What is your destiny?

Calculating the BaZi, a new release from September, can help you to understand how to recognise the various influences on BaZi (Chinese Astrology) and learn how to devise personalised astrological charts, without needing a Chinese calendar.

Detailed instructions show how your destiny is contained within your birth chart, and how to understand its changes over the whole lifespan. Dr Taylor Wu also explains the relationship between your individual BaZi chart and your personality, emotions, health, relationships, aptitudes, and life chances. With many examples, and worked exercises, including a detailed interpretation of actual charts and case studies, Dr Taylor Wu demonstrates how to bring the GanZhi principles to life.

We have an extract from the book here, in which you can read a brief overview of the philosophies upon which the calendar was built.

To read more about the book, please click here.

If you would like to read more articles like this and hear the latest news and offers on our books, why not join our mailing list? We can send information by email or post as you prefer, and please also tell us about your areas of interest so we can send the most relevant information. You can unsubscribe at any time.

Behind the Scenes of: ‘The Yellow Monkey Emperor’s Classic of Chinese Medicine’ with Spencer Hill

In this blog post, Spencer Hill recalls the process of drawing the cartoons for The Yellow Monkey Emperor’s Classic of Chinese Medicine and how he met and came to work with Damo Mitchell.

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Feeling the Way: What Does it Mean to Heal Someone?

long-feelingtheway-c2wIn this blog by Rob Long, author of Feeling the Way, Long examines what healing means and how it applies to our lives. 

 

In my new book ‘Feeling The Way’ I make the bold claim that everybody possesses what is commonly called ‘healing hands’. That means you! What appears in the book is a stripped-back, extremely practical how-to guide, based on insights from over twenty years of my own trial and error in the clinic. I have called what I do ‘Qi Sensitivity Healing’, or QHS for short, and whilst much of it is innovative, it also owes a huge debt to ancient Chinese practices, especially those of the Daoists, those progenitors of Acupuncture, herbal medicine and many other instantly recognizable modalities .

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The Complexity of Chinese Astrology

Master Wu 3Since 1988, Master Zhongxian Wu has instructed thousands of students, both Eastern and Western. He synthesizes wisdom and experience for beginning and advancing practitioners, as well as for patients seeking healing, in his unique and professionally-designed courses and workshops.

Master Wu is the author of several Singing Dragon books including, The 12 Chinese Animals: Create Harmony in your Daily Life through Ancient Chinese Wisdom. Here, he answers a few questions about the book.

How did this book come about?

I grew up in a traditional fishing village in southeast China, and for my entire upbringing, I saw that people commonly used astrology to help make decisions about important events (finding a spouse, setting a wedding date, building a house, opening a business, health issues, etc). Because our village had no electricity, pipe water, or roads larger than a foot path, we all lived very closely with the rhythms of nature.

Chinese astrology is the art of living in harmony with the hourly, daily, monthly, and yearly cycles of life. When I was young, my mother always consulted the people living in the local temple when she needed help. I was astonished by the accuracy of their advice and their ability to predict outcomes. I became interested in learning more about astrology and its connection to Chinese medicine and the Yijing prediction system. My main focus is teaching Qigong, Taiji and the Yijing to help others to create harmony in their life. Through over 20 years of teaching these ancient Chinese wisdom practices, I realised that Chinese astrology is a great tool to help guide people through their life and their inner cultivation.

Chinese astrology is far more complex than most people realise. What accounts for this misconception, and how does your book contribute to a deeper understanding?

In the West, most people think Chinese astrology is only about their yearly animal sign. The knowledge of Chinese astrology system is extremely complicated, and I think perhaps difficult for most people to understand. In China, we call astrology BaZi (8 characters) or MingLi (principle of your karma), but only a small amount of people actually understand how to put together and interpret a chart. Most Chinese have to find an expert to help them, and finding someone really qualified and skillful can be challenging. Of course, you may easily find a fortuneteller on the street, but they are usually not very accurate.

I think the misconception in the West is mostly for convenience sake, to make it more simplified, more available for the general public and more for entertainment value. The yearly animal sign is a small percentage of what influences your entire chart. In my book, I also discuss the monthly and daily animal sign, which will help people develop a fuller understanding of their chart. It is important to realise that the 12 animals is just one aspect of Chinese astrology – creating and understanding a whole chart for the sake of prediction is a much more complicated process.

