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The Body in Balance: Chinese Historian Diagnoses the Yin and Yang of Health and Illness

More information - see research at Penn 

Unlike Western views of anatomy, traditional Chinese medicine does not look at the body as a biomedical machine whose broken parts need to be located and then repaired or replaced to restore health. Instead, he says, the Chinese have long regarded the whole person as an integral part of the larger cosmos. Classical medical texts talk about healing as restoring an ecology of physiological, emotional, and moral balance in unity with social relations and the natural cycles of heaven and earth. "It's a language of processes rather than structures and tissues and organs."

In the Chinese model, the human body takes in food and air, and distributes their life-giving substance throughout. The vital energy it feeds, called ch'i, flows through all things, making life happen. Ch'i enlivens the body and animates change, ushering day into night, spring into summer, youth into maturity. When ch'i dissipates, death happens; when the rhythm of its flow becomes unbalanced, sickness ensues.

"If you're thinking about illness as a matter of imbalance," Sivin explains, "then you need an analytical language for talking about balance and imbalance. That's what yin and yang and the Five Phases are."

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