Pa Fen Lei

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Pa Fen Lei (The Eight classifications)

In the West when a person becomes ill he goes to the doctor, who seeks to classify the symptoms into a specific group and thereby form an opinion and give his diagnosis. Chinese traditional doctors however, do not have to wait until a person becomes ill or depend on the symptoms, for they are trained in the basic principles of the Yin and Yang and can thereby diagnose a weakness or illness before it is fully apparent, and, in many cases, even before the person concerned is aware that there is something wrong. It is the Chinese physicians' meticulous training in the "Eight Classifications" (Pa Fen Lei) and the "Five Systems of Examination" (Wu Chen Ch'a) that enables them to do this, for over thousands of years these methods have proved very successful and extremely efficient. The Eight Classifications are as follows:

1 Yin 2 Yang
3 Internal 4 External
5 Cold 6 Hot
7 Decreased levels 8 Increased levels

Through an appreciation and understanding of all these groups, and the fusing of all the information obtained into one conclusion, a full diagnosis of the patient's condition, from the head to the toes, and from the innermost depths of the body to the external symptoms, can be concluded. In the West, the classification of illness is a complex business, for they give every ailment or sickness a different name, some of which are almost unpronounceable. In China, by contrast, we recognise only two categories of illness, and they are either Yin or Yang. It is as simple as that, for these two principles are basic to everything in the universe, including illness. Illness is made by man, and caused by the restriction of internal energy, which is Yin, and which is the harmonious counterpart of external energy which is Yang. If the body, mind and the spirit are truly healthy, then man can live his whole life without catching the slightest illness, not even the common cold; but, if he disturbs the proper functions of the body, then he becomes Yin, and this contraction will severely hamper the flow of energies which are so necessary for good health. If, however, the passage of internal and external energies through the body is allowed to flow completely unchecked, then the body will suffer the consequences of over-activity, and this expansion will produce a Yang illness. The first question to be asked about a weakness or an illness is, then, whether it is Yin or Yang, internal or external, and if it is caused by a deterioration in the internal organs, or by external factors, such as the weather, seasonal changes, or some transgression of the laws of the universe. Within the Eight Classifications all the odd numbers represent the Yin aspects. As already noted, the earth, internal energy, contraction, darkness, cold, water, and so on are basically Yin. So too is turbulence in the earth's atmosphere (Yin), which causes clouds (Yang) to form in the sky; the pressure of external cosmic energy (Yang) on those clouds has a tendency to create a too Yang situation, and as a result rain (Yin) falls. It is due to this interplay that can affect and influence each or both, that extreme cold (Yin) can cause feverish conditions (Yang) in the body. The person with a Yin illness may perspire on the outside yet feel cold inside; this is connected with the fact that the viscera are Yin. Generally, when a person is suffering from a Yin complaint, he not only feels cold, but also feels weak and lifeless, does not want to eat very much, feels very sorry for himself, and therefore wants to be alone. The Yang aspects in the Eight Classifications are denoted by even numbers, and naturally, are the opposite of the Yin aspects. If, for instance, a person is suffering from intense heat internally, he will generally suffer from a damp hand, his skin will be cold, and he will break out in goose pimples. A person suffering from a Yang illness is generally lively, although his breathing could be heavy and laboured and may even at times be sporadic, and his breath could also have a distinct smell. Invariably he will have a coated or furred tongue, for the bowels systems are Yang.

By means of the Five Systems and the Eight Classifications, the patient's energy level and its pattern can be fully assessed and any disturbances can be fully appreciated and understood. These disturbances fall into two areas, internal and external (Nos. 3 and 4 of the Eight Classifications), and they can also be interpreted as a movement—into two main directions—and which can be defined as:

Those that flow from inside to an outside point. Those that flow from the outside to an inside area.

Those in the first group are generally caused by weaknesses in the constitution which will include those that may have been inherited at birth, and also those illnesses that become obvious after years and years of bad eating and drinking habits. Into the second group fall injuries of all kinds, external infections, and disturbances brought about by changes in atmospheric conditions caused by heat, cold or dampness. All physicians in China know that the greater the contraction the greater the Yin influence; and the larger the expansion the stronger the Yang tendency. So it is that all things reflect these two polarities, for everything has its mirror image. What starts at the bottom will eventually find its way to the top, and that which begins on the inside must in time present itself on the outside, and the external will reflect and influence the internal. Of course, it takes a long time to master all the many and varied aspects of the Five Systems of Examination, for it is only through experience that full understanding and the depth of the intuition is obtained. Constantly bear in mind the theory of the Five Elements, for all things are interrelated, and to arrive at a full diagnosis all the evidence that you accumulate through your senses must be taken into account. Not only will you have a very deep appreciation of everything that may go on inside or outside of your own body, but it will enable you to understand what others are going through, more and more, and eventually you will be able to help them because you understand their problems.


The Tao of Long Life - The Chinese Art of Ch'ang Ming

by Chee Soo

©Seahorse Books 2008 reproduced with permission