Most people do not realise that the 12 animals also relate to the 12 tidal hexagrams of the Yijing. The Yijing, of course, is a method of understanding the rhythms of nature and of life. When I wrote this book, I wanted people to get a little taste for the complexity behind the Chinese astrological system.

What does it mean to have an energetic month, day or year?

The energetic day, month and year are based on the rhythm of the sun and moon, which is different from the Gregorian calendar. For example, the energetic year is not from January 1 (the Gregorian new year) or the first new moon of the first lunar month (the Chinese new year), but rather, it the begins at the time where the sun is exactly at the celestial longitude of 315 degrees, which usually occurs on Feb 4th or 5th in the Gregorian calendar.

How does understanding one’s Chinese animal symbols help them make better choices?

The use of Chinese animal symbols is a key to understanding the principles of your life and of your karma. They can help you understand your strengths and your weaknesses. Becoming conscious of your own patterns will give you information about how to cultivate your gifts and refine your challenges, which will help make your life flow more easily, with less struggle, and bring you success in your pursuits.

In the final chapter of the book, you discuss the Daoist concept that ‘life is not controlled by fate or karma alone’. What does this mean in the context of astrology?

If you want to change your karma, you have to know what your karma is.

A good understanding of Chinese astrology doesn’t only help you understand your karma and predict the future. The purpose of the reading is to guide you to make changes in your life, from daily lifestyle habits to larger life decisions that will allow you to change your karma, to help you remain centered when something unexpected happens, to steer clear of trauma, and put you on on the path of health, prosperity, and longevity.

How do you integrate your Chinese animal symbols into your own daily life?

I use the practices to guide my inner cultivation in order to balance and strengthen my astrological chart (which varies depending on the hour, day, month, season, year, or external life event), so that I feel more harmonious with my self, my family, and with nature. For example, I will check the Chinese calendar to pick out dates for travel or signing a contract. Based on the animal symbols, I also chose special colours for home and office in order to create the right fengshui for those environments. My wife and I make meals according the the principles of the Chinese animal clock to create a healthy daily rhythm for our family.

The 12 Chinese Animals: Create Harmony in your Daily Life through Ancient Chinese Wisdom and Master Wu’s other books on Qigong and ancient wisdom traditions are available from www.singingdragon.com

Three New Years Greetings from Master Wu

Master Wu new year blog image

Greetings from sunny Stockholm! Unlike the record warm winter we had last year, we are finally experiencing some snow and freezing temperatures this winter. My wife Karin and I are enjoying this winter-Qi – the greatest source for rejuvenating all new life energy. We will continue to take advantage of the winter feeling and maintain our focus on our annual winter personal retreat. I am sending this seasonal greeting a little early this year because I would like to share some special cultivation ideas for the coming new energetic year with you all.

Utilize the rhythm of Nature

According to ZhouYiCanTongQi 周易參同契, one of the most important Daoist internal alchemy classics, the rhythm of nature has great influence on human beings, and it is therefore important to understand the rhythms of nature and know how to cultivate with the changing rhythms.

By doing so, you will optimize your potential for inner transformation and for deep healing to occur.

Three New Years!

There will be three important shifts in the rhythm of Qi as we move from the current JiaWu 甲午 Year to the coming YiWei 乙未 Year:

  • Cosmological New Year – Alchemical Qi
  • Animal New Year – Yang (Solar) Qi
  • Chinese New Year – Yin (Lunar) Qi

Cosmological New Year – Alchemical Qi

This YiWei 乙未 Cosmological Year will start January 20, 2015

The Heavenly Stem Yi  represents Yin Wood and the Earthly Branch Wei  represents the Earth and carries the Goat as its spiritual animal.  According to Chinese cosmology, I expect that the coming year’s climatic pattern to be influenced by Revenge Fire, Damp Earth, and Cold Water energies.

This means that I predict more rainstorms than average this year, with hail in the summer and snow storms in the winter.

I also expect that there will be strong windstorms in the coming months, especially on west coast area of your region.

Animal New Year – Yang (Solar) Qi

Spring season will begin on February 4, 2015

The next animal sign begins on LiChun 立春, which marks the beginning of spring. LiChun is one of the 24 15-day segments in the annual solar cycle.  According to WanNianLi 萬年曆, the Chinese Ten-Thousand Year Calender, spring season will begin on February 4, 2015.

