Nurturing life through the body, heart, and spirit with the wisdom of Chinese medicine
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Blog

A collection of notes on the topics of classical Chinese, medicine, and traditional culture.
 

This blog is a collection of ruminations, translations, and personal opinions by Sabine and some guest authors. Reflecting my own personality, some posts are academic, some clinical, and some personal, some are excerpts from existing books and some may become part of future books. Please leave comments with feedback, questions, constructive criticism, and differences of opinion as long as you argue your reasons for disagreement logically. Any personal attacks, uncivil remarks, or self-promoting comments will be deleted.

Look through the Archive by Topic or Search the Blog:


Posts in translation
Humming with Elephants???

An explanation for the strange title of my new book “Humming with Elephants”:

As a whole, the Great Treatise on the Resonant Manifestations of Yīn and Yáng discusses the correlations and correspondences, or in my favorite translation “resonances” (yìng 應), between the actions and movements of Yīn and Yáng in the macrocosm of nature at large and in the human body and an infinity of other larger and smaller microcosms, from the cells to plants and animals to society and the stars in the sky. Without going into too much detail here, I would like to suggest that what English-speaking scholars of philosophy, science, and medicine have been referring to as “correlative thinking” or as the “theory of systematic correspondences” deserves a stronger and more concise term to describe this relationship of “stimulus and response/resonance” gǎn yìng 感應.

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Why I Treasure the "Divine Farmer's Classic of Materia Medica"

It is not just because I am also a farmer with dirt under my nails that the “Divine Farmer’s Classic of Materia Medica” (Shén Nóng Běncǎo Jīng 神農本草經) has always been one of my favorite books. As a critical historian and teacher of classical Chinese medicine, I firmly believe this little book to be one of the most important, foundational texts of this medicine that I love so dearly and have dedicated my life to. For this reason, I produced a bilingual literal translation of this text last year and continue to promote this text and its teachings to anybody who will listen. Whether you are a practicing physician or pharmacist, a fellow “herb head” and plant lover, a historian of early Chinese culture and natural science, or just curious about one of the most ancient texts from early Chinese literature, you may enjoy listening to what the Divine Farmer has to say.

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Baffling Needling

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!

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"Do Not Blame!" 不怨人!

The past few days, weeks, and months have been difficult ones for many of us, at least in the United States where I currently live, as we witness horrific events in our local communities, the country, and around the world. So much violence, rage, pain in this crazy year of the Fire Rooster! Like many of my clairvoyant, wise, or just empathetic friends and colleagues in the field of Chinese medicine, where the virtue of brightness or vision (míng 明) is the distinguishing mark of the sage, I have been finding the nearly constant onslaught of tragedies hard to digest and have had to consciously force myself to take breaks from the news and allow the soothing calmness of the Puget Sound to heal my heart and spirit. For me personally, a daily swim in the sea has been a life saver, in spite of the dropping temperatures, and I am extremely grateful to be in a position where I get to do that. Let us be consciously kind to each other, come together, and support each other as best we can with unconditional love while we grieve and squint our tearful burning eyes! I need to write a blog about kindness but am too raw emotionally to go there right now. Instead, I want to share an insight by Liu Yousheng from his book "Let the Radiant Yang Shine Forth," inspired by Wang Fengyi's teachings on the toxicity of blame.

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Liu Yousheng on Illness in the Lower Back

The following is a short excerpt from one of the books that I translated and self-published a few years back, actually the first book produced by Happy Goat Productions. It seems to me that the wisdom of Virtue Healing embodied in Wang Fengyi's teachings is particularly relevant in our current political turmoil in the US. I am holding the very first copy of our new edition, hot off the press, in my hands and, while reviewing it one last time, just came across this passage, which I think is worth sharing. I love the conclusion in particular: 

...do not use reason to work things out. If you reason with each other to work things out, you will only explode in anger. These days, people all reason with each other, until they reason each other into the ground. If they don’t end up separating, they end up getting a divorce. Between husband and wife, you must use your feelings to work things out. If you use your feelings to work things out, you will end up dearly loving each other again.

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Frog in the Well

May I introduce you, dear reader to my two new friends?  A cedar and a pine tree living in a secluded corner of the thick rain forest, in a magical grove behind my home. On a recent morning walk, I found them in an intimate embrace with such good strong healing qì that they drew me in and convinced me to pause for a moment and listen to their wisdom. It was much-needed balm for my troubled heart and spirit so I decided to share it. I also got the strange sense that they wanted me to pass this on. Here’s what they had to share with me. 

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Ruminating on Suwen 5... Again...

In an escape from current politics and to regain my balance and faith in humanity, I have been burying myself once again in Suwen 5, which may or may not evolve into the next book-length publication by Happy Goat Productions. What follows is probably the nerdiest blog post I have ever written, but it has brought me great satisfaction. Feel free to share constructive criticism, questions, or any other feedback in the Comments section below. I am perfectly aware that I am trying to put something in written words that is ultimately better approached intuitively. The passage below is found about two thirds through the chapter, following directly after the famous passage where Qi Bo explains the associations of the five directions with the dynamic agents, organs, climatic factors, sounds, flavors, etc etc. I am aware that the references of traditional gender roles in my discussion below may strike some readers as offensive, but I ask you to reserve judgment that comes from a modern Western perspective. Yes, I have opened another can of worms there and I promise to address that can in a different blog post in the future.

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The Noble Person and the Small Person

This past Monday morning, I was going to give a rousing lecture on classical philosophy from the “Warring States” period to my dear students in my Chinese History and Culture class. I was going to fill them with hope and certainty and a spirit of community and activism, and somehow transmit to them, magically, how their future role as healers in the proud tradition of Chinese medicine would enable them to “harmonize Heaven and Earth” and heal this horrid mess that we find ourselves in right now. When I opened my mouth, though, I realized that I had no wise words but only tears to share for these beautiful people in front of me. I find myself torn in an unpredictable and often disturbing pendulum between a strong need to spill my insides out and utter speechlessness. Being a teacher in this state is quite challenging, especially if you have to teach something as personal and relevant (at least for me) as philosophy and history.

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Thoughts on Civility and Humaneness

After a few days of reflection, I have decided to accept the risk of offending some readers with my perspective as a brand-new American citizen, who has nevertheless lived here for most of my adult life, mastered the art of making apple pie, learned to shoot a gun, and raised a thoroughly American daughter all the way through prom and beyond. I feel the need to share my personal story because it may spark a conversation or offer a different perspective. I believe that these times call on all of us to speak truth from our hearts, and to listen to our fellow humans’ truth with an open heart in exchange. For only with honesty and openness to other viewpoints can we start the hard work of overcoming our current divisions and make room for love and reconciliation instead.

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