The Taoist Ways of Healing

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The Taoist Ways of Healing


From a Chinese point of view, it is very pleasing to know that more and more people in the West are taking a much greater interest in the ancient cultural arts of China, and are coming to understand the ways of Chinese thought, and how it can be adapted to day-to-day living in modern times. In this way they are beginning to appreciate the basic philosophy that is the very foundation of the entire Chinese nation, and of all those Chinese who live in other parts of the world, a philosophy that has been inbred into every thought and deed for thousands of years.

However, to appreciate fully every aspect of Chinese life and thought, the average person in the West will have to get rid of one very bad habit. Westerners tend to look at an object, or a symptom, or even a sentence, and immediately believe in what they see, read or hear, and accept it as it is presented to them. For instance, a Western doctor will see a wart on the skin, and try to reduce its size, or else will endeavour to remove it altogether by the use of surgery. Now the Chinese practitioner would tackle this problem in a completely different way — by trying to find what caused the wart to appear in the first place. He would then set about erasing the cause, and the symptom would eventually disappear, and no more symptoms would arise. If the problem is approached in the Western way, then there is no guarantee that the wart will not appear on another day.

Then there is the Western habit of taking a pill for a headache, which is another typical example of tackling the symptom rather than going direct to the cause. In this case the cause is the large intestine or the bladder, and so by eliminating the cause, which is coming from either of these organs, the sufferer ensures not only that the headache will disappear within a few seconds, but that there will be no re-occurrence of the trouble. That is the reason why the Chinese can get rid of migraines, once and for all, within twenty-four hours, without having to take a pill or medicine of any kind.

So this simple principle applies to all who have a sincere interest in China and all that it stands for, its deep-rooted culture and its philosophy. To turn this interest into understanding, you will have to look at China's past. In fact, you will have to go back some 12,000 years. Then, and only then, will you get to the true root of the matter, and develop an understanding that will be deep and lasting. Remember, if you want to appreciate what keeps a building standing upright for many centuries, have a close look at its foundations; there you will find the answer.

By going back in time, you will fully appreciate that the nature of the Chinese has been engrained with the philosophy, the culture and the knowledge that have been put there by thousands of years of deep education and understanding of the basic ways of living in accordance with the infinite laws of the universe. That everything in life must have its own unique balance, constantly maintaining harmony with everything around it, is one of the basic laws. Nothing can exist on its own, for all things link together to make the universe what it is — simply, one vast entity. To upset the delicate mechanism that creates and upholds the simple principles of nature is fatal, for it can lead to very serious repercussions in the form of stress, strife, wars and sickness in nature and within mankind. Taoism has existed in China for at least 12,000 years. In fact the principles on which it is based were laid down thousands of years before that, although in that earlier period they were never given a specific name. To Chinese people at that time, these . principles were simply a way of life that meant abiding by the Infinite law of the universe as they knew it. By their simple attitudes to life, and their way of living from day to day, they gave the Chinese nation as a whole an ingrained philosophy which required no spoken words, and it therefore became an automatic lifeline which was passed down from one generation to the next. It was the Taoists who kept alive many of the ancient arts and practices over the centuries, and they in turn gave greater understanding to the principles by which they lived, together with a full appreciation of everything that plays a part within the cosmos. They bridged the gap between heaven and earth, and thereby altered the mental outlook on, and attitudes to, the spiritual and the physical. In so doing, they found the Tao', the primeval law that regulates all matters within the universe, and recognized it as the Supreme Ultimate in all things.

It was this recognition that gave them the Yin and Yang, the two sides of everything, and it was this deep appreciation that completely altered their attitudes to everything that happened in their daily lives. It gave them the serenity of acceptance, and through this influence they were able to recognize the Tao' in everything.


Outside of China very little is known of the vast range of therapeutic methods that have been studied and used for thousands of years on the Chinese mainland and are still being practised daily by Chinese everywhere in the world. But out of all the many sciences known to the Chinese, only one so far seems to have attracted the attention of the Western world, and that is acupuncture, and even the results that this art obtains are doubted by many medical professionals outside of China.

However, the vast wealth of experience has not gone entirely unnoticed, for Japan now uses traditional Chinese medical methods on an extensive scale, and the Academy of Sciences in the Soviet Union also has a department which has been making a special study of the Chinese methods and skills, and even in France and in Germany greater interest is being aroused through the medium of regular publications. In Britain, in addition to the Acupuncture Association, there are regular classes being held in London and elsewhere. Throughout Europe, too, there are various centres teaching the many arts of Chinese healing which together comprise Pa Chin Hsien (The Eight Strands of the Brocade). They all come under the auspices of the Chinese Cultural Arts Association and the International Taoist Society.

