Huang Di Nei Jing Su Wen: Nature, Knowledge, Imagery in An Ancient Chinese Medical Text

By Paul U. Unschuld | Go to book overview

6.
FURTHER CONCEPTS ASSOCIATED
WITH THE DOCTRINE OF THE FIVE PERIODS AND SIX QI IN THE SU WEN

6.1. Generation Numbers, sheng shu $,
and Completion Numbers, cheng shu $

In the listing of years of balanced qi among the three arrangements in Su wen 70, the last characteristic added to the description of these years is a number:

In an arrangement of extended harmony, the virtue of wood reaches everywhere…. Its number is eight. 135

In an arrangement of ascending brilliance, … The virtue [of fire] is applied ubiquitously…. Its number is seven. 136

In an arrangement of perfect transformation, … The virtue [of soil] flows into the four policies…. Its number is five. 137

In an arrangement of secured balance, … its kind is metal; … its depot is the lung…. Its number is nine. 138

In an arrangement of quiet adaptation, … its kind is water; … its depot are the kidneys…. Its number is six. 139

The association of specific numbers with the five agents mentioned in the above quotation is identical to that introduced in the “monthly commands” (yue ling $) found in various texts of the late Zhou, such as Li ji, Guan zi, Huai nan zi, and Lü shi chun qiu. Outside of the seven comprehensive treatises and the doctrine of the five periods and six qi, this association appears in the fourth treatise of the Su wen. The origin of this association remains unclear. However, Han commentators have suggested that it was part of a comprehensive numerical system including the numbers one through four as well. Thus Zheng Xuan G(ca. a.d. 127–200), in his comment on the Li ji $, suggested that the sequence from six through nine was derived from additions of the numbers one through five associated with the five agents. These associations had been outlined in the “Hong fan” xd.

Shang shu $, “Hong fan”:

One is water. Two is fire. Three is wood. Four is metal. Five is soil. 140

-476-

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