means “tranquil, easy, or at peace;” specifically, ān (安) is a quality of wèiqì (衛氣) rather than yíngqì (營氣); in the terminology of modern TCM, that would be of qì (氣) rather than blood, of physical movement rather than emotion. This distinction is seen clearly in Língshū 47.5.1, where the heart is ān (安), so it cannot be harmed by perverse qì — xiéqì (邪氣), but is easily injured by worry. However, the clarity of this distinction seems to have eroded to some degree during the history of Chinese medicine.
means “thin, flimsy;” In contemporary Chinese, this character signifies three separate, but related, words: báo (薄), bó (薄), or bò (薄). Bó (薄) means “slight,” and bò (薄) means “weak.” In various contexts, this character (pronounced one way or another) can mean “poor, mean, ungenerous or stingy, or even contemptuous or careless.” In Sùwèn 3.4.3, báo (薄) appears to refer to a thinly spread out distribution of resources (such as yáng (陽) or wèi(衛)); however, this character’s use in Sùwèn 75.6.6 is rather more ambiguous, and I believe that ambiguity contains a ‘secret’ teaching. Who is to say? Reading Nèijīng is profoundly influenced by the experience and personal cultivation of the reader.
This is a ‘blockage’ cause by cold, wind, damp, etc., which generates pain and/or numbness. The phonetic radical of this character,卑 (bēi), is also the phonetic portion of pí (脾), which means “spleen.” Bì (痹) refers to an embodied blockage, influenced by the Earth-phase nature of pí (脾), the Chinese medicine “spleen.” Such blockages (bì (痹)) overtly impedes the smooth flow of qì (氣), so they cause pain.
these were the stone acupuncture instruments used before the metallurgical advances that allowed for the development of the nine needles. The nine needles were introduced in Língshū 1, and referred to throughout Nèijīng, most often as ‘minute or subtle’ (wēi (微)) needles, though also sometimes simply as ‘small’ (xiǎo (小)). The first few lines of Língshū 1 describe an evolution in the practice of acupuncture with the new technology of its distinctive minute or subtle (wēi (微)) needles.
literally means “the topmost branch;” so, by extension, biāo (標) means “a mark, beacon, signal, flag, streamer, or signboard; a notice or warrant;” frequently used in Chinese medicine in contrast to lǐ (裏), where biāo (標) refers to what is showing on the exterior of the body and lǐ (裏) refers to what is not showing; so, in the interior. While biāo (標) and lǐ (裏) may simply refer to the exterior and interior of the body, and Wiseman and Ye translate them, in regard to pathological process, they have a somewhat richer meaning: biāo (標) refers to what is expressed or manifest, and lǐ (裏) to what is still not manifest or at least not showing outwardly (i.e. dormant).
In Língshū 52, 標 (biāo) is juxtaposed with běn (本), which literally means the root of a tree, and can refer to the root or origin of any process. Each phrase of Língshū 52.4 and Língshū 52.5 discuss the origin (běn (本)) of 衛氣 (wèi qì) for each of its six fundamental movements, as differentiated by the 六合 (liùhé), and expressed through the leg or arm, and then where that 衛氣 (wèi qì) shows itself — biāo (標). In Língshū 1.1, I’ve chosen to render biāo (標) as “to expresses outward,” rather than the common (an static) “exterior.”
literally means “to manifest or display;” according to Shuōwén, the imagery of biǎo (表) comes originally from yī (衣) ‘clothing’ and máo (毛) ‘hair’, which is now written 龶 (four strokes) over 衣; biǎo (表) refers to the outside of a garment — the hairy side; thus, in general, biǎo (表) refers to the exterior, the side that is seen; it connotes the conspicuous and what is manifest; biǎo is usually translated in Chinese medicine contexts simply as “exterior,” and in contemporary practice is frequently conflated with 外 (wài), meaning external or outside. In modern Chinese, biǎo (表) is also used to refer to an index, chart, or watch, and as a suffix meaning for qualities that can be measured (meters, etc.) and the gauges used to measure them, because they show or are manifest. So, modern western science is a systematic investigation of biǎo (表), which is generally juxtaposed in Chinese medicine with lǐ (裏), which refers to what is obscured in the interior.
