
8) Ch. lO ( ).
9) Ch. 4 ( ).
10) Ibid.
ll) ;IM:, Ch. 30
12) ;tM:, Ch. 54
13) Ch. 22 ( ).
14) See, however, below.
15) Ch. 80 ( ).
16) In addition to Juan ("Chapter") 28, which consists of 38 ophthalmological
nosographies, there are 13 more sections on eye diseases scattered throughout
chapters on pediatrics, obstetrics and diseases of the ear and the nose. Edition
quoted here: People's Hygiene Press, Beijing, 1984.
17) ZBYHL, p. 772 (Juan 28, 3).
18) ZBYHL, p. 773 (Juan 28, 6).
19) ZBYHL, p. 771 (Juan 28, 1).
20) ZBYHL, p. 1337 (Juan 48, 113).
21) Edition quoted here: People's Hygiene Press, Beijing, 1987.
22) A number of titles of translated Indian medical books are listed in the biblio-
graphical section of the dynastic history of the Sui, some of them being ascribed
to Longshu the famous Indian Buddhist monk philosopher Nagarjuna.
A poem by Bai Juyi (772-846) attests to the existence of an ophthalmological
book, Long shu /un ( llKJtifiiii ). Whether this is identical with the Y an /un
mentioned in the Ishimpo, or with the Y an ke long mu /un ( ), a text
preserved from the Song Dynasty, is unclear.
23) Juan 21 is concerned with ophthalmology. Edition quoted here: People's
Hygiene Press, Beijing, 1987.
24) WTBY, p. 563.
25) WTBY, p. 576.
26) The textus receptus of the ( or YKLML of the Song Dynasty has
the extended title of Mi chuanyan ke long muyi shu zong lun (
). It contains a lengthy section written by a Taoist named Bao Guang
( f*J't), who may have been the editor ofthe entire edition. Edition quoted here:
Xuanfeng chubanshe, Taipei, 1976.
27) YKLML, p. 39.
28) The terms El * and 13 :<f;: are already introduced by Lingshu (Ch. 80 and Ch. 21,
respectively). These passages in the Neijing suggest the interpretation given here.
29) YKLML, p. 31.
30) YKLML, p. 16.
31) YKLML, p. 43.
32) YKLML, p. 35.
33) YKLML, p. 35.
34) The technical term is :;r-;tn.
35) A date not much earlier than the 15th c. is most probable. The traditional dating
to the Tang Dynasty has proven to be obsolete. Edition quoted here: Wuzhou
chubanshe, Taipei, 1980.
36) YHJW, p. l.
37) Ibid.
38) Ibid.
39) YHJW, p. II and p. 12. "Shade" refers to opacities in the refractive media.
40) YHJW, p. II.
41) YHJW, p. II and p. 17.
42) YHJW, p. 23.
43) YHJW, p. 10.
44) It may be noted here that the Yin hai jing wei contains hardly any reference to
acupuncture treatment.
45) There are passages in which we find the two words in reverse order, and others
where they are contrasted against each other. Cf. YHJW, p. 65.
46) cr. q , v * ~ l f (Taipei 1983), 21.
accomplishments (siddhis) 57
age ........................ 232
Agnihotra . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 45
air .. .. .. .. .. II, 127, 128, 134, 136
Ajivikas . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 58
Analogy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 144
animal spirits ................. 140
apiina . . . . . . . . 34, 38, 39, 46, 50, 55
art . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 121, 126
asceticism . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 34, 49
ascetics . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 40, 58
Atharva veda . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 35
Atman .. .. .. .. . .. .. . 44, 45, 47, 49
iiyurveda . . . . . . . . . . . . . 34, 47, 60
-and Yoga .. .. .. .. .. .. .. . 58
ayurvedic . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 60
baby ........................ 180
baihui ....................... 169
Baopuzi .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 178
baoqi ........................ 106
bathing ...................... 155
"Bedside" medicine . . . . . . . . . . . . 153
Bei ji qian jin yao fang . . . . . . . . 234
bile (pitta) .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 48
bingqi ..................... 106
blockage . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 236
blood .. .. .. .. .. .. .. . 101, 103, 230
body .. .. .. .. 14, 15, 16, 22, 26, 27
Brahma ..................... 54
Brahman . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 44, 47,49
Briihma1Jas . .. .. .. . .. .. .. .. 42, 58
brain .. .. .. .. .. .. . .. .. .. . 190, 195
breath . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1, 2, 3, 7, 9, 10
101, 105
-control (prii1Jiiyiima) .. 44, 49, 54
- supporters (prii1Jabhft) . . . . . . 42
5 -s .. .. .. .. .. .. . 42, 45, 53, 54
5 principal -s . . . . . . . . . . . . 55
5 sub--s . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 56
heel- -................... 171
restraint of the - . . . . . . . . . . . 47
breathing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ll3
Buddhists .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 58
Caraka . . . . . . . . . . . . . 48, 49, 50, 51
central vessel ( ~ m n i i ) . . . . . . 57
change . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16, 19
channel .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 97, 101, 103
central - or vessel ( ~ ) . . 47
du- . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 176, 188
eight extraordinary -s .... 194
ren and du -s . . 165, 182, 194, 195
ren- ................... 188
twelve ordinary -s .......... 194
Chao Yuan Fang ............. 233
Chen Zhi Xu . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 184
Chon Xu Zi . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 191
classification of existing things . . . 89
Cleyer, Andreas . . . . . . . . . . . . 229
clinical practice . . . . . . . . . . . 149
coccyx .. .. .. .. .. .. .. . 168, 169, 180
187, 191, 195
confucius . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 122
contingency . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13
- order (rta') .. .. .. .. . .. .. .. 35
- voice (Viic) .. .. . .. .. .. .. . 35
-wind (vata, viiyzl) . . . . . . . . . 35
creation of the universe . . . . 82
cunxiang . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 191
da dan ..................... 182
da heche . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 174
Dadan Zhizhi . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 182
dan . . . . . . . . . . 170, 175, 178, 195
dantian . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 169, 175, 177
lower- ... 174, 177, 181, 182, 193
middle- . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 174
dao . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 69, 82, 91
Dao An ..................... 178
Daojiaoyuhu ............... 73
