Chinese Medicine The creation of life: the laws

In ancient Western civilisations, numbers performed more than just a quantitative function. They also held a secret code for interpreting the universe and its laws. One of the most famous and prominent experts on numbers was Pythagoras of Samos, a great philosopher and mathematical genius who lived in Greece in the 6th century BC.

According to Pythagoras, everything is related to numbers. Every symbol, sound, letter of the alphabet, planet corresponds to a number. Numbers set the rhythm, trigger motion and allow the universe and matter to exist in an orderly fashion.

In his view, all the building blocks in the world were linked in a numerical chain that controlled their relationships to the surrounding objects, thus fully expressing the holistic approach, typical of antiquity, where Spirit and Matter are unified into Being, “the essence of things”.
Also for the Chinese culture there was no separation between macrocosm and microcosm. All things shared a metaphorical language where the connection between phenomena affecting people was but an aspect of what was happening, on a larger scale, in the surrounding environment.
Their attitude towards numbers was extremely respectful as they symbolised daily life with a whole range of representations. Numbers either possessed a great descriptive power or showed a hierarchical order and epitomised the close relationship between Man and the environment.
Ancient and modern sciences show that the wholeness of the cosmos is amenable to a mathematical allegory exemplifying the harmony between all living systems.
The whole perfection in nature, from snowflakes to genetic code, from leaf canopies to the fractalness of human liver, is tied to specific numerical sequences.

Drawing inspiration from the study and comparing symbols in these two cultures, a new model takes shape, a new way to look at mankind, called EnneaMediChina.

The East through Traditional Chinese Medicine

Traditional Chinese Medicine is a very ancient discipline that seeks to achieve health and harmony by rebalancing the energy of body and mind. This medicine, based on the concept of energy flows, consists in the art of restoring functional harmony in the exchanges between different life forces (vital energy or Qi). The object of this energy medicine is to regulate the energy flows constituting and animating an individual within the broader framework of the flows constituting and animating the universe.

What has been delivered to us is the outcome of integration and adaptation to the different philosophies it has come into contact over its evolution and, in particular, with Taoist thinking, the Confucian School and the Theory of the Five Elements.

This tradition considers the universe as an energy field resulting from the seamless interplay between two fundamental cosmic principles: Yin and Yang. It is an all-encompassing analogue view of the individual, according to which health and wellbeing are the consequence of our psychological, energetic, physiological and spiritual equilibrium. The observation and classification of the connections between the two principles has led us over the millennia to assume a comprehensive knowledge of the real world where things happening in the Macrocosm (cosmos) also happen, on a smaller scale, in the Microcosm (individual).

According to Taoism, by understanding the cosmos, the universe and nature we come to understanding ourselves and our personal growth. There is no contraposition between good/evil, right/wrong, etc. Opposites become identical aspects, as well as an integral part, of the same reality/phenomenon. Every time the observer’s perspective changes, a different interpretation of the ethical/moral value of an event is given. There are no absolute values – only values relative to the system/model used as a yardstick.

Attention must be focused on the observation of Nature and its manifestations, for it alone will allow us to recognize the characteristics of Tao.
From Nature comes the very idea of Yin/Yang, the two opposites forming the Tao symbol, which represents the most important and distinguishing concept of Taoism. The study of the cyclical alternation of day and night is symbolically related, respectively, to the shaded and to the sunny side of a hill, a single entity carrying shadow and light, the two universally joined opposites eternally chasing each other and following one another.

As a consequence, a physical or mental symptom is not the sign of a localised condition or disease, but points to an imbalance of the whole body.
Traditional Chinese Medicine does not break everything down to its individual constituents in search of its smallest component, thereby losing sight of its purpose, unity: the individual and his/her psychophysical equilibrium, deeply immersed in the surrounding environment.

As an integral part of the macrocosm, we are fuelled by the same life force flow, Qi, circulating within our body along the network of meridians, the invisible channels making up the interconnection system between organs and life-giving functions.

Qi is the product of Yin/Yang interplay. It is the foundation for the phenomenal world.