literally means “to separate, distinguish, or discriminate;” bié (別) also means “other or another,” or even something that is precluded. Bié (別) appears in the title of Sùwèn 11, where it refers to discriminating the wǔzāng (五藏), and this character is used elsewhere in Língshū to identify locations where a channel or vessel separates from its primary trajectory (see, for instance, Língshū 10); in Língshū 52.2, those locations of separation, and their key function, are identified more specifically with lí (離), which means “to leave, part from, separate, or go against.”
is generally read as a compound referring to the pleats in a skirt, or more generally to things that “build up and accumulate,” by being piled on top of each other. Even my rather conservative reading of Sùwèn 3, line 4.1, which follows most historical commentators, opens the questions of how, why, and where unresolved yáng builds up. (See the Commentary of Sùwèn 3 for an alternate reading of this line, which lays out this process of accumulation more clearly.)
This pair of characters became a complex in the technical terminology of historical Chinese medicine, after being used in Sùwèn 3.4.3, where I rendered bójué (薄厥) instead as a conjunction “thinly spread out and to have reversal.” Wiseman and Ye rendered bójué (薄厥) as “sudden reversal.” Jué (厥) is one of the liùhé (六合), so in addition to sometimes referring to pathology, it is also one of the six primal movements that combine to make up an individual’s post-natal qì (氣).
literally means “to repair, patch, add to, mend, help, or fill a vacancy,” and extends to mean “to fill, supply or nourish;” in the context of acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine, bǔ (補) is generally translated as “tonify.”
literally means “not enough;” zú (足) is the pictograph of a foot, so one could read bùzú (不足) as ‘not afoot.’ The meaning here is clear: when qì moves (smoothly), there is enough; when it doesn’t move, there is not enough.
means “to hide, conceal, or hoard;” See also zàng (藏).
means “to hide, conceal, or hoard.” When pronounced slightly differently, zàng (藏), it is a place of storage, or ‘storehouse’ (as in 庫藏 (kùzàng, which apparently inspired Unschuld’s translation). In Chinese medicine, the 五藏 (wǔzàng) refer to what Wiseman and Ye render as the ‘five viscera.’ However, rendering zàng (藏) as viscera, or the common ‘zàng-organs,’ projects a (modern) physical bias that distorts the classical meaning; Porkert translated the zàng as ‘orbs’ of influence, and indeed each has particular ‘resonances’ (yìng (應)), according to their Five Phase ‘correspondences’ (also yìng (應)) with a specific sense organ, tissue, emotion, etc. Zàng (藏) can also refer to a holy scripture or canon, so its use in this context implies something that is treasured, as well as being stored.
literally means “a chisel, or to engrave;” this is a fairly obscure character without modern usage, though the nciku dictionary (online) includes its use as a verb, meaning “to thrust into;” it seems to refer to an archaic sharp iron implement with a long bent handle for digging in the earth; alas, this scholarly research yields an inaccurate impression about the use of the chán (鑱) needle, which is actually quite subtle – wēi (微). Using the chán (鑱) needle, or simulating it with the modern filiform needle, is responsive to the opening and closing of the patient’s wèiqì (衛氣), which allows one to use it to ‘reset’ the intrinsic and autonomic mechanisms of wèiqì (衛氣), and thereby drain the excesses that regularly accumulate around local stagnations of wèiqì (衛氣). In modern CM terms (TCM), these stagnations of wèiqì (衛氣) are called ‘external pathogenic factors.’
literally means “ordinary, common, normal;” Cháng (常) often refers to what is constant, invariable, or ‘normal,’ as in Sùwèn 13.5.
this is generally translated as a purely physical (anatomical) concept — either the pattern of pores and fine lines on the skin or the interstitial space (space between the skin and flesh), by both modern Chinese medical practitioners and classically oriented sinologists. The imagery of lǐ (理) refers to the pattern of the grains of a piece of jade, and by extension refers to any organizing ‘principle,’ doctrine, (natural) law, or theory about some phenomena; in modern Chinese language, these lǐ (理) gathered together (hélǐ (合理)) refer to logic, reason, and even truth.
