Time, Science, and Society in China and the West

By J. T. Fraser; N. Lawrence et al. | Go to book overview

Zi Wu Flow Theory and Time

Lo Huisheng

Introduction To interpret observations and to coordinate knowledge, the Chinese employed numerological methods of classification.* Since very early times, certain numerals have been used to distinguish among concepts. The most commonly used numbers were two (yin-yang, originally the shadowy and sunny side of a hill); five (for the Five Elements or Phases: fire, earth, metal, water, wood); ten (for the Ten Heavenly Stems) and twelve (for the Twelve Earthly Branches). A combination of the last two constituted the basis of classification in the Zi Wu theory.

These modes of classifying and coordinating data also served to unite in resonance otherwise distinct systems, such as a macroscopic and a microscopic variable.

All things in nature, including man and morality, were held to follow identical resonant behavior, provided they were in phase. Events out of phase were judged pathological and in need of therapeutic intervention.

Summary The Zi Wu Flow Theory is a basic theory in Chinese traditional medicine, stating that many physiological and pathological processes and medical diagnosis and treatments depend on the periodical time change of the seasons and of the day. The variables in focus are periodical functions of time. Zi Wu Flow Theory was profoundly influenced by ancient Chinese natural philosophy. This paper deals mainly with the close relationships between time change and all these philosophical bases.

Zi Wu Flow Theory (zi wu liu zhu

) is a fundamental theory in Chinese traditional medicine. It gradually developed into a strict theoretical system and was based on long medical practice. The theory originated in the medical classic Huangdi neijing (Inner Canon of the Yellow Lord) and was further developed in other classical works, especially in the Nan jing (Canon of [Medical] Problems), the Shanghan lun (Treatise on Cold Damage Disorders), the Lei jing (The Classified Canon), and the Zhenjiu jiayi jing (The ABC Classic of Acupuncture and Moxibustion).

The Zi Wu Flow Theory is part of Chinese classical natural philosophy and is flashed with dialectical light. Thus, it is not only of great medical value, but has also a far-reaching philosophical implication. In this paper, I will deal with the close relations between time change and the Flow Theory from a philosophical view point and pay special attention to the relations between time change and the ontological, epistemological, methodological, and technological bases of this theory.

____________________
*
The author and the editors wish to express their appreciation to Hans Agren, M. D. for editing this paper.

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