In my tradition, the coming of spring correlates with the start of a new annual animal sign – and this year it will be YiWei, the Year of Yin Wood Goat. In Chinese astrology, one of the four pillars that make up the basic chart is the animal which correlates to the Solar year of birth.

For example, all babies who are born between February 4, 2015-February 4, 2016 will have the Yin Wood Goat as their yearly animal sign.

Whether you have a goat in your chart or not, we will all be affected by the Goat energy this year.

Here is a brief synopsis of the symbolism of the Goat, as extracted from my book The 12 Chinese Animals:

“Goats give you gentle and peaceful feelings when they chew grass with a slow, grinding motion. Yet they move with great speed and agility when navigating their way through rough, rocky, mountainous areas. They have strong horns and are always ready to defeat their enemies.

Goat is the eighth animal symbol in the 12 Chinese Animals System.

We use Wei 未 to represent the Goat symbol in the 12 Earthly Branches.

Wei is a symbol for the 13:00–14:59 time of day, and for the sixth month in the Chinese Lunar-Solar calendar (which is approximately July 7 to August 8 in the Gregorian solar calendar).

Wei represents the napping time of day and the third summer month when nature is in its ripest season. It is a time or a place where Yang energy (life energy) continues its decline and when the life cycle becomes more mellow. We use the tidal hexagram Dun  ䷠ to symbolize the Goat.”

Chinese (Lunar) New Year – Yin (Lunar) Qi

This year we will celebrate the New Year on February 19, 2015

The Chinese New Year falls on the second new moon after the Winter solstice each year. This year we will celebrate the New Year on February 19, 2015. In China, we also call the New Year ChunJie 春節, or Spring Festival.

The Spring Festival is the most important and longest holiday of the year in China, the one in which we all prioritize spending time with family and friends. Traditionally, the celebration begins new year’s eve and lasts for almost an entire month.

YiWei and your Health

While the combination of YiWei energies will be good for those of you who need support from the Wood elements, it will also possibly cause added difficulties for those of you who have weak lung Qi, poor digestive function, and/or a lower sexual drive.

Some people will suffer more pain in their joints and tendons over the next couple of months.

I will go into more detail about how the seasonal cosmological influences will effect us in my coming seasonal greetings.

YiWei New Years Qigong – Goat Internal Alchemy

As I always emphasise, Qigong practice is a great medicine that will help you maintain balance and a sense of well being in your life.

The special Goat internal alchemy qigong form will be a powerful addition to your daily Qigong practice during this YiWei year.

This year, I will teach the entire 12 Chinese Animals Internal Alchemy form in Anchorage, Alaska on Sunday April 19th. In the workshop, I will explain the form in relation to the twelve Tidal Hexagrams – the spirit of Yijing (I Ching), and cover healing and spiritual transformation applications of the form.

For those of you who will be unable to join us in Anchorage, here is one of the Goat internal alchemy practices for you:

Tidal Hexagram Dun Meditation

With a lit candle in front of you, start the meditation by straightening your back and feeling that your body is as stable as a mountain.

Make the Dun mudra by placing each thumb on the tip of the ring finger. The tip of the ring finger is related to the hexagram Dun.

With open and relaxed fingers, place your right mudra on your right knee, palm facing up and raise your left mudra to the level of your left shoulder, palm facing forward.

Adjust your breathing to be slow, smooth, deep, and even.

Feel each breath connect with your spleen, heart, and liver.

Meditate in this position for as long as you can.

At the close of your meditation, please cite this little prayer:

May the Spiritual Lights shine on my unwavering mind

May the Spiritual Lights shine on my unbroken breath

May the Spiritual Lights shine on my unpolluted body

 


 

Spring Courses in the US!

Below please find a brief summary of my upcoming courses in the US.

Events with a special early registration price are noted.

QiDao ChaDao: Qigong and the Dao of Tea

Qigong is an ancient technique for healing and inner cultivation. For thousands of years, sages have used the tea ceremony as a gateway to understand the Dao. Please join us for a sampling of special Chinese tea and demonstration of traditional Qigong.