I do not accept the idea that còulǐ (腠理) has only a purely physical interpretation. This space between the skin and flesh is the location where wèiqì (衛氣) profuses to the surface; thus, I believe còulǐ (腠理) refers to the organizing principle of the upward and outward profusion of wèiqì (衛氣) through the superficial layers of the body. When wèiqì (衛氣) flows in the proper way – shùn (順), it expresses harmonious – hé (和) – function of the body; if the còulǐ (腠理) is too loose (unable to consolidate – gù (固)), then it allows external pathogenic factors to penetrate through the superficial layers. However, if it is too tight, the còulǐ (腠理) can prevents yáng from releasing to the exterior, and thereby lead to build up of (pathological) heat. (for more details on the physiology of wèiqì (衛氣) see Sùwèn 3).
acne or other small blemishes; according to Shuōwén, from 疒 (nì) ‘sick’ and 坐 (zuò) as the phonetic; as a separate character, 坐 (zuò) means “to sit;” these blemishes arise from entanglement of heat with dampness, which forms pus that ‘sits’ (is retained) when wèiqì (衛氣) profuses outward, perhaps flushing a substantial amount of jīn (津), but does not clear the pathogenic stagnation. (see Commentary of Sùwèn 3 for discussion of cuófèi (痤疿).)
literally means “great bone(s);” according to most commentators, dàgǔ (大骨) refers to the pelvis or the lower back; however, it could also be a general reference to the large bones of the body, so Sùwèn 3.12.3 would be rendered as “the large bones are taxed.”
is the ancient name for qìgōng (氣功) exercises. The first character, dǎo (導), consists of the well known character for ‘the Way,’ dào (道), positioned over the character for a (living) inch, cùn (寸), which is used to measure the anatomical locations of many acupuncture points. The second character, yǐn (引), means to stretch; it is the pictograph of a bow (and arrow). A bow propels movement through stretching and then releasing. This is much the same dynamic as the neo-natal dǎoyǐn (導引), which stimulates internal movement through harmonizing physical movements — stretching and then releasing — with deep cleansing breathes. Neo-natal dǎoyǐn (導引) truly has a fitting name, as it is a practice of ‘measuring internal movement that is activated by stretching and releasing.’
diào or tiáo (調)
diào (調) means “to shift, tone, or transfer; a tune or to intone;” tiáo (調) means “to regulate, adjust, or even to instigate or provoke;” contemporary acupuncture is largely based on the practitioner tiáo (調) specific points, according to functions we’ve learned from books; much of that information is based on how Chinese acupuncturists from several hundred years ago were able to tiáo (調) points to regulate or adjust the patient’s blood-qì in some specific way; yet, in the classical sense, I suggest that all of these meanings mix together relative to acupuncture with the small needles, especially the subtle modern filiform needle; for instance, Sun Simiao was said to sometimes chant at acupuncture points, either instead of or in addition to needling them; clearly, his understanding of this character ranged easily between diào (調) and tiáo (調); the concept of musical tones is also a major theme of Língshū, chapters 64 & 65.
literally means “to move, start, shake, to excite or rouse into action;” dòng (動) is composed of 重 (zhòng) phonetic and 力 (lì) ‘strength.’ According to Karlgren, the weight of ‘重 (zhòng)’ also suggests the idea of momentum. Within the specific language of medicine, 重 (zhòng) is also the phonetic of chòng (衝), as in Chòngmài — the Penetrating Vessel; in that case, 重 (zhòng) is inserted between the two portions of 行 (xíng), meaning to move freely and automatically. In the case of chòng (衝), the ‘weight’ of 重 (zhòng) appears to refer to the heavy and dense nature of jīng (精), as compared to other qì in humans. Elsewhere in Chinese medicine, 動 (dòng) can refer to the pulsation of the heart or arteries, or to the ‘moving qì of the kidneys,’ which arouses and expresses jīng (精) as yuánqì (原氣) to support the vital movements of life. So, dòng (動) refers to the primal movement of shǎoyīn (少陰), which is both one of the liùhé (六合) of classical Chinese medicine, and specifically the pulsating movement of kidneys and heart, which express jīng (精).