daoqi . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 71
daoyin-xingqi . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 172
daqi . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 91
dazhui ...................... 169
Devadatta . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 56
Dhananjana . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 56
digestion and absorption . . . . . . . 100
divination . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12
diyi huifeng . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 180
doku ................ 210
dragon and tiger ...... 179, 181, 195
duanqi ...................... 108
duoqi ........................ 107
duqi ....................... 106
Eliade, Mircea . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 40
emancipating enstasis (samddhl) . . 53
empirical observations . . . . . . . . . 233
emergence and demise
of all things . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 86
eqi . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 106
essence . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 230
ether ........................ 142
experiment . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 148
eye diseases . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 230
fashen . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 74
Filliozat . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 36, 38
fire sacrifice . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 45
5 phases . . . . . . . . . . 81, 95, 110, 237
- spheres . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 238
- system . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 113
-viscera .............. 100, 102
4 seasons . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 84, 93, 95
fuqi-daoyin . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 77
Galen . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 23, 25, 26
gate of life . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 179
geography . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11
geomancy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11, 18
glands ....................... 144
Gonzan, Goto . . . 200, 205,207,209
213, 216, 218
223, 224, 226
guanyuan . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 188
Guizhong Zhinan . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 184
hand gestures (mudrii) . . . . . . . . . . 54
Hathayoga . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 54
- pradipikii . . . . . . . . . . . 59
heche ................. 182
He Xiong Zhuang . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 165
heart ........................ 237
- and kidney . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 181
Heaven . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 90, 92
- and Earth . . . . . . . 84, 187, 189
He Shang Gong . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 70
Hindu orthodoxy . . . . . . . . . . . . . 60
Hinduism . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 58
Hippocratic . . . . . . . . . . 7, 8, 23, 134
Hongmingji . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 71
Hu Yao Zhen ................ 166
huandan . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 182, 195
Huangdi Neijing . . . . . . . 94, 128, 193
huanghe niliu . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 195
huangshu . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 179
Huangting Waijing ling . . . . . . . . . 172
huangya ................. 175, 182
huanjing bunao . . . . . . . . . . . 176-180
182, 195
Huimingjing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 192
humors or d o ~ a s . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 48
humoralism . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 152, 153
hun . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 103, 114
idii . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 55
-, pinga/ii and su.pJmnii . . . . . . 59
ikki-ryutai-setsu ....... 204, 207, 209
210, 212, 226
incantations (brahman) . . . . . . . . . 40
Indian Buddhist medicine . . . . . . 234
infant ....................... 179
inhalation and exhalation . . . . . . . 37
inner alchemy ............ 178, 182
internal spirit . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 77
- between Heaven and man. . . 91
- of Heaven and man . . . . 91, 94
- between man and nature . . . . 96
Ishida, Hidemi .. .. .. .. .. .. .. . . 172
Ito, Jinsai .................... 218
Ito, Koen . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 191
Jainas . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 58
Jiang Wei Qiao . . . . . . . . . . . 193, 196
jin ye ........................ 100
jindan .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. . 175, 182
J- Dayao . .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 184
jing .. .. .. .. .. .. . 74, 102, 132, 178
jing luo .. .. .. .. .. 97, 132, 133, 134
jingqi .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 101, 133, 181
Jinxian Zhenglun . . . . . . . . . . 191, 192
Jiutianshengshenzhangjing . . . . . . . 72
Jung, C.G. . .. .. .. .. . .. .. .. .. . 192
juqi . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 105
Kagawa, Shu-an . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 208
kan ..................... 178
- and li .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 184, 195
Kanli Jiaogou . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 192
kanpo ....................... 200
kidney ...................... 237
kobunji gaku ........... ~ .. .. . 225
koho ....................... 199
Krkara . -.................... 56
Kundalini . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 176
kUTJrfiJiini . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 55
kunlun ....................... 181
Karma . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 56
Lao Zi .. .. .. .. .. . 68, 82, 123, 128
li . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 178
Li Yuan Guo . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 185
LingShu ..................... 94
Liu Hua Yang . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 191
liver ........................ 232
--duct .................... 235
longevity (ayus) . . . . . . . 33, 37, 50
lotus position (padmiisana) . . . . . . 56
Lu Dong Bin . . . . . . . . . . . . . 181, 192
Lu You ..................... 180
luanqi ....................... 106
lung ........................ 237