Offerings: 

March 13 2015 in Baltimore, MD (click for further details)

April 17 2015 in Anchorage, AK (click for further details)

Dragon Body: The Secret of Daoist Internal Alchemy

In Chinese culture, the dragon represents shifting, changing, invisible, mystery, flexibility, transformation, high spirituality, supernatural, and power.

The Dragon Body practice is a way to express all the characteristics of the dragon in your cultivation practice.

This practice strengthens the vital link between the governing meridian and conception meridian and is one of the most important ZhouTian 周天 (Cosmic Orbit) methods to transform your Qi and nourish your spirit.

Offering:

March 14-15, 2015 in Baltimore, MD (click for further details)

*Please take advantage of the discounted early registration price and register before February 6!

Daoist Internal Alchemy – BaGuaXinJing 八卦心鏡

In this BaGua XinJing (Eight Trigrams Heart-Mirror) training, we will review HunYuanZhuang 混元樁the fundamental Heart-Mind standing posture, and the XinJing – the eight gentle movements designed to increase physical strength, nourish the joints and balance the mind. This practice represents the very foundation of YiJing (I Ching) philosophy.

Offerings:

March 15, 2015 in Baltimore, MD (click for further details)

April 18, 2015 in Anchorage, AK (click for further details)

*Alaskans, please take advantage of the discounted early registration price and register before February 17!

Daoist Internal Alchemy – ShengXiaoGong 生肖功

The twelve rhythms of nature are represented by ShengXiaoGong (Twelve Animals Qigong), from China’s esoteric Mt. EMei shamanic Qigong lineage, and give us access to the deepest spirit of the Yijing (I Ching).

April 19, 2015 in Anchorage, AK (click for further details)

*Alaskans, please take advantage of the discounted early registration price and register before February 17!

 

 

Karin and I are wishing you and your families a healthy and happy year of the Goat!

 

Master Zhongxian Wu

Have all of Chinese Medicine in your pocket – interview with Richard Bertschinger

VLUU L100, M100  / Samsung L100, M100 Richard Bertschinger is a practising acupuncturist, teacher of the healing arts, and translator of ancient Chinese texts. He studied for ten years with the Taoist sage and Master, Gia-fu Feng. He talks to Singing Dragon about his groundbreaking translation work, ‘the oldest book in the world’, and having all of Chinese medicine in your pocket.

Thanks for agreeing to talk to us, Richard, about your five books.  I wondered if you could tell our readers something briefly about each and how they came about?

Well these books are really a summation of my Taoist studies over the last thirty years.  The titles are worth repeating:  The Secret of Everlasting Life, Yijing: Shamanic Oracle of China, Everyday Qigong Practice, The Great Intent and Essential Texts in Chinese Medicine.  I was fortunate to meet a Chinese-American Giafu Feng in the ‘seventies who introduced me to the Chinese world of the Tao – really it was from Giafu that I got the inspiration for this work.  He was brought up in Shanghai during tumultuous 1920’s in China.  In his last few days (he died in 1986) he spoke to me about alchemy – in fact it was his overwhelming concern that I should work on making the idea of alchemical practice available to the West.  And I knew nothing about it!  So I dived into what was in translation at that time.  There was actually very little.  The oldest work, written in the 2nd century AD was this text – which I have presented asBertschinger_Secret-of-Everl_978-1-84819-048-1_colourjpg-web The Secret of Everlasting Life. It is primarily a Qigong manual, in fact the very first to be written, anywhere in the world!  So I cut my teeth on this and its Chinese commentaries.  All my work is based upon my reading of the Chinese commentaries – and on how they were explained to me by Giafu.  In this I think I was blessed, in having the ‘key’, as it were – his oral instruction – to unlock this extremely intricate puzzle.

What do you mean, then, by this ‘intricate puzzle’?

Actually this puzzle is just the Chinese Mind!  I feel strongly that the Chinese ideas and skills, knowledge and techniques (including acupuncture) should be taken within their own context – you cannot just import techniques and not understand the background teaching and philosophy.  It really will not work.

You are referring to acupuncture perhaps?  Where more ‘medical’ acupuncturists, such as doctors and nurses use acupuncture without a full apprenticeship?

