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Year : 2018  |  Volume : 1  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 1-4

Series of Interpretation on Yellow Emperor’s Inner Classic: Two Correspondence between Human and the Heaven: Views from Huang Di Nei Jing (《黄帝内经》 Yellow Emperor’s Inner Classic)

School of Basic Medical Sciences, Shanghai University Traditional Chinese Medicine, Shanghai, China

Date of Web Publication3-Jul-2018

Correspondence Address:
prof. Qingqi Wang
Shanghai University Traditional Chinese Medicine, Shanghai
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/CMAC.CMAC_5_18

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This paper introduces the relations between human and the nature in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). TCM is a science dedicated to studies on laws of human life activities.

Keywords: Huang Di Nei Jing (《黄帝内经》Yellow Emperor’s Inner Classic), Ling Shu(《灵枢》Spirited Pivot), human and the Heaven

How to cite this article:
Wang Q. Series of Interpretation on Yellow Emperor’s Inner Classic: Two Correspondence between Human and the Heaven: Views from Huang Di Nei Jing (《黄帝内经》 Yellow Emperor’s Inner Classic) . Chin Med Cult 2018;1:1-4

How to cite this URL:
Wang Q. Series of Interpretation on Yellow Emperor’s Inner Classic: Two Correspondence between Human and the Heaven: Views from Huang Di Nei Jing (《黄帝内经》 Yellow Emperor’s Inner Classic) . Chin Med Cult [serial online] 2018 [cited 2022 May 23];1:1-4. Available from: https://www.cmaconweb.org/text.asp?2018/1/1/1/235850

  Introduction Top

It is always fundamental to explore the relations between human and the nature in Chinese traditional culture. From the origin of human civilization to modern times, man has never ceased contemplating and seeking answers to questions such as how the universe was formed, what brings about lives into being, and what the relations are between human and the heaven. The study of human-heaven thus became a basic way of thinking to Chinese as well as the core research of philosophy in ancient China. Even the Chinese traditional culture can be integrated into its domain, easily found in remarks of Sima Qian (145 B. C.—not clear) in the Han dynasty (202 B. C.-263) as “examine the secrets of human and the Heaven, know the changes in the past and at present, and form one's own opinion” and in Shao Yong (, 1011-1077)'s work of Huang Ji Jing Shi ( Magnificent Laws of Universal Affairs) recorded as “those who did n't quest the relations of human and the Heaven are not competent scholars.”

Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) is a science dedicated to studies on laws of human life activities, yet “the nature of human is a summary of relations between humans and Human-Heaven.”[1] The heaven is where human is originated, while human is what the heaven embodies (species evolved from the nature). According to Jiu Tang Shu Sun Simiao Zhuan ( Biography of Sun Simiao in The Old History ofTang), “those who are expert at explaining the Heaven will embody it in human; expert at explaining human will originate it from the Heaven.” Inheriting the genes of Chinese traditional culture, TCM can be deemed as a subject with core theory in integration of human with the heaven, by exploring the secrets and relations of both, and with focus on human life activities.

The academic thoughts of Nei Jing ( Inner Classic) were influenced deeply by the philosophers in pre-Qin dynasties (350–394) and in direct line of succession with the Taoist schools in the Han dynasty. Although the term of integration of human with the heaven was never recorded in the book, relevant viewpoints run through the whole TCM academic system, enrich, and develop the corresponding philosophy of materialism with contemporary medical achievements.

  Understandings of the Heaven and Human in Inner Classic Top

The heaven in the Inner Classic refers to the objective dynamic material world independent and unshakable of human minds, as recorded in Ling Shu·Jing Shui ( MeridianWater of Spirited Pivot), “the highness of the Heaven is unmeasurable, so is the broadness of the Earth.” The heaven usually can be interpreted as the nature, universe, weather, or celestial bodies. Sometimes, it also indicates natural states such as heavenly year, days, longevity, and Tian Gui () [Figure 1].
Figure 1: Human and the Heaven

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The human in the Inner Classic is the product of interaction of yin and yang qi from the Nature. Su Wen·Bao Ming QuanXing Lun ( On Precious Life andIntegratePhysique from Simple Questions) quoted, “human is born on the Earth, and depends on the Heaven; the combined qi of the Heaven and Earth makes a human into being.” Human is also an integration of physique with spirit, as explained in Ling Shu·Tian Nian ( The Heavenly Year fromSpirited Pivot), “what is spirit? Qi Bo () answered, 'after blood is harmonized with qi, nourishment () connected with defense (), and the five Zang-organs formed, spirit will reside in heart; when the soul is complete, a human is created.” Su Wen·Shang Gu Tian Zhen Lun ( OnAntique and Heavenly Purity from Simple Questions) also recorded, “integration of physique with spirit makes one live to his natural age.” Lei Jing ( Classified Classic) elaborated and enriched Inner Classic with its view of physique and spirit, “physique is body of spirit, and spirit embodies the functions of physique; physique would not survive without spirit, while spirit does not exist without physique.” Human life is the root of the heaven and earth. Records in Bao MingQuan Xing Lun (On Precious Life and Integrate Physique), “among all creatures of the Heaven and Earth, nothing is as precious as human,” and “human is the foundation of the Heaven and Earth” from Ling Shu·Yu Ban ( Jade Board of Spirited Pivot), are incarnation of human-centered thought.

