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The Essence of Science and Medicine in Ancient Chinese Culture PDF Print E-mail
Article - Kaleidoscope
Sealand Zhang   

Many people are very proud of the culture and knowledge left from the ancient people of their countries. Chinese people too, have every reason to be proud of those treasures, although many of those treasures are still regarded as myths by modern science.

To begin, I will start with the myth of 12 animals, that been selected to present Chinese years. I have to make this clear here that the 12 animals were not chosen by Chinese people in ancient China; it is not an invention of Chinese people. It is a teaching offered to ancient Chinese people to better manage time and lives, and along with some other teachings, it offers Chinese people vital essence in understanding human beings and our connection with the universe.

Some people may ask: who selected those 12 animals? What did ancient Chinese inherit, and from where? I am not sure if many young Chinese ever knew, that these 12 animals were chosen by a “god” to present 12 years, and continue the circle every 12 years. Along with this teaching, there was knowledge of the principles of medicine, astronomy, celestial knowledge and their influence on earth, the principle of matter, and its connection to the human body. This knowledge is very closely interconnected in the above subjects.

Ancient Chinese Calendar

Lets start with the knowledge behind the ancient Chinese calendar that a god passed on to ancient Chinese about rules or formulas on how to calculate the calendar:
There are 10 heavenly stems, called “Jia, yi, bin, ding, wu, ji, geng, xin, ren and kui”; and 12 earthly branches, called “zi, cou, yin, mao, chen, si, wu, wei, sen, you, she, hai”. (There is not an equivalent translation of those characters in English.) The selected animals, “rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog and pig” also represented the 12 earthly branches. E.g.: “zi” corresponds to “rat”; “cou” corresponds to “ox”……and “hai” corresponds to “pig”.

The combination of heavenly stem and earthly branch form the title for every year. One character represents each year and runs from the first to the last and starts from the beginning again. E.g.: the first ancient Chinese year is called year of “Jia-zi”, 2nd year was “Yi-cou”, and the 11th year would be “Jia-she”. This year of 2007 AD in the western calendar is called year of the “Ding-hai”, where “Hai” represents “pig”.

The same method was also used to calculate the month, day and times of 24 hours and even seconds.

You may wonder that as the total combination of these 10 and 12 characters only add up to 60 years, how can ancient Chinese people distinguish times in their history? Well with hundreds of Chinese Emperors, each year was also titled by the name of the then Emperor. E.g.: Qin Bin-Shen fourteen. Means “the 14th Qin dynasty at year of “Bin-Shen”.

What was so fantastic about the making of such a calendar? Why do “gods” want us to learn such calculation?

Let us get answers from the next topic on elements of the universe.

The Five Elements

The “gods” in ancient China, were called “sage” in western society. It was said the Taoist “god” passed on the principle: this universe is made of five elements: “metal, wood, water, fire and soil (or earth)”, and these elements are existing in all matter within this universe. Also there is “yang-yin” (positive-negative) composition within all matter. Certainly it is within every human body.

The “Book of Changes or I Ching”, offered by a “god” also indicates the composition of five elements and yang-yin balance in every heavenly stem and earthly branches, and their changing patterns!

To use a practical example: when a person was born, the composition of the five elements, and their “yang-yin” balance which was carried by him or her was set, and can be read by using the calculation derived from above. But remember, since each character involved “yin-yang” elements, the 10 heavenly stem and 12 earthly branches would be counted as 20 and 24 characters with “Jia-yin” or, Jia-yang”, etc. and the combination would much more beyond “60” in the circle.

Ancient Astronomy

In ancient science, astronomy is a very popular subject that was passed down to human beings, by an “unknown source” as some modern scientists state. This is evidenced through Greek ancient science and Middle East ancient science. The celestial body helps people manage time, seasons, agriculture, etc. and is a very important knowledge for human beings to possess.

Chinese were also given a celestial globe before one thousand years “BC”, with the names of all stars and planets and their orbiting information that science finally found in 2000AD. (the ancient Chinese stories told that the knowledge was passed from “gods”.) certainly, those names that Chinese people can read were in Chinese. Each name is the same as one of the meridian points of the human body which ancient Chinese medicine describes. (The illustration of meridians in human body is also passed on by “gods” or “sages” in ancient China.) Every meridian point in the human body is matched by one star or planet. There is not one extra star in the sky or one extra meridian point in human body.

