Subscribe to our RSS Feed Chinese Medicine Times Facebook Fan Page Chinese Medicine Times Twitter Page Chinese Medicine Times Linkedin Page
Chinese Medicine Times

Channel Theory and the Ultimate Sources of the Inner Classic - Part Two

by Jason D. Robertson

In the previous issue, I sketched an overview of how the ideas from the Han dynasty likely came forward to us as the Inner Classic we consult today. The focus of the following section will be on time going back from the Han dynasty. How did the Inner Classic, so revered in Chinese culture, develop from the mists of pre-history? What follows is a very brief summary of some recent research on the earliest period of Chinese medicine. At the very point when portions of the Inner Classic were likely compiled, the relative opacity of Chinese pre-history begins to clarify with written, verifiable texts. This was a time of significant development not only for the field of medicine but for Chinese culture in general. Most notably for the field of medicine, historians seem to agree that the last centuries B.C. witnessed a kind of intellectual cross-fertilization amongst traditions of self-cultivation and the earliest form of needle therapy. The result is the concept of a system of qi circulation in the body that finally culminated with the compilation of many of the texts which were eventually incorporated into the Inner Classic in the process described in the previous issue.

The Dawn of the Han Dynasty

Scholarship available in English by sinologists Nathan Sivin, Donald Harper, Elisabeth Hsu, Vivienne Lo and Paul Unschuld has shed a great deal of light on the previously little-understood very early eras of Chinese medical history. Their research in both ancient and modern Chinese language sources opens a window onto some of the major intellectual trends that eventually gave rise to the first synthesis of channel-style physiology described in the Inner Classic.

The period in question begins with the latter years of the Warring States period (475-221 B.C.) and continues through the early centuries of the Han dynasty (200 A.D.). The general impression presented by the work of these scholars is one of a complex cross-fertilization of ideas during a time of social and political chaos which gradually gives way to the first organized Chinese imperial state. During the Warring States, ideas took shape, which continue to influence the lives of Chinese people even to the present day. The death of Confucius occurred at the very end of the previous Spring and Autumn period (479 B.C.) and, for the 250 years of the Warring States, debates swirled amongst the famous ‘Hundred Schools of Thought’ (zhū zǐ bǎi jiā). During this time, itinerant philosophers traveled the various states plying their intellectual wares at courts vying with aggressive neighbors for military and cultural predominance. It seems to have been the very chaos of the time which stimulated exciting debate. It was the period of Meng Zi (孟子; Mencius), the inheritor of Confucianism and of Zhuang Zi (庄子), the storyteller of the Taoists. The Dào dé jīng, was likely compiled during this time although debate goes on as to when (or if) Lao Zi (老子) actually lived.

Other, lesser-known figures travelled the roads between the various small states that had sprung up in the ashes of the ancient Zhou dynasty. Less known now, but quite important in his time was Mo Zi (墨子; appx 450 B.C.), founder of the Mohists. In the Warring States period, the Mohists were the great adversaries of the Confucians. They were the populists of their time hurling sharp criticisms at the more established Confucian camp. The Confucians were the scholarly advocates of ritual and the cult of emperor while the Mohists espoused the common man, a life that shunned luxury and a concept often translated as ‘universal love.’ In the end, wealth and power coalesced around the Confucians and the rest is literally history. This tumultuous period came to an end when, after a short 14 year span during which the Qin dynasty (221-207 B.C.) gave China its westernized name (The Qin=Chin people), the Han dynasty was founded in 206 B.C.

When the first emperor of the Han dynasty ascended the throne in 206 BC, many of the strict legalist systems initiated by the Qin were retained. Part of the work of building consensus and cementing the foundations of nationhood in the early Han involved the collection of texts. This was made all the more urgent by the ignominious book-burnings carried out by the Qin emperor during his brief but busy rule. Besides burning many of the books that he found within his realm and briefly unifying the Chinese nation, the Qin emperor was also able to motivate tens of thousands of slaves to build a tomb for his remains that was filled with a hundred-thousand life-sized clay warriors. This army of terracotta guardians can still be seen today in the city of Xian (西安).