Why have the Chinese accomplished such advances in the understanding of the human body, while Western medical science, with all its vast resources, has still not been able to find the cures for such simple illnesses as sinusitis, migraine, arthritis, heart disease, varicose veins, bad nerves, sclerosis and many others? Millions of pounds and dollars are being squandered every year in the endeavour to find cures to the symptoms of illnesses, and yet in China, we have known the answers to all these illnesses, and have been able to understand the multitude of questions that are asked every day, for many thousands of years. In fact, even the common cold can be cured within forty-eight hours by the simple pressure of one finger, and migraine can be stopped just as suddenly in the same period through a simple dietary alteration. We seriously wonder how many millions of pounds and dollars have been wasted in fruitless attempts to find a pill that could do the same thing.

Beginnings: the 'Sons of Reflected Light' and the Early Taoists

How did the Chinese health arts begin? This is how my illustrious master, Professor Chan Kam Lee, told it to me in 1934: that some 12,000 years ago (approximately 10,000 BC), there arrived in China a race of people who were very tall indeed — reputedly over seven feet in height; and because of their unusual clothing they came to be known as the 'Sons of Reflected Light' (反光子 Fankuang Tzu, pinyin: Fǎnguāng zǐ). Where they came from is still a mystery, and perhaps the true answer to this question may never be known, but on their arrival they wasted no time, for they soon began to collect together a group of skilled people from many trades and professions, whose intelligence was above the normal average during that period.

Having collected this band of people together, they then began to instruct them in many different arts and crafts which technically were far in advance of anything that existed in those far-off days, and many of which have still not been bettered even to this present day. It took many, many years to instruct the Chinese in the numerous sciences that in those early days were absolutely unheard of. Not only were they new but in many cases they were completely at odds with the Chinese way of life, and with their thinking at that time. Many died trying to learn all that was being taught to them. So it happened that their children, and in turn their children's children, had to carry on the work and the studies of these various arts. They were taught many arts, including silk weaving, pottery making, the utilization of metals, and making and using gunpowder, making glass, and the most important of all, the vast range of health arts, such as herbal therapy, health diets, hot and cold treatments, massage, acupressure (spot pressing), respiration therapy and energy therapy.

Generation after generation have tried to carry on the work that these wonderful people bestowed upon mankind. Whether the Chinese people have succeeded in remaining true to the original teachings, over the many centuries that have passed, only time will tell. It cannot be denied, however, that there is at least a possibility that during the many years that have gone by, and owing to the absence of early written records, some of those teachings have been lost. After many centuries the 'Sons of Reflected Light' disappeared, and nothing seems to have been heard of them since, except that the foundations that they laid in all the years of their work have been built on through the years. Many of the family groups slowly dispersed throughout the length and breadth of China, and because of this, you will find that certain of the health arts became prominent in particular areas of the vast territory of China, mainly owing to the simple fact that some of the arts were more suitable to the local climate and natural environment of particular territories.

The impositions of some of the warlords and emperors in various districts also had some effect on the particular health arts that were practised there, and variations in philosophical and religious outlook also had a great bearing on the particular arts practised.

So it came to pass that whilst the health arts were taught in one place for many centuries, they eventually dispersed all over China, and local traditions were slowly built up around them. But it was the Taoists who brought them all back together again, so that their advancement in knowledge and skill was no longer hindered by local differences. The health arts blossomed anew under the philosophical guidance of the Taoists and through their aims of a healthy long life therapy for the body, their experimentation with the various channels of the mind, and their constant search for the growth, development and alchemy of the spirit. All this was made possible by the Taoists' simple understanding and knowledge of the energies that exist within ourselves and also that which is supplied by the universe.

Very early Taoist writings only began to appear in about 3000 BC, and one of the earliest was The Yellow Emperor's Classic of Internal Medicine, which is known as the Nei Ching, and many translations of this work have appeared in English, German and French. It comprises eighty-one chapters and is divided into two main sections, the Su Wen and the Ling Shu. The first part covers questions relating to the whole range of medical knowledge, while the second part deals with the spiritual essentials underlying medical treatment.

The Present Day — and Beyond

The health arts that the 'Sons of Reflected Light' (Fankuang Tzu 反光子) brought to China eventually came to be known as the 'Eight Strands of the Brocade' (Pa Chin Hsien), and even to this day, after thousands of years have passed, they are still known to the Chinese by that name. In the West these same arts are being used for the benefit of all those who wish to avail themselves of them, and in London there is a health clinic where these arts are used to help sufferers of all types of disease and infirmity, and it is completely free of charge.

