shí (實)

shí (實) and xū (虛) are used rather differently early in Língshū 1, and throughout Nèijīng, than we generally see in the modern clinical doctrine of Chinese medicine. Wiseman renders shí (實) as “replete;” while that translation accurately reflects its meaning, it is also rather clumsy and obscure; in many cases, I prefer the more simple and direct “full,” though that rendition breaks down in Sùwèn 11.4, which brings in a rather different concept, 滿 (mǎn), which also means “full.” In classical terms, xū (虛) and shí (實) are not themselves pathological, so do not refer to ‘deficient’ and ‘excess,’ as they are frequently translated in modern Chinese medical contexts. However, they can lead to deficiencies and excesses, under specific conditions that precipitate pathology. What are they? (for classical terms that mean deficiency and excess, see notes on 不足 (bùzú) and 有餘 (yǒuyú)).

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