Furthermore, every star has its own character and its influence on other stars; the same as the organs and systems of the human body have their own character and its influence on other organs. The human body simply is a reflection of our milky way, and of course, vice-versa. For instance, we call some planets Jupiter, Venus, Mars, Mercury, etc, while Chinese name them “Mu-xing, Jin-xing, Huo-xing, Shui-xing,” meaning “wood-star, metal-star, fire-star, water-star”, etc. The major organs of human body are also characterized with metal-lungs, water-kidneys, fire-heart, etc in Chinese medicine. From there we understand their connections and influence on each other.

Among thousands of scientific subjects and topics that our modern scientists are used to discussing, there are only a few subjects where ancient Chinese were given formulas and guidance from “gods”, but those formulas and guidance are enough to reveal the rhythm of nature and the secrets of the universe and the human body!

Chinese Medicine

To discuss one point here about Chinese medicine.

I have to make clear that ancient Chinese science and medicine is not the Chinese science and Chinese medicine of the present day in China.
The Chinese medicine today in China has very different principles to ancient Chinese medicine. Or I should rather say there are no basic ancient principles they offer when teaching Chinese medicine in university in China.

Yes, it is a very serious matter. For instance, in ancient Chinese medicine, it is told what time you need to pick the herbs from the soil, and how to cook it, and which time of the day you should drink the medicine. But these descriptions were all criticized as superstitious by “communist theory” and forbidden to practice. The basic theory for ancient Chinese medicine laid out a very simple logic: every plant has its own life span, ripens at a certain time, and reaches certain nutritional composition at a certain age. The same as the human body and its organs, they have their own rhythm to absorb nutrition and to release trash at its own time of the day. There is nothing superstitious about the way ancient Chinese medicine works.

Ancient Chinese medicine also very much emphasized a person’s spiritual practice and balance, whereas in the “Red terror of China”, people have no trust in each other, and are not allowed to express personal emotions. It is certain that basic ancient Chinese medicine can not be practiced. As a doctor in China can not state that his or her patient is in a depressing situation – that means this person is not happy with our great country under the leadership of “Mao” and his successors, because of the certainty of persecution. There were lots of tragedies that happened in similar situations. I personally remember a few friends of our family had ill health, but when they decided to go to see Chinese doctors, they also appeared to have a guilty manner, and did not like to talk about it openly.

There is quite a lot of twist and manipulation of ancient Chinese medicine by modern Chinese medicine. Certainly, to alter the teaching of “gods”; or ancestors is a crime. It is recognized by Chinese scholars. So no Chinese doctors would really dare to do such thing. But “communist theory” “encourages” Chinese doctors to make their achievements in many “revolutions” on Chinese medicine.

Chairman “Mao”, and the communist party was the ‘saviour’ of Chinese people, and of course the ‘saviour’ of the rest of the world. So the knowledge of the human body connected with the stars, universe, etc. is being forgotten or wiped out.

In fact, the situation in China is worse than having just forgotten the essence of ancient Chinese wisdom. In November 2006, a “famous scientist”, suggested in a public website that Chinese medicine should be banned completely in China. It certainly ignited lots of debate. I did not follow the arguments, but noticed that a few weeks later, the debate was still going on!

Science is about making sense of life and the universe; and maybe to make human life easier? It is pleasant for us to find new development in science that help us enhance our previous scope of knowledge, and I say that it is quite pleasant for Chinese people to be offered such wisdom of the universe to benefit our lives. Of cause only if we treasure this wisdom.

Ancient Chinese science and medicine is too enormous for us to depict in such a short essay. But the essence is clear: this universe, the human body and everything on earth is truly one body that needs to be in harmony, care, patience, compassion and tolerance with each other; to be able to distinguish and discard unhealthy elements, and to nourish spirituality for the well being of our entire environment.

I believe that ancient Chinese science and medicine, if properly considered, will offer human beings immense knowledge, wisdom and resolutions to our daily lives. And that is in fact, what we modern scientists have been searching for.

Last Updated on Sunday, 10 November 2013 22:57


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