  Meaning of Correspondence Between Human and the Heaven in Inner Classic Top

  1. Human and the nature share the same root. The inner classic holds, based on the pre-Qin theory of qi monism, qi composes the world, and the creation, development, and death of everything in nature is the result of changes and interactions between yin and yang qi. Human life is the product of the nature, as noted in Bao Ming Quan Xing Lun (On Precious Life and Integrate Physique), “when qi of the Heaven integrates with that of the Earth, six ranges are differentiated and all things created.” Human, as one of the creatures, originates from qi as well, “the combined qi of the heaven and earth makes a human into being”
  2. Human depends on and is thus restricted by the nature. Su Wen·Liu Jie Zang Xiang Lun ( On Six Ranges and Visceral Manifestations from Simple Questions) noted, “the Heaven feeds human five qi, and the Earth feeds five flavors; five qi enter the body through the nose and are stored in heart and lungs, making natural distinct colors and clear sound and voice; and the five flavors enters through the mouth and are stored in intestine and stomach, nourishing qi of five Zang-organs; when harmony of qi is achieved, liquid and fluid is produced, and spirit is also generated.” All changes in the nature will definitely bring forth corresponding changes in human body, as told in SuWen·Li He Zhen Xie Lun ( On Separation and Convergence), “if qi of the Heaven and Earth is harmonious, the meridian water is quiet; coldness will cause stagnation of meridian water; summer heat will make the water boil; and fulminant wind will make it roar”
  3. Human abides by the same law of the nature, as elaborated in Zhi Zhen Yao Da Lun ( On Supreme Simplicity and Great Theory), “the great laws of the Heaven and Earth shall apply to human and gods,” in Ling Shu·Ying Wei Sheng Hui ( Generation and Convergence of Nourishment andDefense from Spirited Pivot), human “apply to the same laws with the Heaven and Earth,” or in Si Qi Tiao Shen Da Lun ( On Spirit Cultivationin Four Seasons), “correspondence of human with four seasons must depend on the regulations of the Heaven and Earth” [Figure 2]
  4. The harmony between human and the nature is symbol of health. There is a wonderful description about the concept of health in Ling Shu·Ben Zang (Root Zang of Spirited Pivot), “harmony of blood makes smooth flow in meridians nourishment of yin and yang, strong tendons and bones, and natural joint movements; harmony of defense qi makes distinct muscle boundaries, tender skin, and dense interstices; harmony of mind and intention makes concentrated spirit, undissipated soul, no irritability to extreme emotions, and no evil invading of five Zang-organs; and the harmony of coldness and heat makes six Fu-organs transform grains, no attack of wind-Bi, unimpeded meridians and comfortable limbs and joints. Presence of all these is normal to a healthy man.” According to the text, harmonies of defense qi and blood represent smooth movement of qi and blood, harmony of mind shows normal psychological activities, and harmony of coldness and heat indicates adaption to outside environment. Therefore, we can further conclude that a healthy person must meet with three conditions of harmony between the heaven and human, physique and spirit, and qi and blood, reflecting the concept of integration of human with the heaven.
Figure 2: Nature

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  Medical Applications of Correspondence Between Human and the Heaven Top

