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Table of Contents
Year : 2020  |  Volume : 3  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 44-46

How to become a good healer in Chinese medicine?

Guest Professor, Chengdu University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Chengdu, China; Director, Ausbildungszentrum Nord für Klassische Akupunktur und TCM, Germany

Date of Submission21-Jan-2020
Date of Acceptance21-Jan-2020
Date of Web Publication27-Mar-2020

Correspondence Address:
Prof. Udo Lorenzen
Chengdu University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Chengdu

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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/CMAC.CMAC_4_20

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Today, traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) is a relatively new product of the People's Republic of China. About 1950 Chairman Mao aimed atthe standardization and simplification of many traditional medical schools to guarantee a stable health care for the population. As academic exchange between east and west increased during the last 60 years, TCM appears today more and more as the “real” and “old” Chinese medicine. But is that really the case? There is a famous saying in China: Medicine is also idea (医者意也 Zhe Yi Ye), so what are the ideas about a good healer? In my article I try to find it out. Searching through the old classical books, there are some good ideas about a good healer, especially in the Ling Shu (《灵枢》 Spiritual Pivot). The root of all is the spirit (神 Shen). There are many other requirements to be a good healer, but without a stable Shen, no treatment can really touches the cause of the disease!

Keywords: Acupuncture and moxibustion, Chinese medicine, healer

How to cite this article:
Lorenzen U. How to become a good healer in Chinese medicine?. Chin Med Cult 2020;3:44-6

How to cite this URL:
Lorenzen U. How to become a good healer in Chinese medicine?. Chin Med Cult [serial online] 2020 [cited 2022 Jun 29];3:44-6. Available from: https://www.cmaconweb.org/text.asp?2020/3/1/44/281478

I work with Chinese Medicine (CM) for more than 40 years, especially using acupuncture and moxibustion. Treating several thousand patients up to now, I feel a little afraid today considering the development of TCM = Traditional CM in China and abroad. How traditional is CM today? Do the practitioners of TCM really use all the goods this old medicine can offer? I notice that TCM tries urgently to be accepted by Western medicine. There is a desire for clinical work, which can be measured with Western standards. However all researches, how TCM works and what kind of Western diseases can be treated with TCM, cannot deny the fact, that CM is no longer considered as a science in its own right and with its own paradigm. Do we really need that proximity to Western medicine? Of course, researches with clinical cases can show the effects of TCM, but treating cases instead of patients shows also the failures of TCM to come as closest to the patient's needs as possible.

So what is TCM? As Paul Unschuld (文树德), a well-known professor of medical history from Germany, tells us:

Today, the TCM, which shows a background of more than 2000 years of old remedial tradition is called TCM. However, one cannot often emphasize that today the TCM is a relatively new product of the People's Republic of China. About 1950, Chairman Mao aimed at the standardization and simplification of many traditional medical schools to guarantee stable healthcare for the population. The top management of China met a selective choice concerning the classical texts as well as the leading experts and practitioners of the old medicine. All theories, schools, and family traditions, which deviated from this standardized model of TCM were not grasped and wiped out. Such a medicine because analytically inclined, could be better commercialized and came closer to the analytic mindsof Western scholars and practitioners.[1]

The first instance for the use of the term TCM was the September 1955 issue of the Chinese Medical Journal in an article written by Fu Lianzhang, President of the Chinese Medical Association and Deputy Minister of Health in that time. He titled: “Why our Western-trained doctors should learn TCM,” where he suggested the side by side working of both medical arts.[2]

As academic exchange between east and west increased during the past 50 years, TCM appears today more and more as the “real” and “old” CM. But is that really the case? I have been travelling to China for nearly 25 years for academic exchange and for studying CM, especially at the Chengdu University of TCM and the Beijing University of TCM, two of the first and oldest academies for studying TCM in China.

As my first teachers and me getting older, we have to face the new and younger teachers and doctors to talk and to work with.

My impression is that very often, they are better educated in Western medicine than in CM. The contents of their study have changed and lack the profoundness of understanding Chinese medical classics and theories. In their work, they give priority to a small couple of acupuncture points for treatment, and they use the same points for nearly every disease. None of them takes care of thorough pulse diagnosis and a detailed inquiry. They are not using Zhen Jiu alone but prescribe for every patient an herbal formula, too. Even more, they try to treat as many patients as possible to earn as much money as possible but often failed to recognize the true needs of their patients. However let me be fair – this is also the situation in many TCM-Clinics in Germany.

