Yin and Yang

The basic principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) are rooted in the Taoist philosophy of yin and yang. These two polar opposites organize and explain the ongoing process of natural change and transformation in the universe. According to ancient lore, yang marks the sunny side and yin the shady side of a hill. In the theory of yin and yang, all things and phenomena of the cosmos contain these two complementary aspects. The traditional Taoist symbol for completeness and harmony is the merging monad of yin and yang.

Fig. 1.1 Monad

The standard of TCM, the Huang Di Nei Jing, "The Yellow Emperor's Classic of Medicine," dates as far back as 500-300 BC. This 18-volume classic work has two parts, Ling Shu and Su We. The Su Wen explains the theoretical foundations of TCM in the form of a dialogue between the legendary Yellow Emperor Huan Di and his personal physician Shi Po.

The Ling Shu, the practical part of the Nei Jing, reports on therapies and their uses in TCM: acupuncture, moxibustion, nutritional therapy, and the use of medicinal herbs. TCM is rooted in the Taoist worldview employed by physicians and philosophers for centuries as a guide for viewing and interpreting natural phenomena.

Tao means harmony-destination-way, the "all-in-one," the origin of the world. The teachings of Taoism are based on the work Tao te King (Tao te Ching), "The Book of the Way and of Virtue," by the famous Chinese scholar Lao Tse (600 BC). Guided by the Taoist perspective, "natural scientists" took the findings of these observations of nature and applied them to humans. They regarded the human being as a natural being, a part of nature, subject to and dependent on nature's processes.

The main principle of Tao is represented by the two polarities yin and yang, which, according to Taoist belief, mirror all phenomena in the universe.

In Nature In People

Yin

Yang

Moon

Sun

Shadow/night

Light/day

Dark

Light

Passive

Active

Water

Fire

Down

Up

Structure

Function

Right

Left

Cold

Hot

Plant-based foods

Animal-based foods

Heaven

Earth

Autumn, winter

Spring, summer

Relative stasis

Evident motion

Heavy

Light

Yin

Yang

Woman

Man

Right

Left

Receptive

Creative

Stomach, front

Back, rear

From waist down

From waist up

Body interior

Body surface

Viscera (storage organs) zang (heart)

Bowels (hollow organs) fu (stomach)

Organ structure

Organ function

Blood, body fluids

Qi, life energy

Bones/organs/ sinews

Skin/muscles/ body hair

Viscera

Bowels

Gu qi (drum qi)

Defense qi (wei qi)

Controlling vessel (ren mai)

Governing vessel (du mai)

In Diagnostics In Diagnostics and Therapy

Yin

Yang

Quiet voice

Loud voice

Talks little

Talks a lot

Pale face

Red face

Shivering, sensation of cold

Warm, sensation of heat

Likes warmth

Likes cold

Slow, reticent movements

Fast, strong movements

Passive, insidious onset of illness

Active, acute onset of illness

Chronic illness

Dark, concentrated

Tongue: pale, white fur

Tongue: Red, yellow fur

Rapid, replete

Yin

Yang

Vacuity, interior, cold symptoms

Repletion, exterior, heat symptoms

Inadequate circulation

Blood repletion

Hypofunction (underfunction)

Hyperfunction (overfunction)

Flaccid muscles

Tense muscles

Depression disorders

States of agitation

Low blood pressure (hypotension)

High blood pressure (hypertension)

Dull pain

Sharp pain

Cool

Warm

Beta-blockers

Caffeine

Cool packs

Slow, deep, rough, vacuous, fine

Pulse:

Rapid, floating, slippery, replete, large, surging

In Chinese Nutrition

Yin

Yang

Tropical fruit

Meat

Dairy products

Acrid spices

Seaweed

Shrimp

Orange juice

Coffee

Peppermint tea

Fennel tea

Wheat

Oats

Soy sauce

Tabasco

Wheat beer

Anise schnapps

Steamed foods

Grilled foods

The Symbol for Qi

The Chinese symbol for qi is formed by two elements. One element means "air," "breath," "steam"; the other element means "rice," "grains." This character illustrates how something can be both immaterial and material, in accordance with the Taoist principle of yin and yang. The energy field between the poles of yin and yang gives rise to the universal primal force qi. According to ancient Chinese belief, vital—or life force—qi

(sheng qi) is the primary source of all living processes in the cosmos.

The concept and meaning of qi is only partially translatable into Western languages. Hindus and Yogis use the term "prana" to reflect similar ideas about all-permeating life energy. The ancient Greek term "pneuma" describes a similar concept. Coursing vital qi, as an energetic unit, is an essential element in the various treatment modalities of TCM, such as acupuncture, moxibustion, dietetics, medicinal herb therapy, and qi gong. Imbalances of qi can take the form of vacuity or repletion. The term "vacuity" comes from the Chinese "xu" (vacuous, empty, lacking, weak). Its opposite is "repletion, " which comes from the Chinese "shi." Vacuity and repletion can be present in varying degrees, from slight to complete (see "Glossary," p. 251, for more details). Acupuncturists will use needles to modulate strength and speed of qi flowing in the channels and to disperse stagnation. Qi vacuity can be balanced with foods rich in qi, or by strengthening a weakened body with Chinese medicinal herbs.

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