Saturday, March 22, 2014

Qi and the body (1)

The base of the view of the body in the Oriental medicine, as well as Oriental thoughts in general, is summed up with a word, qi. However, the concepts of the word, qi varies even among Oriental people, so it is difficult to define what it is. It is hard to grasp the idea of qi even for Oriental people, but if people look at the history about qi in China, it leads to one view.

It is difficult to describe the whole history of qi here, but those who try to grasp qi philosophically and understand the universe in terms of qi are Zhang Zai(張横渠) and Zhu Xi (朱子) of Neo-Confucianism.

According to Zhu Xi's Li-Qi theory (理気説), the existence of the matter is formulated by the cohesion of qi(気) and "how it is" is shaped by li (理). Li would be the concept corresponding to DNA in the term of the modern science, however there is no modern concept comparable to the accumulation of qi.

What is notable here is that we can comprehend the phenomena relevant to the cohesion of qi from the clinical experience of acupuncture and moxibustion therapy, and it is significant to reevaluate the body and the universe in the view of qi.

When looking at the body from this kind of view, it is natural to see how the body is according to the degree of accumulation of qi. Rather, it is better to see diseases as unbalance or deviation of the state of qi cohesion, because it gives a different view of diseases from the western point of view and shows more distinctive characteristic of Oriental medicine.

The base of the disease concept of Oriental medicine, especially acupuncture medicine is deficiency and excess concept (*1) .

The definition of this concept in the textbook is that deficiency refers to deficiency of the healthy qi and excess refers to excessiveness of the pathogenic qi; deficiency is the weakened condition of the body function and excess is the state that the strong constitution reacting strongly against the pathogens, in the modern words.

However, these interpretations are merely giving each word a meaning conceptually, and it is hard to see the substantiality in the Oriental medicine, rather it is more likely to imagine the patient in the schema of the western medicine.

*1 translator's note: this deficiency and excess concept refers to the relative yin and yang. This article was written in 1987 (Shoji Kobayashi and Sango Kobayashi "Toyo Igaku Koza vol.10 "Keiraku Shakuju Chiryo hen", p254-5).