This post is an excerpt from my forthcoming book, Humming with Elephants," a translation with commentaries and discussion of the "Great Treatise on the Resonant Manifestations of Yin and Yang (Su Wen 5). My translation of the passage is followed by a brief discussion and translations of relevant commentaries and quotations. Warning: This is a pretty technical passage.
Source text from the end of Suwen 5:
As such, practitioners who are skilled at using needles [observe the following guidelines:] from the Yīn guide the Yáng, from the Yáng guide the Yīn; by the right treat the left, by the left treat the right; from their own [experience] know the other; and from the exterior know the interior. By [thus] contemplating the underlying pattern of excesses and insufficiencies [in the patient’s body], they see the subtle [signs] and obtain [control over] what is in excess. Their use [of needles] does not carry any risk!
Practitioners who are skilled at diagnosis investigate the complexion and palpate the flow in the vessels, to first differentiate Yīn and Yáng; scrutinize the clear and the turbid, to thereby know the specific location and level [of the disease]; observe the breathing and listen to the sounds [produced by the patient], to thereby know the location of suffering; contemplate the weights and balance beam [of scales] and the compass and the square, to know what governs the disease; and palpate the chǐ and the cùn pulse and contemplate its floating or sunken, slippery or rough quality, to thereby know what has produced the disease, and thereby [they are able to] treat it.
Because they make no mistakes in their diagnosis, they are never wrong [in their treatment]!
Lines Four and Five mention a number of treatment methods that deserve additional explanation and can and have been interpreted in different ways by different commentators and translators. I have therefore attempted to keep my translation above as literal as possible to allow the reader to make up her or his own mind. My notes below simply present some possibilities, based on standard readings. Of course we can also follow Wáng Bīng’s laconic comment on the first line that “all of these are deeply illuminated methods for using needles” (凡此皆深明用鍼之法也) and leave it at that. Mǎ Shì’s commentary, however, should be a little more helpful. While lengthy, it manages to express the underlying sentiment that ties all these phrases together with both elegance and clinical insight.
If the reader is not familiar with the method of “baffling needling” (miù cì 繆刺), Sù Wèn 63 is an entire chapter devoted to this topic. Grand Needling (jù cì 巨刺) is one of the Nine Needling Methods (jiǔ cì 九刺) described in Líng Shū 7 as needling evil in the channels by treating the right from the left and the left from the right side of the body. To differentiate between the indications for Grand Needling, which refers to deeper needling of Channels, and Baffling Needling, which is a more superficial needling technique of the network vessels, I quote the introduction from the “Discourse on Baffling Needling,” Sù Wèn 63: