TCM Series Intro Notes: Chinese Methodology

(c) 2012, Chraeloos Resident
Welcome everyone to the Traditional Oriental Medicine series. Thank you for coming! Please tip if you feel so inclined. All tips are split between the venue and myself in order to keep these events going and to enable the growth of the sim. The tip jar is one of the candles on the table. If you’d like a copy of today’s notes you can find them in another candle on the table.

Thank you for visiting Peaceful Dragon Oriental Medicine Centre! The centre is currently under construction, but is intended to be an Oriental medicine learning centre. If you have a suggestion for an activity or an event here, please contact either Xandria Winterwolf or myself.

I just want to remind everyone that none of the information presented here is advice and therefore should not be put into practice without first consulting a professional.

Today we will focus on CM Methodology.

The main sources used today are:, “The Way of Qigong” by Kenneth S. Cohen, “Traditional Chinese Medicine” by Daniel Reid, “Natural Healing Wisdom and Know-how” compiled by Amy Rost,,, “Essentials of Chinese Medicine, Vol. 1” edited by Zhanwen Liu and Liang Liu, “Secrets of Dragon Gate” by Dr. Steven Liu and Jonathan Blank.


Today we are going to begin with something a little different. We’re going to start with a short exercise. I’d like you all to take a few minutes and do this with me.

You can do this standing or sitting, whatever is more comfortable for you. Straighten your spine – pretend as though there is a string someone has attached to it with a rod and is pulling up from the top of your spine. Make it tall and straight. Next, relax your joints. Let your shoulders relax, your elbows, wrists, hips, knees, ankles, everything; just let it all relax. Now, breathe deeply, bring the breath all the way through your body. Fill your meridians with the air, all the way to your toes and finger tips. Stay like this for a few minutes, breathing deeply and steadily, and try to clear your mind. Listen to the music stream if you want something to focus on. Just sit or stand and breathe, joints relaxed, and spine straight.

Pause for three minutes.

Now we will start.


“Disease is the process in which an evil Qi causes an illness and the genuine Qi of the body fights off the disease-causing agent. In this process, the unity within the body and the unity of the body and its environment mean that there are continuous interactions. It is only when the body’s genuine Qi is too weak to resist the evil Qi or the intensity of the evil Qi exceeds the genuine Qi’s ability to resist that illness occurs. This struggle of genuine Qi and evil Qi persists from the moment of attack through treatment. It continues until the body’s genuine Qi has gained sufficient strength to overpower the evil Qi.”

The struggle of the genuine Qi and the evil Qi directly affect the course of the illness, as well as the treatment.

“Huangdi’s Internal Classic” tells us that in order to be an excellent physician, one must have a very wide knowledge base including, but not limited to, “astronomy for phenomena above us, geography for phenomena beneath us, and the social sciences for events among us.” This is because they recognized the influence the entire world and our social, economic, and physical environment have on our health.


Chinese medicine uses a few approaches to treat patients. Firstly, they use the holistic systemic method, which utilizes the Five Elements theory to divide the “vital activities of the human body into five functional systems and which then links all the phenomena of the universe into these systems. Thus, the human body is not merely an isolated whole, but is part of a much larger ecosystem.” This method also utilizes yin-yang theory, separating everything into opposites.

The second approach is a classification by analogy, where things that are similar in properties or appearance are assigned to the same classification category. This helps the doctor to figure out a diagnosis. For example, the flow of the blood in the veins can be compared to the flow of water in a river. When water is chilled it freezes, and when heated it boils. Blood should therefore have similar characteristics. This provides a clear explanation for the symptoms of illnesses of Cold and of Heat. This method has its limit, as it works on probability, not fact. All the actions taken here are corroborated by experience. It is also within this method that herbs are classified according to their properties.

The third approach is to infer the interior from the exterior, or, to observe the outward appearances in order to infer the changes inside the body. Chinese medicine believes that the five zang organs (heart, liver, lung, spleen and kidney) and the six fu organs (stomach, small intestine, large intestine, gall bladder, urinary bladder and san jiao) are closely linked to the organs and tissues on the bodies surface (five sense organs, four limbs and the head, and the nine orifices). The internal and external are linked mainly by means of the meridians and the activities of Qi and blood. The signs a practitioner will look for are the five facial colours, the changes in the tongue, the profiles of the pulse, the appearance of the ear, among many more. Every sign they see will help narrow down the diagnosis and treatment. A fuzzy, yellow tongue with a flushed complexion means something different than a fuzzy, yellow tongue with a red complexion.


Illnesses will have certain symptoms depending on the stage of its course. For instance, peptic ulcer disease may be diagnosed with a) deficiency-Cold of the spleen and the stomach, b) excessive liver-Qi attacking the stomach, c) accumulation of Dampnesss-Heat in the stomach, or something else. Throughout these different stages different treatments need to be applied. Because of these stages, many illnesses may be treated the same way; for instance, chronic lumbago, edema, diarrhea and enuresis all have a deficiency of spleen-Yang and kidney-Yang, and therefore can all be treated by the method of warm tonification of spleen-Yang and kidney-Yang. Different herbs may be used based on the other symptoms the patient shows, but the purpose of the herbs is the same.


