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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.

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Posts tagged Chinese history and culture
The Divine Farmer on Thunder in the Body

A recent inquiry from an attentive reader whose opinion I value highly caused me to revisit my translation of the Shennong Bencao Jing 神農本草經 (“Divine Farmer’s Classic of Materia Medica”), which I published a few years back. … They (correctly) noticed that in my rendition of the entry on xìnghérén (a.k.a. xingren, apricot seed, Prunus Armeniaca kernel), I present this list of symptoms as…

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The Therapeutic Use of Water in the Bencao gangmu, Part One: Introduction to the Text

This post is written in preparation for a lecture I will be giving while soaking in the hot springs at Ojo Caliente in New Mexico, in the framework of a retreat on Chinese herbs and the Chinese medicine classics taught by Z’ev Rosenberg and myself in Taos on August 19-23, 2018. For more information on that retreat, see here. My interest in water is obviously also inspired by my current life on the Puget Sound on Whidbey Island where I go wade, swim, and play in the blue stuff almost every day.

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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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On Walls, Part Two: The Great Wall of China

This blog is a continuation of my previous post, “Why I Dislike Walls,  Part One,” which you can read here. That post was an attempt to give voice to some of my personal experiences with walls in Germany and on the US-Mexican border, to explain my personal gut reaction. In the present writing, I am putting on my supposedly objective historian’s hat for Part Two, to look more closely at arguably the most famous historical example of wall-building, namely the Great Wall of China. So let us travel far away in time and space, to fifteenth-century China and the construction of the Great Wall in the Ming dynasty.  And here I’d like to add the disclaimer that I am not a specialist in late imperial Chinese history, but merely get to revisit this topic once a year while teaching a survey course on Chinese History and Culture to students of Chinese medicine at the National University of Natural Medicine. My original inspiration for this topic came from a brief lecture that Professor Donald Harper gave more than two decades ago at the University of Arizona in an undergraduate Chinese Civilizations class, for which I served as a Teaching Assistant. All mistakes are of course my own.

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Orientalism, Cultural Appropriation, and Critical Thinking (Part One)

Orientalism is a term and topic that has crept into my thoughts repeatedly over the last few months. I have tried to push this unwanted visitor back out the door, with excuses ranging from “Everything there is to say on the topic has already been said by much smarter, more erudite people than myself,” to “This is just another example of me sticking my foot in my mouth and stirring up a hornets’ nest with no need,” to “Who am I to say anything about this topic, because wasn’t it this very same fascination with the ‘Orient’ that got me started in the field of sinology in the first place?” But alas, the term has gotten a foot in the door and a draft of this blog post has been sitting on my desktop for months now, waiting for me to accept the challenge. Please forgive me if I offend you, dear reader. I’d rather step on your toes than continue tiptoeing around the subject, remaining silent, and smoldering internally as I witness this attitude rearing its ugly head again and again in innocent statements by the most well-meaning people who simply have never critically thought about its historical baggage in the context of learning, practicing, or teaching what is far too often still tellingly called “Oriental Medicine.”

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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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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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