“Yi zhe li ye” ( 医者理也), medicine is a principle, if the principle is transparent, the heart is luminous/ming 明 . Those who want to learn the spirit of Bian Que must be clear about principle, and those who want to clarify the principle must search in the classics, and only after draw from the ideas of famous physicians.”
-Yu Chang, “Principles of Medical Practice” (translated by Volker Scheid)
Yu Chang was a Qing dynasty physician who felt that the practice of medicine was based on study, reflection, and practice of 理 li/principle. Bian Que was one of the earliest, pre-Han dynasty foundational figures of Chinese medicine, remembered as an expert in pulse diagnostics. The classical texts, both medical and philosophical, such as the Su Wen, Ling Shu, Yi Jing, Nan Jing, Shang Han Za Bing Lun and Shen Nong Ben Cao Jing are viewed in the light of the above statement as templates for meditation upon the underlying foundations of nature and humanity. By embodying these principles, one practices medicine from a place of clarity and understanding, and seeks to harmonize one’s patients with these principles through the tools of medicine, including acupuncture/moxabustion and herbal medicine. But medicine is defined by the classics as including harmonization of the emotions, therapeutic exercise, dietetics, and regulation of the daily lifestyle in harmony with nature, society, seasons, family and heaven and earth. And for the physician, medicine is the practice of self-cultivation and mastery of one’s own health, which can then be shared with one’s patients, family and society. Once one has immersed in the classics, then one can learn the formulas and techniques of great physicians, and not become stuck in method or empirical knowledge. Then we can practice medicine as an art as well as a science, endlessly creative, compassionate, and bringing health and life to the world.