Bertschinger_Great-Intent-Ac_978-1-84819-132-7_colourjpg-webNot really, I think that acupuncture can survive any usage.  It is resilient enough!  But certainly without the dedication of a three year training you are not going to be using its full potential. And you are not giving patients the best either! Anyway, this leads on to The Great Intent, which is actually a re-working of The Golden Needle, a book published earlier in 1991.  Singing Dragon was quite keen to reprint this, so I expanded and rewrote the introduction.  This is a first translation of many of the odes, song and poems which have, for centuries, been used in teaching acupuncture theory and technique.  Again I was keen to get all these ideas out to medical practitioners, who wanted to begin exploring some of the greater subtleties of needling – as well as brush up their theoretical knowledge.  I know these poems have proved an inspiration to many.

Now tell us a little about Yijing: Shamanic Oracle of China.  I understand the Yijing has been referred to as ‘the oldest book in the world’.  How can you justify such a statement!

Bertschinger_Yijing-Shamanic_978-1-84819-083-2_colourjpg-webBecause the Yijing has its origins, and no one would deny this, in the oracle bones, the scapula of oxen, tortoise shells and the like, which have been unearthed recently in China.  These prove that an oracle much like the Yijing (or ‘Book of Change’) was in use some 3000 years ago, in Bronze Age China.  The Yijing is all about communicating with the unseen and unsaid.  It is an oracle, yes, but also has a philosophy around it of Yin and Yang, the flux within the universe, light and dark, day and night, winter and summer, and the life and death of all living things.  It is thus at the threshold of putting an understanding of these things into words – it uses images to communicate ideas, on the borderline of thought, as it were.  And this was all happening 3000 years ago, before there were any books!  So unlike the Dead Sea Scrolls or Egyptian Scriptures, the Yijing was trying to be useful – not trying to hand down a received wisdom, or deal of concepts.  It was about meaning.  About the meaning of life, about greatness – about what it is to be human!  Like so much of Chinese philosophy, it told us how to live.

Bertschinger_Everyday-Qigong_978-1-84819-117-4_colourjpg-webWell, that is quite a topic.  The last two books you mentioned about are Everyday Qigong Practice

That one ‘does what it says on the tin’.  It is a simple introduction to Qigong exercises, with brilliant diagrams by Harriet Lewars – you can pick it up, and seconds later be practicing qigong, and circulating the Qi.

And the last, Essential Texts in Chinese Medicine: The Single Idea in the Mind of the Yellow Emperor?

Bertschinger_Essential-Texts_978-1-84819-162-4_colourjpg-webThis is my latest book. It is a digest of the medical writings contained in the Huangdi Neijing, or Yellow Emperor’s Book of Medicine, the great compendium of medical studies produced during the Han, and which has provided the backbone of all traditional medicine in the East for the last two-thousand years.  I was fortunate, again, to pick up a copy of a condensed version of this book in 1981 at Stillpoint, Colorado, where I was studying with Giafu Feng – and he started me off with some tape recordings, he would get up 4 am, make a large pot of Earl Grey tea, which we  would share and off he would go, extemporising a translation ‘on the hoof’ as it were of this book.  Page One, Chapter One.  It took him perhaps three months to finish, and I had to leave before it was done, but the next spring I remember him arriving at Heathrow airport with a large carrier bag in his hand, ‘here you are Richard the Book of Medicine, finished!’  There was no way I could turn down a commission such as this!  So I have been working at producing a readable version of this text.  Firstly I translated the Chinese commentaries, most from the Ming and Qing, then I collated them with his version.  Then I also interleaved my own acupunc­ture studies and notes from Jack Worsley’s teachings and finally, after many years work, I have a version which I think is just about ready to go to press.  It grew in the making, but from quite early on I saw that there was one thread running through the whole – this is obvious to anyone who begins to read the book.  This one thread I rather grandly name ‘the single idea’ – really it describes the workings of Yin and Yang and the Five Elements.  Once you can get a handle of what they are talking about and how they work, you really do have Chinese medicine ‘in your pocket’, as it were.

Singing Dragon New and Bestselling titles Autumn-Winter 2014 and 2015

This fully interactive brochure has all of the new Singing Dragon titles for the Autumn and Winter of 2014 as well upcoming titles for 2015. In here you will find books on Chinese medicine, complementary therapies, martial arts, nutrition, yoga, ayurveda, qigong, Daoism, aromatherapy, and many more alternative therapies and ancient wisdom traditions.