Lushi Chunqiu . . . . . . . . . . . . 133, 206
Ma Wang Dui .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 172
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi . . . . . . . . 60
Mai jing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 229
manbyo-ichidoku-setsu . . . . . 208, 210
mantras . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 43
Maspero, Henri . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 172
Mencius . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 121, 122
mind . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 90, 102
mingmen ................. 189
miniature replica . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 183
Mount Yujing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 180
muscle . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 22-26
Niiga . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 56
Nagoya, Gen-i ........ 221-223, 226
Nanjing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 194
nature . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 75
neidan .. .. .. .. .. . 78, 170, 178, 179
neiguan . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 172
N---cunsi ................ 77
Neijing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9, 14
nervous fluid . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 140
niqi ......................... 107
niwan .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. . 167, 173
niyuan .................. 177
non-violence (ahif!ISii) . . . . . . . . . . 48
odJuui .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 37
Ogyu, Sorai .......... 218, 221, 224
ophthalmology ............... 230
origin of life .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 88
Pataiijali . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 52
pathogens .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 234
pathology .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 149
phlegm (kapha, . . . . . . . . 48
physician .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 48
physiology . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 149
pigu ......................... 78
piliga/ii . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 55
Plato . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13
pneuma . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 134
Po ..................... 103, 114
point in space (dhiirOIJO) . 53
poison ...................... 216
pores . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18, 19
postures (iisana) 53
priilJa .. .. .. .. .. . 33, 38, 39, 45-48
- apiinli .. .. .. .. .. .. 42, 55, 56
- conveying vessles . . . . . . . . . 49
Prii!Jiignihotra . . . . . . . . 54
priiiJiipiilui .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 37
prii!Jiiyiima . . . . . . . 40, 47, 52, 53
56, 57, 59
principle of universal unity . . . . . . 91
pulse ........................ 112
qi ........... 200,202-204,207
212, 214, 216
deficiency of- .. .. .. .. .. .. . 232
external- . . . . . . . . . 170, 171, 173
internal- .. .. .. .. .. .. . 171, 173
monism of- . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 91
movement of pathological - . . . 232
one- .................... 189
- of food and drink . . . . . . . . 100
- of Heaven and Earth . . . . . . 86
- of nature .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 99
- of the four seasons . . . . . . . . 87
red- ..................... 177
relationship between
- and time .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 98
shen and- ................ 189
three - . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 72, 75
true- . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 166, 171
union of shen and - . . . . . . . . 190
white- ................... 177
yang- .................... 224
yin- ..................... 224
qibao sanzhang ............ 168
qigong .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 123, 133
qihai . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 175
Qui Chu Ji . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 182
quiet sitting . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 193
respiration . . . . . . . . . . . . . 33, 36, 38
rhythmic - . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 44
IJ.g . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 35
IJ.gvedll . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 35
Rudra . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 54
Siima . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 35
samiidhi . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 57
samiina . . . . . . . . 38, 39, 46, 50, 56
Siimavedll . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 35
Sal!lhitiis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 35
Santianneijiejing . . . . . . . . . . . . . 72
sanyi . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 74
Longmen- ............. 191
Qiuchuji - . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 191
Quanzhenjiao Sect - 191
Wu-Liu - . . . . . . . . . . . . 191
Yin-Yang- . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 83
secretion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 145
seed (bija) mantras . 55
- emotions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 108
- seers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 39
-practices . . . . . . . . . . . . 177, 188
-union ................... 181
Shang Han Lun . 199, 201
shang jiao 100
shangqi ... 107
Shangqing Dongzhen Pin . 180
shaoqi ............ 108
shen (spirit) . . . . . . . 71, 88, 102, 103
132, 189
-and qi ............... 189
union of - and qi . . 190
shenqi ..................... 102
Shi ling . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Ill
shiqi . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 107
Shisanpolun . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 71
6 hollow organs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 100
soul . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4, 27
- or spirit . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 114
soul (Iitman) . 40. 41, Sl
universal- (Bralurtoft) Sl
source of life . . . . . . . . . .. .. . . IG2
speculation . . . . . . .. .. . . .. .. .. 2Jt
spiritus ..................... ._ 9
spleen ....................... 2ll
sun and moon ... 177. 111
Sun Si Miao .. .. .. .. .. .. 177. 2M
surgical npi.. I ;,- e e e 2ll
Suauta . . . . . . . . . . 1
............................... ss
s-- (BIIic
....... ...