The early Han emperors fortunately focused their efforts elsewhere. With their support, surviving texts were collected and copied while others were reconstructed from memory. Here, at the birth of what would later become the Chinese nation, those charged with the collection of medical texts collected some of the texts which would later be integrated into the Inner Classic. Notwithstanding this important work of compilation, in many ways the strict legalism that provided much-needed structure for the Qin and Han dynasties after a period of disorder seems to have brought an end to some of the lively intellectual ferment of the preceding centuries. With political stability came a similar standardization of ideas in many fields.

For example, a general theoretical trend of the era leading up to and including the first years of the Han dynasty involved the reconciliation of social/political philosophy with what might be termed “natural philosophy.” Nathan Sivin outlines some of the broad intellectual trends of this period in his text Medicine, Philosophy and Religion in Ancient China.[i] In this collection of essays, Sivin considers a variety of subjects relating to the early development of classical Chinese science. In an essay titled “The First Neo-Confucianism,” the relationship of philosophical and political trends in the early Han dynasty is discussed. This formative phase of the first imperial system is contrasted with the political philosophies of former times as represented by Confucius, Mo Zi and others. Fundamentally, the political philosophers of pre-Han Chinese history were concerned with “man’s relationship to man.” That is to say that ethical concerns and the relationship of people to each other were the primary shapers of their political approach. Before the late Warring States and early Han dynasties, those who considered the workings of the universe at large, while vital to the state in their role as prognosticators or shamanistic healers, were generally considered to be peripheral to applied political theory. They might help explain the mysteries of the universe and thus help guide policy but they were not crucial in shaping the structure of government.

Sivin discerns a change of heart on the part of the political theorists who participated in the development of China’s first unified imperial governments. These same theorists were the contemporaries and intellectual peers of the compilers of texts that would later become sections of the Inner Classic. The very concept of unifying “all under heaven,” to which the early emperors aspired, required a political philosophy of equal cosmological stature. No longer would an aspiring leader of the Chinese people depend on the rather contradictory opinions of debating political philosophers when creating a structure for the state. Instead, these early emperors sanctioned the unification of concepts regarding the world at large with those regarding the organization of empire. In other words, the new political system would require that the state be shown to be an integral part of the natural order. Specifically, the early Han dynasty strove to underpin its legitimacy with the concept that it represented the natural structure of human society within the universal order described in the (already ancient) divining text known today as the I Ching (易经 Yì jīng). In an interesting passage, Sivin sums up his understanding of the motivating themes of these early political philosophers:

“The Han mutationists sought to understand the patterns underlying all process: in the external world, in the body, in the recesses of the human heart, in the conscientious action to the individual and in the ceremonial of empire… Their concern as men of their time was the ultimate issue in understanding change: how does all this infinite diversity of natural mutation in Nature, society and the human psyche arise from The Way, which rests in mystery and does not change at all? What obscure paths do the Tao’s “spiritual forces” (神shén) travel to keep the cycles turning? … Their demonstration that endless wisdom was stored in the symbols of the Changes [The Yì jīng] confirmed its status in the canon whose transmission was sponsored by, and in turn lent legitimacy to, the dynastic house of Han.” (p.6 Essay III)

Here Sivin paints a picture of the broad intellectual trends that also played a part in shaping early Chinese medical theory. The goal of intellectual and scientific endeavor at the time was to discern the great patterns that unified the individual human being to the state, the natural world and the cosmic order. This was as true for politics as it was for medicine. For the medical field, this wove the fundamental principle of wholism into the very roots of its theoretical structure. Thus, from the earliest phase, the theorists of Chinese medicine, like theorists in other classical sciences in China, strove to always appreciate the relationship of the microcosm to the macrocosm; the human body and its component parts with its environment. As the clinical tradition developed and the theory of a channel system began to play an important role, the relationship of the channels to both the internal and the external world continued to be an important consideration.