In the human body, Qi is the driver of movement and transformation, the principle that moves, warms and protects us from external influences.
At a psychological level, its free flowing allows us to change state and to cycle through different emotions when switching over from work to leisure, from activity to rest.

Health and physical wellbeing, therefore, are nothing but the natural outcome of a harmonious circulation of Qi, whereas any disharmony furthers the onset of illness and disease.

Here is where we find the originality of Taoist thought: an opposition exists, as Nature teaches us, but it is relative: darkness only exists if contrasted with light – and no reality is ever absolute.

Shape originates from shapelessness, just as shape will eventually lead to shapelessness. This existence prior to existing, this “shapelessness”, this not yet expressed potential is designated by the term Tao, literally “the Way”, the matrix of the Universe.

From this obscure mystery emerges something called “WuJi”, the “non-pole”, the embryo of a not yet polarized – and therefore not yet differentiated – existence. That is why the symbol is an empty circle. This empty circle appears filled in the TaiJi, “the greater pole”, symbol. Taiji is a potential, but not yet occurred, differentiation. Whilst still being a unity, it already harbours the seed of division and, therefore, birth. The symbol recalls the natural ebb and flow, the merging of white into black and black into white, of union within contraposition and, naturally, of movement.

At the centre of the black side (Yin) there is a white dot, just as at the centre of the white side (Yang) there is a black dot, to emphasize how either part contains the germ of the other, just as in the winter solstice, under the snow, the seed of summer bloom is already alive. Drawing the two halves within a circle conveys the idea of the intimate blending of the two aspects which, together, make up the whole of life.
Tao is a constant flow causing perpetual and unavoidable transformation.

Il libro della Medicina Tradizionale Cinese – Carlo Moiraghi – Fabbri Editore
Elementi di Medicina Tradizionale Cinese – J. Schatz C. Larre E. Rochat De La Vallèe Edizioni Jaca Book, Original Title Aperqus de modecine chinoise traditionelle, Maisonneuve, Paris, 1979
Elementi di Medicina Tradizionale Cinese – F. Bottalo Rosa Brotzu – Edizioni Xenia
Medicina Cinese – Ted J. Kaptchuk – Red Edizioni – Original Title The Web that Has No Weaver: Understanding Chinese Medicine, McGraw Hill Professional, USA, 2000
Medicina Tradizionale Cinese – M. Corradin C. Di Stanislao M. Parini Casa Editrice Ambrosiana
Teoria e pratica Shiatsu – Carola Beresford Cooke – ed. UTET – Original Title Shiatsu Theory and Practice, Churchill Livingstone, Elsevier, 2011

Health and disease: the Five Movements of TCM

Each individual is born with an inherited endowment of energy – ancestral Qi. Transmitted from parent to child, it is the source of our vitality. This force is neither modifiable nor replenishable and once it is depleted, death occurs: therefore, it must be preserved.

Beside ancestral Qi there are two fundamental forms of energy that can be drawn from the outside environment: breathing energy, which is absorbed through oxygen in the air, and food energy, supplied by food.

These two forms of energy can be continuously replenished.

Therefore, to preserve health it is paramount to eat quality food, to practise medical gymnastics and to do breathing exercises.

According to ancient Chinese theory, the universe is made up of five primordial elements: Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, Water.

The Five Movements theory divides most natural phenomena into five categories. During the Western Han dynasty (206 bC – 24 aD) the Yin-Yiang theory and the Five Movements theory were combined together, resulting in a single scheme – ‘Yin Yang Wu Xing Xue’. This scheme is conceived as a flow of Qi, whereby each movement corresponds to a phase in the five-step cycle of Yin Yang transformation.

Earth is at the heart of each transformation and lies at the centre of the scheme. It is associated with yellow and it favours seed-sowing, growth, and ripening; it symbolizes late summer and it expresses the balance of the Yin/Yang polarity.

Wood represents the sprouting of vegetation from the soil and spring awakening – the passage from Yin to Yang, from darkness to light. Its colour is green.

Fire includes all things burning and rising: associated with red and the summer season, it is the ultimate expression of Yang because of its mobility, brightness, and heat.