1J11C111 o( Qlite&p...._a .. .. 231
taichi exercises 163
tai ji quan 167
taihe . . . . . . 191
taixi . . . . . . . . . . . 195
Taiyi Jinhua Zongzhi ........... 192
Taoism . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 67, 82
Taoist . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 122, 123, 125
therapeutics . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 149
Three Ones . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 74
time . . . . . . . . . . . . 93, 129, 130, 135
Wu - . . . . . . . . . . 180, 187
Zi- . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 180, 187
Tra.nscendmlal Meditation
("TM") . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 59
.................. 229
True Man . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 179
IIIOqi . . . . . . . . 107
udima . . . . . . . . . . . 38, 39, 46, 50, 55
ultimate principle . . . . 44
unification . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 77, 78
Upan4ads . . . . . . . . . . . . . 42, 44
van Gulik . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 177
. . . . . . . . . . . . . 54
vital substances . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 231
Vrdtyas . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 40
vyanti . . . . . . . . . . . 38, 39, 46, 50, 55
waidan ...................... 179
Wai tai bi yao ................ 235
Wang Tao . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 235
weilu ........................ 180
weiqi . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 101, 103
Wilhelm, R. .................. 192
will . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 25
wind . . . . . . . . . . . 5, 7-13, 18, 85, 93
103, 106, Ill, 128
8 -s . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 85
- disorders . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 51
wind (vdta, vayu') . . . . . . . . 37, 43, 48
Wu Shou Yang . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 191
xia jioo . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 101
xiao heche . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 174
xieqi . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 106, 133
xingqi . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 171, 191, 195
- diaoxi . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 172
- yupei ming ............... 171
Xuanmendayi . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 73
xueqi . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 89, 97, 101
Yajur . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 35
Yajurveda . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 35
Yan ke long mu lun . . . . . . . . . 236
concept of yin and - . . . . . . . . 87
greater - . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 94
lesser- . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 94
- within - . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 97
- within yin . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 97
yin and- . . . 82, 84, 95, 109, 178
181, 192, 195
yin within - . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 97
yin-- principle . . . . . . . . . . . . . 113
Yin-Yang School . . . . . . . . . . . . 83
yangdan . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 179
Yanqi Jue .................... 173
Yellow River . . . . . . . . . . . . . 175, 180
extreme - within - . . . . . . . . 97
greater - . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 94
lesser- . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 94
- within - . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 97
-dan ..................... 179
--yang . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 69, 129
- yang school . . . . . . 122, 123, 125
Yinyang Shuang Xiupai . . . . . . . 179
Yin hai jing wei . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 236
yingqi . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 101, 103
yinqi ....................... 106
Yinshi Zi Jingzuo Fa .... 193
Yoga ............... 34, 44, 47, 52,

Kundalini - . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 177
Tantra- . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 176, 177
- . . . . . . . . . . . 52, 54
Yogasiitras . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 52, 53
yongquan .................... 174
Yoshimasu, Todo ..... 200, 209, 218
223, 224, 226
Yu Yan ..................... 184
yuanqi . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 69, 129
Y-Lun ................... 180
Yue Ling . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 96
yunqi ................. 171
yutan ....................... 180
zhan zhuang gong . . . . . . . . . . . 164
Zhang Jing Yue ............... 222
zhengqi . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 103
zhenqi ....................... 104
zhenren . . . . . . . . . . . . 171
zhong jiao . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 101
Zhong Li Guan . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 181
zhonghuang . . . . . . . . . . . . . 115
Zhonglu Chuandao Ji . . . . . . . . . . . 181
zhongxi . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 171
zhouhoufeijinjing ...... 175, 182
191, 195
Zhouyi Santongqi . . . . . . . . . . 184
Zhu bing yuan hou jun . . . . . 233
Zhuang Zi ........ 68, 123-125, 128
zi wu liu zhu zhen . . . . . . . . . . . . . 164
Zonglu Chuandao Ji . . . . . . . . . . . 195
zongqi . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 100, 105