Some Likely Sources of Channel Theory

Having described the tenor of the times that gave birth to many of the ideas of modern Chinese medicine, the discussion will now explore a few concepts in greater detail. Modern research on the intellectual trends that ultimately gave rise to the Inner Classic might be broken down into three general categories. These three categories by no means represent three separate or unrelated schools of thought in ancient China. Instead, the categories are an attempt to point out three important modern sources of information and, by doing so, to attempt to shed some light on what must have been a lively interplay of ideas at the time. The first category draws from research into a group of thinkers that might be loosely termed “The Naturalists.” The second draws from a collection of scrolls from the second century B.C. found in the region of Mawangdui in Hunan province during the early 1970’s. A third category of information that sheds light on early channel theory draws from a discussion of medical practitioners in the Historical Records (史记Shǐ jì) written by Sīmǎ Qiān (145-86 B.C.). The Historical Records were compiled during the century just before the likely arrival of the Inner Classic. These three categories will each be explored in turn.

The ‘Naturalists’ and the ‘Gentlemen with Recipes’

As described by Nathan Sivin above, Han dynasty developments in the field of medicine likely involved debates about the inter-relationship of the internal and external landscapes. When considering the development of physiological concepts leading up to the Han from the late Warring States period, it is important to begin with the ideas of a cosmologist— an observer of the world at large. Zou Yan (驺衍- early 3rd century B.C.) is largely known to posterity as an early yin-yang and five-phase theorist. Mostly concerned with the political realm, Zou traveled amongst the various warring states promoting his synthesis of the universal and the political. He is known to have overawed kings and lords with his cogent descriptions of the workings of the natural world and the political “way” (道 dào) that would harmonize the state with the powers of the universe. In short, Zou Yan was a proponent of the idea, later adopted by the Han emperors, that the patterns of the world at large can inform and strengthen the workings of human government and society.[ii]

Zou Yan represents an important modification of the ancient divinatory tradition associated with the Yì jīng. In particular, Zou asserted the more immediate nature of universal principles. Instead of the complex numerology and impenetrability of the Yì jīng, Zou presented a system that reduced fundamental forces to a balance of opposites layered with the interaction of five basic movements or phases. Zou proposed that, by understanding these forces, a ruler can better align himself with the natural tendencies of The Way. In so doing, no longer would a ruler consult the I-Ching to determine whether or not a particular action might succeed. Now, a relatively clear model of the forces of the universe was presented that could be more readily harnessed. Thus when considering Zou Yan it is important to note the contributions of an early proponent of political concepts that would, a few centuries later, become important to a new medical synthesis in the Han dynasty.

While political philosophy included thinkers like Zou, a healing tradition thrived at the same time that was based on prognostication. For example, Donald Harper, in the text Innovation in Chinese Medicine, discusses the use of ‘iatromancy.’[iii] The term might be defined as the use of divination techniques for predicting the course or prognosis of illness based on the quality (qi?) of the day the illness begins. A headache, for example, beginning on a particular day in the spring might have a predictable course based on complex calculations. Iatromancy likely involved a system in which disease comes largely from invasion by external forces; a system which places less emphasis on the unique physiology of the individual living within those forces. In his description of this technique, Harper summarizes the nature of the intellectual environment at the time of Zou Yan:

“The issue in the third century B.C. was not whether correlative cosmology [five phases] and divination were incompatible; rather it was where a person chose to take a stand on their relative value.”

Thus, instead of presenting a picture of a great movement led by Zou Yan that led to a revolutionary shift to yin-yang and five-phase analysis of the world, it should be remembered that there were many competing ideas within the Hundred Schools of Thought in the Spring and Autumn and Warring States periods. The school later associated with Zou is often called that of The Naturalists. There is some debate in scholarly circles about the use of a single term like “Naturalists” given that the thinkers we associate with the school were not likely a distinct category/school in their own time. For the purposes of this discussion however, the term refers to a loose category of philosophers and healers who framed their understanding with the terminology of yin-yang and the five phases.