Metal, the colour white, stands both for hardness and for the ability to be pliable and to transform oneself. Its corresponding season is autumn – the passage from Yang to Yin, from light to darkness which occurs as the qi of Heaven descends on Earth.

Water corresponds to the maximum expression of Yin – when darkness, cold, winter and black reach their highest point. The Five Elements (or Movements) should not be understood as passive and static substances but rather as dynamic forces engaged in a cyclic transformation.

First of all, the five elements interact through a ‘generating cycle’. Wood feeds Fire, Fire creates Earth with its ashes. Earth bears Metal, Metal liquefies into Water. Water nourishes Wood. This ongoing cycle ensures creation and transformation in nature. In it, interaction occurs through two types of relationships – between the generating mother and her child and between the generated child and its mother.

The second way in which the five elements interact is the so-called ‘controlling’ cycle. It is necessary because any excesses in the generating cycle can cause damage to the five elements, whereas if they keep each other under control they stay in balance. Also called ‘grandparent-grandchild’ law, it establishes that every movement controls the second next element in the generation sequence and is in turn controlled by the second prior element. In other words, Wood controls Earth and Earth controls Water; Fire controls Metal and Metal controls Wood.

When there is a lack of coordination between the five elements, two imbalanced cycles occur. The first of them is the so-called ‘overacting’ cycle. Though elements interact in the same order as during the control cycle, they provide too much control. For example, an overactive Wood element cannot be controlled by Metal, thus causing Earth – the element usually controlled by Wood – to be disrupted.

Finally, there is the ‘insulting’ cycle. In this cycle, control occurs in a counterclockwise fashion. For example, the Blows of Metal naturally control Wood, but if the latter is too strong or if Metal is too weak, Wood takes a ‘revenge’ on Metal.

Each element is linked to an organ of the human body: Wood is linked to the Liver; Fire to the Heart; Earth to the Spleen-Pancreas; Metal to the Lungs; Water to the Kidneys.

A therapist should always bear in mind the interdependent relationships between organs and body functions, emotions, climate, the environment and seasons.

From this perspective, Chinese Medicine is a metaphorical science which aims at teaching us that we are part of nature. Each phenomenon corresponds to a season, a cardinal point, an energy from heaven, a natural mutation, a colour, a taste, a sound, an organ, an internal organ, a sense organ, a part of the body, an emotion, a secretion, an individual structure (see attached table).

In a psychological sense, it aims at helping individuals to recognize they are an integral part of a universal system, as well as to establish, maintain, and promote the integration of all aspects of such a system.

Elementi di Medicina Tradizionale Cinese – F.Bottalo Rosa Brotzu – Edizioni Xenia
Medicina Cinese – Ted J. Kaptchuk – Red Edizioni – Original Title The Web that Has No Weaver: Understanding Chinese Medicine, McGraw Hill Professional, USA, 2000
Medicina Tradizionale Cinese – M. Corradin C. Di Stanislao M. Parini Casa Editrice Ambrosiana
Elementi di Medicina Tradizionale Cinese – J.Schatz, C. Larre, E. Rochat De La Vallèe – Jaca Book, original Title Aperqus de modecine chinoise traditionelle, Maisonneuve, Paris, 1979


Wood Fire Earth Metal Water
Seasons Spring Summer Late Summer
Autumn Winter
Directions East South Centre West North
Cosmic Energies Wind Heat Humidity Dryness Cold
Mutations Birth Development
Colours Green/Blue Red Yellow White Black
Tastes Sour Bitter Sweet Pungent Salt
Sounds Xu He Hu Shi Chuei
Organs (Zang) Liver Heart/MC Spleen Lung Kidneys
Viscera (Fu) Biliary vesicle Intestine Small intestine
Triple Burner
Stomach Large intestine Bladder
Sense organs Eyes Tongue Mouth Nose Ears
Body parts Muscles
Blood vessels Flesh Skin/Hairs Bones
Bone marrow
Emotions Rage Joy Reflection
Sadness Fear
Secretions Tears Sweat Saliva Mucus (nasal) Dribble
Individual structure Dry
Active and warm Sweet, firm,