  1. Explanation of physiological phenomena. SuWen·Sheng Qi Tong Tian Lun ( On Correspondenceof Vigorous Qi with the Heaven from Simple Questions), “human qi rises in the early morning, primes at noon, and becomes weak at sunset when the door of qi is shut;” Su Wen·Ba Zheng Shen Ming Lun ( On Eight Great Seasonal Regulations of Simple Questions), “when the moon is new, qi and blood begin to grow and defense qi moves; when the moon is prime, qi and blood is in excess and the muscles are firm”
  2. Analysis of pathological changes. Su Wen·Yin Yang Ying Xiang Da Lun (On Correspondence of Yin and Yang with Manifestations), “coldness damage in winter will incur warm disease in spring; wind damage in spring will incur diarrhea in summer; summer-heat damage in summer will incur malaria in autumn; dampness damage in autumn will incur cough in winter;” Ling Shu·Shun Qi Yi RiFen Wei Si Shi ( Qi Succession andFour Stages in One Day from Spirited Pivot), “why will various diseases lessen in the morning, ease at daytime, attack at sunset and aggravate at night?… human qi rises in the morning thus defeats the disease; human qi grows at daytime and prevails the evil; human qi begins to decline and evil qi tends to grow at sunset; and human qi resides in Zang organs and evil qi spreads over the body at midnight, thus making such regular changes”
  3. Guidance on the diagnosis of diseases. Mai Yao JingWei Lun ( On Essentials of Pulse fromSimple Questions), “(the pulse should be) floating in spring, surging in summer, neutral in autumn, and deep in winter;” “if the pulse complies with yin and yang, the disease is easily treated, it will be the opposite if the pulse contradicts with yin and yang”
  4. Guidance on clinical treatment. Si Qi Tiao Shen Da Lun ( On Spirit Cultivation in FourSeasons), “when the sage treats a disease, he must know yin-yang of the Heaven and Earth and the laws of four seasons,” and “if treatment doesn't conform with the laws of the Heaven and Earth, disaster will occur;” Zhi Zhen Yao Da Lun ( On SupremeSimplicity and Great Theory), “warming therapy doesn't suit heat-related disease, and cooling method not for coldness-induced disease;” Su Wen·Liu Yuan Zheng Ji Da Lun ( On Political Record of Origins of Six Qi from Simple Questions), “avoidance of cold (cool, hot or warm) agent in case of coldness (coolness, hotness or warmth), and eating contraindications shall follow this”
  5. Guidance on health cultivation and disease prevention. Si Qi Tiao Shen Da Lun ( On Spirit Cultivation in Four Seasons), “the sage cultivates yang in spring and summer, and yin in autumn and winter, to follow the root of seasons;… yin-yang and four seasons are generation and termination of everything, root of health and life; violation of them will incur disease, while obedience with them keeps one healthy;” “three months of spring symbolize generation when the Heaven and Earth generate everything, and one should sleep at night and get up early… this corresponds to the spring qi, and law of cultivation of generation; three months of summer represent flourishing when qi of the Heaven and Earth converge and make everything conceive, and one should sleep at night and get up early… this corresponds to the summer qi, and law of cultivation of growth; three months of autumn reflect ripeness when the Heavenly qi is harsh and Earthly qi distinct, and one should sleep and get up early… this corresponds to the autumn qi, and law of cultivation of harvest; three months of winter embody storage when water and the Earth become frozen with yang qi not being disturbed, and one should sleep early and get up late to the sunlight… this corresponds to the winter qi, and law of cultivation of storing.”

The author believes that the viewpoint of correspondence between human and the heaven and earth in the Inner Classic is application of improvement of the ancient heaven-human concept. By observing the laws of life activities under the broader context of integration of the heaven, earth, and human, the Inner Classic has laid the foundation for unique TCM model and methodology, involving abundant scientific contents of many subjects. This complies with the principles of systemic theory and embodies the essence of TCM academic thoughts, by interpreting human body as a macro-system centering on five Zang organs with integration of physique with spirit, and correspondence of human with the heaven. The remarks of the prestigious philosopher Ren Jiyu (1916–2009) were thought provoking, some valuable thoughts in the Inner Classic were in close connection with the development of material philosophy at that time. Science has enriched and consolidated the philosophy of materialism, and the latter often promote the development of the former as well.

The concept of correspondence of human with the heaven and earth in the Inner Classic is substantially different from human-heaven integration of mysticism and heaven-human interaction by Dong Zhongshu (179 B. C.–104 B. C.) in the Han dynasty. Most importantly, the Heaven in the Inner Classic has got rid of the religious bound and been confined to the objective world itself. However, after careful examination, we can still find the trace of heaven-human interaction in its records. For instance, “there are 360 joints in human body which symbols days; the twelve major joints correspond to months;…” from Chun Qiu Fan Lu ( Benefitsfrom the Spring and Autumn); or similar documentation in Ling Shu·Xie Ke ( Evil Invasion of Spirited Pivot), “since the Heaven is round and the Earth square, the body has head and feet to correspond; the sun and moon in the Heaven embody two eyes of human body; the nine Zhou () in the Earth determines nine orifices in human body…; these all show the interaction of human with the Heaven and Earth.” Certainly, this doesn't represent the mainstream thought in the Inner Classic. The famous scholar of Liu Changlin (), who is an expert on TCM philosophy, holds two views upon Inner Classic's Heaven-human correspondence after rigorous analysis. On the one hand, it employs the methodology of naive dialectics to summarize the general property of material phenomena, make intentional comparative observation of things, and emphasize the mutual connection and common laws of different systems. On the other hand, it only lies in the stage of perceptual recognition of natural world, lack of deep understanding of the details to make up the general picture, which makes it impossible for people at that time to strictly grasp the common connection between different phenomena and to comprehend scientifically the intercommunity and integrity of variety of things. This thus allows some guessing theories inevitably. It is indeed a quite objective and fair evaluation.

Translator: Yingshuai Duan()

  References Top

Zhong M. Huamn and Harmony – Rediscovery of Chinese Philosophies. Xi'an: Shaanxi People's Publishing House; 2007. p. 148-50.  Back to cited text no. 1


  [Figure 1], [Figure 2]


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