To restate, the core ideas of The Naturalists influenced Chinese science by introducing the idea that nature can be observed using qualitative (yin-yang) analysis in the context of an interrelated whole (five-phase). They also seem to be pointing the way to an understanding of the body as a complex system which interacts dynamically with the natural world.

Interestingly, as early as the end of the 3rd century B.C., a distinct healing tradition had already begun to coalesce; a tradition influenced by the ideas of Zou Yan and The Naturalists who later came to be associated with his ideas. Scholars describe this early medical tradition as one of “recipes and techniques” (方技fāng jì). In another text, Early Chinese Medical Literature, Harper points out that many of the early “gentlemen with recipes” (方士fāng shì), as these practitioners came to be called, claimed to be followers of Zou Yan.[iv] By the time the Bibliographic Records of the Han Dynasty (汉书 Hàn shū) was compiled a few centuries later, “recipes and techniques” represented a category of learning that filled many scrolls in the imperial library. Consequently, by the time the Inner Classic was compiled, an established group of official medical practitioners had already existed for some centuries; many of whom understood their techniques in the context of the yin-yang and five phase tradition of the naturalists. In a way, the recipes and techniques tradition is a kind of bridge between the orally transmitted, pre-historic shamanistic ‘iatromancy’ described above and the more recognizable “Chinese medicine” outlined in the Inner Classic.

Nevertheless, while the recipes and arts practitioners clearly were healers in a more modern sense of the word, in their earliest stages at least, they were not practicing the medicine of systematic correspondences that is described in the Inner Classic. Other ideological threads were also woven in to create the fabric of that later text.

For example, the Han bibliography includes another tradition known as “calculations and arts” (数术 shù shù). This category of learning also included many texts on subjects related to cosmology. While the texts on recipes and techniques focused largely on herbal formulas and treatment techniques, the practitioners of calculations and arts were concerned more with astrology, the calendar and the insights that yin-yang and five-phase theories might provide about the natural world.[v] Those familiar with the general subject matter of the Inner Classic will likely recognize that both the calendar and the natural world are also part of medical theory in that text. Of course, even before the Inner Classic, the knowledge of all these groups intermingled.

The recipes and arts practitioner’s medicine chest did also include methods for removing demons and spirits from their patients but the emphasis placed on written texts (as opposed to oral transmission) represents a significant step away from earlier shamanistic traditions. At the same time, their interaction with cosmologers at the great courts of the day likely made these practitioners quite aware of current thought regarding holism in the world at large and its growing importance to political theory.

The Mawangdui Manuscripts

Analysis of the early history of Chinese medicine and channel theory has been especially active in recent decades. This is largely due to a host of new insight gleaned from manuscripts unearthed during the early 1970s in modern Hunan province. The manuscripts, buried in a tomb near the modern village of Mawangdui, represent the literary collection of a member of the educated elite at the dawn of China’s recorded history (approximately 200 B.C.). The collection includes the earliest surviving examples of texts that deal with Chinese medicine. Of particular relevance is a cache of silk manuscripts dealing with medical subjects that was found neatly folded in a rectangular lacquer box within the third of three tombs discovered. The three tombs contained members of the family of Li Cang, lord of the ancient region of Dai and appear not to have been disturbed for 21 centuries. The first tomb contained the remains of a woman, likely Li’s wife, the second contained the remains of Li Cang himself while the occupant of the third tomb is still the source of some debate. Scholars seem to agree that the third tomb was occupied by one of Li’s sons.

Vivenne Lo draws from the Mawangdui texts in her essay from the collection Innovation in Chinese medicine. In the essay, she describes an important category of information that may have influenced the development of the physiological system later described in the Inner Classic. In her analysis of the Mawangdui texts, she notes the relevance of a category of texts known as the “life-nourishing” (yǎng shēng) scrolls. In particular, she proposes that concepts prevalent in the life-nourishing tradition played an important role in developing the concept of qi. Many of the life-nourishing texts describe techniques for breathing, sexual cultivation and ‘therapeutic gymnastics’ (导引dǎo yǐn). Scrolls describing those techniques provide some of the earliest known written descriptions of the subjective sensation of qi movement. Lo also points out that many of the metaphorical names of acupuncture points might also be traced to this tradition.