Click on the covers or titles to be taken to the book’s page on the Singing Dragon website. If you would like to request hard copies please email hello@singingdragon.com with your details and the number of copies you would like.

The Practice of Sitting and Forgetting

Cherng-Schwair_Daoist-Meditati_978-1-84819-211-9_colourjpg-webDiscourse on Sitting and Forgetting is an 8th century classic text on meditation by Si Ma Cheng Zhen, in his translation Wu Jyh Cherng deciphers the complex Chinese metaphors to make a practical guide  for those looking to deepen their meditation practice. In this extract Cherng looks at what is really meant by “sitting and forgetting” as a definition for meditation.

Zhuāng Zǐ said: ‘Relax one’s body and abandon one’s perspicacity; eliminate one’s norms and let go of one’s intelligence, uniting oneself to the Great Opening. This is called the practice of Sitting and Forgetting.’

Relaxing the body and eliminating the norms is sitting naturally to meditate, without being concerned about norms regarding elegance; abandoning one’s perspicacity and letting go of one’s intelligence is removing oneself from active thoughts during meditation; and the Great Opening is the doorway which is revealed within meditation and which gives access to the Emptiness.

The practitioner should use the time devoted to meditation to relax, rest and recharge his energy. In the period preceding the practice, he relaxes the body and mind and begins the process of systematic forgetting, until forgetting himself. He abandons logical and imaginative reasonings, all memories and wanderings of the mind, worries and frustrations. In this state, he shall be resting as if on holiday, in his room. As all activities are suspended, he also frees himself of the limitations imposed by the norms and constant demands on the use of his intelligence. During meditation he need only give himself up to the naturalness, to be at one with the Great Opening.

Living peacefully in society is based on the use of intelligence, on the norms of a good education and ethical principles of behaviour. A norm is a precept, a standard established as a base for the practice of an action, and intelligence has the meaning of elaborate, intentional thoughts in chains. But, upon meditating, the norms should be eliminated and the use of intelligence removed. While one’s everyday life is conditioned by norms and by the use of intelligence, one needs to reserve the moment of meditation for resting from the rules and from the need to be constantly rationalizing.

When preparing to meditate, the practitioner forgets appearances. He is not worried about his hair, whether it’s nice and tidy or not, or about his beard, whether it’s trimmed or in need of a shave. He is not worried about the spot on his face, or about how his clothes look: whether they are fashionable, attractive or ugly – he is only concerned about the comfort that the clothes need to provide. At that point, he puts himself at ease and gradually ceases to fulfil the norms, in order to fulfil the demands of his body, while seeking the position he considers comfortable, until he attains a state of tranquillity and enters meditation, at which time all the rules and the use of intelligence are forgotten. When alone in the room, with the door closed, sat comfortably to begin the meditation, the practitioner need not follow norms, nor activate his intelligence. Here there is no dispute or discussion; there are no challenges to be answered. Therefore, there is no need to prepare for clashes. The person only needs, at this moment, to let go of rationality and relax the body and mind so as to enter meditation.

If the practitioner is dedicated and disciplined, he will advance, until reaching the state of Primordial Chaos and feel as if a door has opened within him, through which he shall pass to enter the Emptiness. This is the Great Opening, the apex of the Daoist Spiritual Path: the consciousness expands to the infinite, all limits are broken, norms and logical reasonings cease to exist as impositions and all forms, images and languages are forgotten. But the creative potential remains present because the practitioner has not ceased to be conscious, he has simply become serene. And what was manifest has been transformed into potential.

 

Wu Jyh Cherng (1958-2004), was a Taoist High Priest and Master of Meditation, Rites and Ceremonies. He was ordained as a priest by the World Central Committee of Taoism based in Taiwan and in 1991 he founded the Taoist Society of Brazil. Master Cherng spread the Taoist doctrine of the Orthodox Unitary Order and passed on his knowledge of this Tradition to his disciples and followers.