Today, many young Chinese think that the 'Eight Strands of the Brocade' are merely a number of specialized breathing exercises, whereas the name properly refers to the complete Chinese Taoist health arts. The vast majority of people are completely unaware of the wide range that these arts cover, and even just how many of them there are. One of the more specialized sections, and one of the most well-known is acupuncture (Hsia Chen Pien), which along with all the other arts is still being carried on by many dedicated Chinese, both inside and outside of China. Since the Revolution, China has come to enjoy the best of two worlds, the very old and the new, and the ancient inheritance has been studied with greater enthusiasm than ever before. Together with modern Western medical science, which has since been introduced, the Chinese now have the best of three worlds.

The 'Eight Strands of the Brocade' (Pa Chin Hsien) actually comprise eight distinct health arts, and these are:

  1. Ch'ang Ming (natural health dietary therapy).
  2. Ts'ao Yao (herbal therapy).
  3. Wen Chiech'u (thermology, or thermogenesis).
  4. T'ui-Na or Anmo (Taoist massage).
  5. Hsia Chen Pien (acupuncture).
  6. Tien Chen (acupressure/spot pressing).
  7. T'i Yu (physical calisthenics).
  8. Ch'ili Nung (the Way of Occlusion).

In addition to the above there is also the utilization of the five senses, which are used for accurate diagnosis, but because it is not a specific healing art, it was never included in the list. However, everyone who studies our arts automatically learns to diagnose, both internally and externally, right from the very start, for it is the one sure way of finding out the true cause of an illness — rather than letting the symptom affect the judgement.

Many people wonder what kind of impact the Chinese health arts will have upon the medical profession in the West, and this we will have to see, but if they are willing to keep an entirely open mind in all they see and hear, and are willing to adapt their trends of thought to the Chinese ways of thinking, then they will encounter no problems at all.

In China, the patient and his welfare will always come first, for we are all of the same race (simply, the human race), and are therefore brothers and sisters, and if you should happen to lose one or the other, then it is completely natural for the whole family to be affected. Therefore in the Chinese medical profession, if it is considered that natural health therapy (Ch'ang Ming) or acupuncture (Hsia Chen Pien) can give quick and lasting results, then these will naturally be given first preference. Modern surgery will only be used as a very last resort, and not just as another means to an end, for practitioners of the Chinese health arts know that once you cut through nerves, blood vessels, skin tissue and bone, whilst these may recover in time, they are never completely the same as nature made them. Any form of surgery is therefore always considered to be the very last resort.

If the West were to adopt these same priorities then the patient would obtain the best from all fields of medical research, both old and new, but if Western medical professionals retain a closed mind and a closed shop to other forms of healing, then they will severely handicap themselves, since they will be linuted to the only two methods of treatment on which they currently depend — namely, drugs and surgery. Drugs are made by big commercial companies, on whose research the doctors have to rely entirely. As for surgery, this is practised by a small minority group of medical specialists. Take these two away, and what has the modern doctor got left to offer his patients? Precisely nothing.

All healing arts should complement one another, for all things in the universe are in harmony with one another. The healing arts should also work in harmony, helping one another, seeking advice from each other, so that the whole of humanity can reap the benefits of the experience and knowledge of all fields. Good health is not the prerogative of one section of humanity; it should be available to all.

The great wealth of knowledge and practical experience that was built up over thousands of years has not gone to waste, but is alive, and available to all mankind. The Western world, whose medicine has a history of less than two hundred years, would do well to take a little more interest in these arts that have been proved over and over again through thousands of years.

It is like comparing the growth of an ant to that of an elephant. A child should not be jealous of an adult, for he too can learn everything that the adult has learned, or more, providing that he is willing to study hard and diligently. The adult, in turn, should not look down on the ignorance of the child, for the adult was once an infant himself. That is why the Chinese are always willing to pass on their knowledge to all, whether they are just ordinary human beings or fully qualified scientists, providing they are all willing to learn as much as they can, and yet at the same time keep a completely open mind. To all those who have suffered every day of their lives, and there may be more who have been in agony for many years, and have tried every known treatment in the West, including every conceivable drug, then it will be truly worthwhile to let the Chinese demonstrate what they can do.

You will be amazed at the results that can be obtained, but you will have to be dedicated in your effort to be cured, once and for all time, if you want to gain the supreme benefits that the Chinese Taoist health arts can offer.


Taoist Ways of Healing - The Chinese Art of Pa Chin Hsien

by Chee Soo

Copyright ©Seahorse Books 2012 reproduced with permission