“Quiescence is the opposite of activity. It includes serenity (absence of stress) of the mind and quietness of the body, and occupies an important role in the CM theory of health preservation.” Much of the typical Chinese exercises include little action, and instead focus on inaction, or even a slow movement between postures. For instance, certain aspects of Qi Gong do not involve any movement of the limbs or trunk, where others involve constant movement. “By assuming certain well-defined postures and engaging in specified breathing techniques and meditative exercises, the person can carry out self-training and self-regulation and attain the goal of regulating, restoring and improving the body.” Of course, you don’t want to do all activity or all quiescence, as any excess or insufficiency is not good for your body. As I usually say – everything in moderation! In other words, those guys that walk around like brick walls with huge muscles and spend four hours a day at the gym, actually aren’t healthy. They are harming their bodies by weakening their genuine qi, by excess of ‘active’ and absence of quiescence, and will deteriorate quicker. They will have harder times fighting illness and recovering from injuries than people who balance their activities and quiescence.

The Chinese emphasize the importance of preventative medicine. In order to stay healthy, both your body and your mind need to be maintained. The idea is to facilitate the movement of Qi and blood to avoid stiffness of the joints, and to ensure there is no stagnation of the meridians or organ systems. the key to promote and preserve genuine Qi is to practice physical training, have a proper diet, regulate mental activities and establish a science-based lifestyle.


The human body is obviously very complex. It is composed mostly of the zang and fu viscera, the non-organ structures, the sense organs and orifices, the material bases of vital activities (essence, Qi, blood, body fluids, etc.) and there meridians. “Knowledge of the structure and functions of the body systems in CM has been obtained through observation of the manifestations of many physiological functions and pathological phenomena in the body. As this knowledge accumulated, it was taken a step further and became formulated as the visceral manifestation theory. The foundation established by this theory comprises principally the following three aspects:”

1. Ancient Anatomical Knowledge. As early as the eras of Spring-Autumn and the Warring States there are already descriptions of findings from the dissection and research of the human body such as circulation of blood, describing not only the formation of blood but its nature, functions, source that powers its circulation, internal organs it flows through, and its rate of flow.

2. Long-Term Observation of Physiological and Pathological Phenomena. Through the approach of “inferring the interior from the exterior” the ancient people figured out the physical and pathological patterns and rules of the human body. For instance, when the skin was chilled the common cold could develop easily and manifest such symptoms as nasal discharge, cough, and the absence of sweating. From this observation they inferred the relationship of the nose and skin to the lung. Or, in other words, the “lung has its orifice in the nose” and the “lung governs the skin”.

3. Summarization of Practical Experience. Not all connections between the body are outwardly obvious. Through practice and experience they were able to figure out some odd connections. For example, Many types of eye disorders could be cured by techniques that treated the liver. Based on that, they gradually formulated the theory that “the liver has its orifice in the eyes.”

The Visceral Manifestation theory includes the five zang organs (heart, lung, spleen, liver, kidney), the six fu organs (gallbladder, stomach, small intestine, large intestine, urinary bladder, sanjiao), and the five irregular organs (brain, bone marrow, bones, blood vessels, uterus).

The zang viscera share two main functional characteristics: the mental activities, ie. “the heart houses the mind,” “the lung houses the soul,” “the spleen houses intention,” “the liver houses the ethereal soul,” and “the kidney houses the will.” The second is that they house essence and Qi.

The fu viscera share the functional characteristics of receiving, digesting, and transforming food and drink.

“The five sang viscera house the essence and Qi but do not discharge it; thus they are full but cannot be filled up. The sic fu viscera transform and digest matter but do not store it; thus they are filled, yet are not full.” – Plain Questions

We must realize that although the names of the organs are the same as modern western medicine, their physiology and pathology are quite different. “In the theory of visceral manifestation of CM the functions of a particular zang organ can encompass the functions of several organs of modern anatomy; and the functions of a particular organ in modern anatomy may be attributed to several zang and fu organs.” For example, the functions of the heart in CM include the nervous system, as well as the functions attributed in modern anatomy.


There are many practices to induce good health, including qi gong, tai chi, meditation, etc. Leaning against the piano, I’ve got a chart for you all with 24 basic tai chi moves. We began with a qi gong exercise that you can feel free to do whenever you like. And now, I’m going to end the notes with a qi breathing exercise.

The following is a basic breathing exercise:

Find a comfortable place to lie down or sit. Make sure that there are no major distractions such as noise, weather, etc. Make sure that you have nothing binding on your body, so remove your shoes and if you are wearing a belt, undo it (it’s also a good idea to loosen your pants or skirt). Allow your body to relax completely. It is often helpful to think of yourself floating down a stream. Inhale slowly, steadily and deeply to your abdomen, focusing on your navel. As you inhale relax your entire body and especially your abdomen to allow your lungs to expand to their full capacity. Exhale slowly and steadily, making sure to completely empty all the air in your lungs. Now, slowly fill your lungs again and expand them to their full capacity. And breathe out slowly, emptying all the air in your lungs. Repeat this as many times as you like.

If you have some water nearby go drink some in order to help ground yourself once you have stopped the practice.


I want you all to experience the benefits of Chinese practices. If you practice these exercises even three times a week you will quickly start to feel better. Personally, I work at an office so I sit at a desk all day. I find if I practice breathing deeply and sitting straight while relaxing my joints I don’t get stiff by the end of the day. You can do these practices anywhere, any time.

As a discussion point, and to finish us off, what do you think is meant by this quote?

“Yin-yang and the seasons are the beginning and end of all things.” – Plain Questions