The right path in acupuncture needling: putting your soul in it – by Ioannis Solos

Solos - Hua TuoWhen you look through paintings of ancient acupuncturists, you can’t help noticing that most of them hold long walking sticks or calligraphy brushes, swords, or bottle gourds. Of course, these “objects” were included in the paintings for a special reason. The pole, the sword and the calligraphy brush share many common core theories, but ultimately these instruments are intended to become extensions of the hands, and connect with the inside, or as the Chinese say: 内外合一 (the internal and the external become as one). Only then, the energies can flow unobstructed and the Intention (意) can reach the tip of the instrument, like is demanded in the calligraphy or martial theory. The bottle gourds often represent the “dantian”. The ancient acupuncturists would often hang bottle gourds at the door of their clinics, as a sign that they are medical specialists and have entered the gate of the Tao.

Most specifically for the pole, in basic Yiquan training, one first should pay attention in holding the body of the stick firmly, always looking at its tip, while seeking the forces in the six directions (up-down, left-right, back and front). At this stage these rules would ensure the establishment of a correct frame and the ability to exert whole body power towards one point, which is the tip of the pole (点) where the intention and spirit should always project towards.

Although the acupuncture needle is a much smaller instrument however, similar rules apply. For example, in the Neijing we learn that:

The Tao of grasping the needle requires holding it firmly, like it is a precious treasure. Insert [the needle] with the finger straight [perpendicular], and not angling towards either the left or right. The spirit is at the tip of the needle. Focus on the patient. Be careful to avoid blood vessels, and then needling will bring no harm. (Ling Shu—Jiu Zhen Shi Er Yuan)

Traditionally, acupuncture training was inseparably connected to the training of spirit (shen 神) and intention (yi  – 意). This was accomplished through rigorous Neigong training. It is not by accident that besides the Imperial Palaces and the cities, traditional medicine often flourished around Taoist and Buddhist centers, where people trained martial arts and required realistic tuina, traumatology and acupuncture skills. Taoist and Buddhist Doctors were able to make martial and medical connections early on and strongly enhance the efficacy of their treatment, eventually reaching high levels of mastery. The ability to develop good body frame (in agreement with the internal and external harmonies), concentrate the spirit, train the mind and intention, were also vital for acupuncture, and could strongly influence the outcome of the treatment:

A continuous failure to induce curative effect is due to the acupuncturist’s inability to concentrate his spirit essence. When one pays no attention to the mind and intention, his internal and external [harmonies] will be in disagreement, and this will give rise to doubt and may lead to danger. (Su Wen— Zheng Si Shi Lun)

The [correct] method for using the needle demands to [completely] understand the physical form and qi, and their position. Left and right, upper and lower, yin and yang, exterior and interior, and whether [the amount] of qi and blood is sufficient or scanty, [or] if the movement [of qi] obeys or counters [the normal flow]. [If one completely] understands whether the [qi movement] obeys or counters [the normal flow] then they can establish how to best offer treatment. Examine the roots and branches, check about cold and heat (i.e. chills and fever), derive the location of the evil, and acupuncture needling will not cause any harm. (Ling Shu—Guang Neng)

Acupuncturists who have practiced Yiquan, can often use their understanding of the art to direct the intention-yi (意) towards the tip of the needle, and strongly influence the movement of qi.

Zhan Zhuang is the most direct way to reach such a goal because it’s simple, flexible and literally to the point. Connecting the inner with the outer, consciously controlling your every movement and progressing in your training daily will enable you to reach beyond and above all written instruction. You learn in the void, and that’s where the best things come from. But after reaching that point, that’s when you become your own teacher, or a “universal teacher” as is described in the martial classics, and then everything is possible.

The true qi follows tranquility and nihility (i.e. the void). If the essence and the spirit are guarded internally, how can illness develop? (Su Wen—Shang Gu Tian Zhen Lun)

Because of the way standard TCM is practiced these days, this training is something that many seem to neglect. I hope that through my latest book, western acupuncturists have a rare chance to develop this understanding, and refine their practice towards eventually reaching higher levels of mastery.

Ioannis Solos studied Traditional Chinese Medicine at Middlesex University and the Beijing University of Chinese Medicine. He enjoys researching, teaching, practicing and critically interpreting the ancient philosophy and culture of China, internal martial arts, health preservation practices, classic medical texts and lesser-known Chinese esoteric traditions. He is the author of Developing Internal Energy for Effective Acupuncture Practice and Gold Mirrors and Tongue Reflections, both published by Singing Dragon.