Lo contrasts the descriptions of rivers, valleys and gates along the body surface in the life-nourishing texts with the earliest written descriptions of channel pathways in another category of Mawangdui scroll known as the “vessel texts” (mài shū). While the life-nourishing

texts describe a dynamic movement of qi that can be subjectively experienced by following prescribed techniques, the vessel texts provide a more objective description of pathways on the body surface. Furthermore, as Lo points out:

“The excavated [vessel] texts do not reveal the network of channels systematically associated with the internal organs or a network of acumoxa points that we know as the mature acumoxa system….. The practice of lancing the body is mainly associated in these texts with abscess bursting, and the principles of practice related to the channels are extremely basic” (p.27)

Thus Lo proposes two distinct strains in late Warring States medical thought that were likely influential upon what would later become the channel system described in the Inner Classic. On the one hand were the life-nourishing traditions that emphasized learned techniques by which breath, movement and sexual practice could modify the movement of a physiological entity called “qi.” On the other hand, a co-existing tradition involved early descriptions of a system of vessels that connected the extremities to the body trunk. While the vessel texts describe treatments for cauterizing points along the vessels and the use of lancing techniques to release boils and abscesses, there is virtually no discussion about how these pathways relate to the internal organs. A hint about how early physicians in China began to unify these theoretical threads appears in the work of one of China’s greatest ancient historians.

The Historical Writings of Sima Qian

How then were the intellectual synapses bridged between these various trends in philosophical and medical thinking? Elisabeth Hsu posits a possible answer to this question in the same collection of essays cited above (Innovation in Chinese Medicine). In describing early ideas about vessels, disease and qi, she provides a compelling description of how one early doctor was able to synthesize many strains of contemporary medical thought into an early form of Inner Classic-style philosophy. She draws upon a section of the famous Historical Records written by Sima Qian (145-86 B.C.) in the century just before the likely compilation of the Inner Classic. In that text, a series of biographical sketches describes famous personages known to scholars of the early Han dynasty. A section titled, “Memoir of the Master of the Granary” (cáng gōng zhuàn) compares and contrasts the lives of the legendary healer Bian Que with a more contemporary Warring States physician known as Chun Yu-Yi. In that section, the life of Bian Que is described in mythological (almost angelic) terms. Bian Que is described as a winged healer with mystical powers.

In contrast, the biography of Chun Yu-Yi describes the life and medical insight of a very human doctor. The apprenticeship of Chun with two great teachers is described and some of the work of his mature life is chronicled. In fact, with the exception of the likely mythical Bian Que, Chun Yu-Yi is the first name in the history of China that might confidently be associated with the term “acupuncturist.” Of particular interest to historians of channel theory is Chun’s seemingly innovative use of channel diagnosis to determine the condition of organ physiology. In numerous case studies, Chun describes how channel observation (诊zhěn) pulse taking (qiē) and channel palpation (xún) provided clear insight into the otherwise unknowable workings of internal physiology. In Chun’s case studies, we begin to recognize pattern differentiation as a diagnostic approach. Elisabeth Hsu summarizes:

“[Chun Yu] Yi’s achievement thus consisted in combining medical knowledge which classifies disease with regard to qi coming from the five depositories [wǔ zàng; five organs] with that of the Mawangdui vessel texts, which locates disease in the mai [vessels]. Yi’s ‘way of doing things’ is not recorded elsewhere in the extant early medical literature and his case histories represent the first text that correlates mai to the five depositories. Yi established this correlation by interrelating the examination of mai with the identification of qi which often came from the five depositories. This was innovative.” (p. 84)

The conceptual achievement of doctors like Chun Yu-Yi is significant in that many of the threads described above seem to be coming together. His synthesis draws from currents of thought clearly present in the centuries which preceded him. The existence of a doctor like Chun indicates that the ideas of the five-phases, organs, pulse and channel diagnosis and the concept of qi were coming together as a medical system. While theorists like Zou Yan had described the five-phases and yin-yang as systems for describing the natural world and human society, the use of these concepts to describe the organs of the body seems to arise a few centuries later.