So how to chcange that? I suppose that any doctor in any medicine style wants to treat his patients as best as she can. Even more, most of them decide to become medical practitioners because of their serious wish to help and support sick people. If using CM in therapy - How can one become a good Healer in that Medicine?

What is a good healer? There is an old tradition that a good healer is called Shen Yi (神医 a highly skilled doctor or a miracle-working doctor). This superior doctor can heal 10 out of 10 patients, as the Zhou Li already told us 2500 years ago. In Ling Shu Chapter Xieqi Zangfu Bing Xing we find the statement: “An excellent practitioner cures nine cases out of ten,” and he can do so because he can diagnose the patient with three traditional methods at least: inquiry, observing, and pulse-taking.

What's more to become a good healer?

Of course, you have to go to the roots of the disease. Su Wen told us in Chapter Biao Ben Bingchuan Lunpian: “If one knows the state of Biao (标) and the condition of Ben (本), he is able to avoid making any errors in treating patients. If one is unaware of that, he will inevitably make mistakes.”

To find out what is Ben, you need enough time for asking, looking, and feeling. Apart from this, my experience is that we find today Ben is much more in emotional and spiritual disorders than in ancient times. Therefore, it is more important than ever: If one goes to the roots of disorders, one has to go to the roots of the spirit (Shen, 神). There is one Chapter in Ling Shu called Ben Shen (本神), which focusses on that: If one goes to the roots of be based on the Shen!” If we look at the Shen of the patient, we know the beginning and prognosis of his disease!

Shen is stored in the heart, so it is the heart who governs over all the emotional and spiritual resources. The heart is the foundation of all the five spirits in the body. The Wu Shen (五神) are the roots of the five emotions (五志 Wu Zhi). The Shen itself must rest sometimes and needs a pure empty heart. This is the precondition for becoming a good healer and of course, for the health of the patient and the practitioner. To cultivate this empty heart means to nourish the Shen (养神 Yang Shen). Moreover, this is important for patients and practitioners, too.

Let's go through the other Shen: Hun (魂) is the Shen of the liver and belongs to Yang. It dwells in the blood and needs a good quality and quantity of blood to feel at home. Hun comes and goes with the Shen and grasps the world through the eyes. During the daytime, Hun represents the character and identity of men, especially how to live a satisfying life and to fulfill his plans. As the liver is the organ for strategy and planning, it is the Hun, which can direct the human being into a good future. During the night, the blood retreats into the liver and so does the Hun. This is the time for dreaming and going beyond time and space. In our dreams, we can reach impossible aims or master unfilled wishes. The deficiency of liver-qi causes fear, while the excess of liver-qi causes anger. In TCM, we have the liver-qi-stagnation and the liver-fire flaming upward, which touches this idea a little.

Po (魄) is the Shen of the lung and belongs to Yin. It dwells in the Qi and needs a strong Qi to feel at home. Po goes in and out with the Essence (精 Jing) and contacts the world through the skin and the nose. Feeling and smelling is Po's action. Because the lung is our chancellor, who regulates the rhythm of life, we can assume that regular life is good for our health. However, Po is difficult to control. Some Daoist texts even talk about seven Po. The seven Po are symbolic of the seven passions (七情 Qi Qing). In the Dao Zang treatise Tai Shang Chu San Shi Jiu Chong Bao Sheng Jing we read: “The seven Po are the power of accumulated Yin. Their form is like a ghost (鬼 Gui).

They cause many desires in men and damage his Qi through excessive strains or labors. The Po loves the dirty and filthy and acting against life. On the contrary, they turn toward death and flatter, deceive, and cheat. They are longing for love and voluptuousness, day and night, they indulge passions and obsessions. In that way, men will die before his proper age.”

However, the Po is not as bad as described here. In the human being, it rules over sensitiveness and pain and manages all instinctive matters. If someone smells good or bad is important to establish relationships. During the first 20 s we can smell, whether a woman or a man is suitable for us! A stable Po houses in a stable lung-qi! A desiring of the Po develops on a lung-qi-deficiency. Excessive joy and happiness will damage the Po. Damage of the Po will cause mania (狂 Kuang) and a confused mind. One takes no notice of people around. As the Po walks with the Jing, too much activity of the Po consumes the Essence.