This is diarrhea with undigested food particles after eating. Wiseman and Ye rendered dòngxiè (洞泄) as “throughflux diarrhea,” as it arises because the digesting food and drink is not ‘held’ in the digestive valley (alimentary canal) sufficiently to allow completion of transformation and transportation process. The condition discussed in Sùwèn 3.11 is not the ‘diarrhea with undigested food,’ which modern TCM classifies as a symptom of spleen qì and/or yáng deficiency.
in common language, è means “evil,” and it is used that way many times in Nèijīng. In such circumstances, I’ve rendered it as “malign,” as it is a weaker judgement of evil than xié (邪), which is used throughout historical Chinese medicine to refer to what we now call “external pathogenic factors.” In most such cases, xié (邪) is rendered as “perverse,” rather than “evil” to avoid the moral overlay on factors that challenge an individual’s vital flow (as in Lingshu 1.1.6). However, in Lingshu 1.1.2, is used differently and is pronounced wù (惡) rather than è (惡); in this case, it indicates a question, essentially meaning “how…?”
means a “law or method;” Fǎ (法) refers to ‘natural law’ rather than a human a law; fǎ (法) is generally something practical, which is used to influence or even manipulate some aspect of the world (in this case the life process of acupuncture patients), and this fǎ (法) is a method one can learn from someone else.
literally, fāng (方) means “method, direction, or recipe,” and shì (士) is a scholar. The fāngshì (方士) were ‘scholars of direction or method.’ They were the ‘scientists’ of ancient China, who focused their attention on discerning patterns and regularities (shù (數)) in the movement and dynamics of the world of phenomena. The ‘laws of nature’ they used to discriminate directional movements were the various shù (數) of symbolic images (xiàng (象)). The most important groups of xiàng (象) in classical Chinese medicine were yīn-yáng (陰陽), the Five Phases (wǔxíng (五行)), and the Six Gatherings (liùhé (六合)). Each xiàng (象) represents a directional movement, and each shù (數) provides a different focus of inquiry concerning the movement and dynamics of human phenomena.
literally means “fat, fertile, or rich;” it can also mean “loose-fitting, loose, or even large;” relative to the còulǐ (腠理), as in the opening passage of Língshū 47, both meanings have significance. When the openings through which wèiqì (衛氣) flows are loosened up, the skin will be plumped up, and the person appears young and vital. When wèiqì (衛氣) flows sufficiently well, the pores can open to allow perverse qì (xiéqì (邪氣)) to release to the exterior.
literally means “to meet with,” though also “to happen” or “to hit on;” so, in Língshū 1.3.5, the expression “其來不可逢” can also be rendered as “its coming cannot be made to happen.”
it appears that since ancient times “nüè (瘧)” has referred to either:
• the general symptoms of “intermittent fever” or “alternating hot and cold,” as rendered in Sùwèn 3.5
• the specific disease of malaria — nüèjí (瘧疾), which is exemplified by those symptoms
Thus, fēngnüè (風瘧) could be considered a complex, which names malaria differentiated specifically by spontaneous perspiration, especially during the ‘active heat’ portion of the cycle of expression and latency, which characterizes malaria; Wiseman and Ye rendered fēngnüè (風瘧) as “wind malaria.”
literally means “divided flesh;” within the flesh ròu (肉) — the ancient Chinese differentiated between the ‘red flesh’ (muscle) and the ‘white flesh’ (fascia, adipose tissue, etc.). One specific example of white flesh is gāohuāng (膏肓).