Most importantly, Chun represents the assertion that diagnosis of disease involves a careful, objective process by which the physician determines the physiological state by observation of the patient. Treatment follows a diagnosis based on systems. The techniques of the late Warring States practitioners have now begun to take on a structure more recognizable to the modern practitioner of Chinese medicine.

An important component of Chun Yu-Yi’s diagnostic approach should be highlighted at this point. It was stated above that Chun diagnosed the channels by observation (zhěn), pulse taking (qiē) and channel palpation (xún). The reader should note the importance placed upon observation not only of the pulse but also the “quality” of the channels themselves through palpation. The technique of channel palpation represents an important, and often overlooked, diagnostic tool that has been important to practitioners of channel-style acupuncture for many centuries.[vi]



In relation to chart II.3 above, the general picture emerges from recent scholarship that the seminal ideas of the Inner Classic arose from disparate philosophical trends during a time of great synthesis and unification in China. At the same time, other research has shown that the Inner Classic consulted today is but one version of many that have been historically associated with that name. Furthermore, concepts placed under the umbrella of “channel theory” were first seen in the various versions of the Inner Classic but also owe a great deal to the centuries of philosophers and practitioners that both preceded and followed its compilation. Most of the work of people who preceded the Inner Classic has been irretrievably forgotten. Nevertheless, by sampling three general categories of pre-Inner Classic ideas, a picture is painted not of a logical accumulation of rational, empirical observation but instead a rather gradual interweaving of concepts. It is one of the great mysteries in the history of ideas (in any field) how the spark of inspiration grows in a particular place at a certain time. Obviously, in almost all cases of innovation, the great innovators owe a debt to their predecessors who place before them many pieces of the puzzle.

In addition, modern readers should remember that, while early physicians like Chun Yu-Yi and the compilers of the Inner Classic clearly represent early steps toward a more rational, empirical approach to medicine, they were not rational empirical scientists in the modern sense. As Harper points out:

“It is significant, however, that despite a kind of rationalistic skepticism which accompanied yin-yang and five agent theories in various fields of knowledge, the theories themselves were not like laws of nature; and there was not a clear break with the magico-religious conceptions. A wholly naturalistic explanation of phenomena was, therefore, a relative interpretation made by the person applying the theories; the theories themselves did not exclude occult interpretation.” (Harper, 1998 p.11)

In other words, not only was the culture and lifestyle of Chun’s time entirely different, but there were also very different approaches to interpreting these paradigms at any of the later times in Chinese history. This is obviously still true today. The difficulties that modern scholars and scholar-physicians face are summarized by Harper in describing the evolution of the field of medical history:

“The history of science has long since moved beyond the stage of vetting ancient knowledge of nature to separate the rational from the irrational and the science from the superstition. Lively debate continues to focus on the relation between science, magic and religion in a pre-modern context and on the question of what constitutes rationality. A number of earlier theories and interpretations have been put to rest, among them; that magic is failed science; and that scientific ‘progress’ already separated science from magic in ancient times (Tambiah 1990; Vickers 1984; Lloyd 1979).” (p.9)

Consequently, when looking to the past for ideas about physiology in the modern clinic, context should be kept in mind. ‘Context’ in the sense that any concept, not only in Chinese medicine but in all medical paradigms, is the product of intellectual trends from preceding eras and is forged in the fires of the politics and culture dominant at the time.

In fact, the great strength of the Chinese medical tradition is just that. Over time, the field has proven its ability to preserve very relevant concepts laid down at the dawn of history while maintaining an open mind to innovation. This is, in some ways, different than the modern scientific approach but is not its’ opposite. From the time before Zou Yan to the present, ideas have been modified and techniques improved.