Yi (意) is the Shen of the spleen and belongs to the center. It dwells in the Ying (营) and needs good nourishment to fulfill its tasks. It contacts the world through the mouth and any stuff, which enters it. Zhang Jie Bin comments in his Lei Jing: “To remember, reflect, or call back into memory is called the birth of thoughts. If the heart is directed on something but in definitive, one speaks of Yi.

The meaning of Yi (意) is manifold. It could be an idea, opinion, intention, sentiment, thought, meaning, purpose, wish et al. In CM Yi is often described as the way, how the mind is concentrated on something or how we can learn and keep in mind.

The radical of the heart (心) combines with sound (音) makes Yi (意) – The intention of man reveals through the word he speaks. The voice of the heart should touch the listeners. Every word which touches the heart is true words! The Yi is important for learning, memorizing, and assimilating the mind-stuff. Whenever your learning is easy, you have a strong Yi and a good teacher. In Qigong, you need a stable Yi to guide the Qi to the right place. In acupuncture, you must have a clear intention (Yi) what points should be needled. And last but not least – to solve problems, your thoughts should be straight and calm. If you eat enough nutritious food, you also will nourish your Yi! Excessive anxiety and worry will damage the Yi and causes chest distress and mental depression. If the spleen-qi is deficient, all the five Zang organs will be unstable (不安 Bu An) and the four limbs become weak.

Finally, let's jump to the Shen of the kidney, which is Zhi (志 willpower). It dwells in the Jing and is the manifestation of the inborn facilities (先天之精 Xian Tian Zhi Jing).

Zhi as the spiritual power of the kidney, acts on the Jing and shows the skills and abilities of the human being. In doing so, it should be easy and without any effort. This is the Dao of enfolding the creation of power. Too many efforts will weaken the essence and shorten life.

To become an excellent football player, acupuncturist or violinist depends also on the congenital power of the kidney. To do everything in perfect know-how with skill, perfection and ease – that is the reflexion of a strong Zhi in human being! To be potent is the result of Zhi! That means not only to be sexually powerful but belongs to all skillful doing with his hands and feet. As long as the kidney has enough Jing, the willpower is strong and can enforce to reach one's aims. To be too ambitious and going beyond the limits will exhaust the essence and makes the kidney weak!

In Ling Shu Chapter Ben Shen we read: “That on which the Yi retains is called Zhi. And Master Zhang Jie Bin explains: 'The dwell of thoughts is called Yi, but to detain on it by all means and direct it toward action is called Zhi'. Excessive rage without relief will damage the Zhi, and therefore, the patient cannot understand the external world. This will cause forgetfulness and pain in the low back. Finally, the bodily form will be withered.”

And: “The kidney stores essence and houses the will Zhi. Deficiency of Kidney-Qi will cause the Jue (厥) disease with loss of consciousness and ice-cold hands and feet.

Coming back to my question: How to become a good healer in CM – The Ling Shu chapter 8 give us an understanding for treating mild and severe emotional and spiritual disorders. “Thus an acupuncturist must carefully examine the condition of the patient. Before treating the patient, he has to observe the state of the Jing, the Shen, the Hun, the Po, the Yi and the Zhi. If the spiritual resources in the five Zang are damaged, one should not treat with acupuncture.”

  Summary Top

To answer my question how to become a good healer in CM, I followed the ideas from the Nei Jing Ling Shu. There are other chapters about real mental diseases Dian Kuang (癫狂 chapter 22), but the treatment of acute insanity should not be undertaken in an outdoor clinic.

There are many other requirements to be a good healer, which I could explain in another article. I hope that my explanations will knock at those minds, who are not satisfying with the TCM standards in treating patients.

Udo Lorenzen, Guest professor of Chengdu University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Medical Historian M.A., Diploma in Educational Science, Natural Health Professional (Clinic of Yang Sheng). He wrote several books about traditional Chinese medicine, Basic Terms of Traditional Chinese Medicine (1998, p. 208), The Inner Landscape –Advanced concepts in Chinese Medicine (2006, p. 660), Part One, and The Inner Landscape – Advanced concepts in Chinese Medicine (2007, p. 346), Part Two. All books are in German language published at Publishing House Müller & Steinicke, München.

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Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

  References Top

Paul U. Unschuld: Medicine in China - A History of Ideas, US: University of California Press; 1985. p. 229.  Back to cited text no. 1
Taylor K. CM in Early Communist China, 1945-1963, London: Routledge; 2005. p. 84.  Back to cited text no. 2


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