Before closing, the reader should pause for a moment to consider the type of scientific/intellectual process that Chinese medicine describes. It provides some important contrast to the modern approach; at least that of the past century. The tradition of Chinese medical science is one of careful revision and layering in contrast to what might be termed a “revolutionary” tendency within western scientific inquiry. Chinese medical science rarely rebukes the concepts of the past with the absolutism of modern western science to ideas that have become “outdated.” In recent decades, members of modern societies have learned not to be surprised when new studies show that one or another “accepted fact” is questioned or altogether overturned. Rooted especially in the Renaissance and the tradition of revolutionary movements, the western scientific tradition is one of linear progression from one idea to the next: past gives way to present.

While not directly opposed, there are differences in the traditional Chinese approach to intellectual endeavor. That approach might be summarized in a single word: continuity. While Chinese history by no means presents an absolute progression from darkness to light, there is however a heightened emphasis in classical Chinese culture on holding new ideas in question until they stand the test of time. This trait can obviously be both a strength and a weakness. It is positive in that it preserves ideas intact from other eras of the human experience. The wisdom of millennia past still lives in the fabric of modern Chinese medicine. There is insight here to which the modern era no longer has access.

On the other hand, the tradition of continuity is a weakness when it creates a strong undercurrent of hostility to change and dogmatism. The net result is that a scholar or doctor in the modern era is confronted with a system that, out of respect for the past, tends to preserve and revere many ideas simply because they are “from the classics.” To the western mind, the presence of ideas and concepts that may be arguably false or untenable renders the entire system flawed. To the modern Chinese scholar, the process is one of wading through centuries of wisdom (and folly) to find core ideas that reflect and instruct the treatment of patients in the 21st century. In fact, it is quite likely that there are concepts within the living system of Chinese medicine that likely represent the “discoveries” of ten years hence in western science. The human body, though changed by the modern experience, is essentially the same subject observed quite carefully by practitioners in China thousands of years ago.


Jason D. Robertson L.Ac. is a licensed acupuncturist and educator in Seattle, WA. Mr. Robertson has spent 8 years studying Chinese language and medicine in Taiwan and China (B.A. Washington and Lee University, Taiwan National University). Most recently, Mr. Robertson published a translation of his work with Professor Wang Ju-Yi titled Applied Channel Theory in Chinese Medicine (Eastland Press, Seattle 2008). Besides his work as a clinician and author, Mr. Robertson is a member of the core faculty at the Seattle Institute of Oriental Medicine.


[i] Sivin, Nathan. Medicine, Philosophy and Religion in Ancient China; Variorum, Hampshire, U.K. 1995.

[ii] A sketch of the life of Zou Yan and the yin-yang/five-phase theorists can be found in: Needham, Joseph. Science and Civilization in China, Vol 2; University Press, Cambridge. 1996.

[iii] Hsu, Elisabeth ed. Innovation in Chinese Medicine; Cambridge Press, Cambridge. 2001.

[iv]Harper, Donald J. Early Chinese Medical Literature; Kegan Paul International, London. 1998; p.50.

[v] Harper, p.45.

[vi] The use of channel palpation as a diagnostic approach represents the core of much of the work of modern scholar-physician Dr. Wang Ju-yi. A thorough description of his thinking on this subject and a detailed exploration of both techniques for channel palpation and methodology for interpreting channel changes can be found in: Wang, Ju-yi and Robertson, Jason D. Applied Channel Theory in Chinese Medicine; Eastland Press, Seattle. 2008.

Other Consulted Texts

Bates, Don (ed.). Knowledge and the Scholarly Medical Traditions; Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. 1995.

Ping, Chen (ed.). History and Development of Traditional Chinese Medicine; Science Press, Beijing. 1999.

Payment methods

| | | |

This site and contents are copyright 2006 - 2012 ©

is the trade name of CMT Integrated Health Ltd, , , , , . Registered in England and Wales No. 6528121. VAT No. GB 941 4574 19.