Essay of Ancient China

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Ancient China

In ancient Chinese cosmology, the universe was created not by divinities but self-generated from the interplay of nature's basic duality: the active, light, dry, warm, positive, masculine yang and the passive, dark, cold, moist, negative yin. All things, animate and inanimate, and all circumstances were a combination of these fundamentals. The ultimate principle of the universe was the tao, "the way," and it determined the proper proportions of yin and yang in everything. Anything that altered the natural relation of yin to yang was considered bad, and right living consisted of carefully following the tao. If one observed the tao by moderation, equanimity, and morality, as taught in the Tao-te Ching, by Lao-tzu (sixth century B.C.), one would be impervious to disease and resistant to the ravages of aging; disregard of the tao led to illness, which was not so much a punishment for sin as the inevitable result of acting contrary to natural laws. However, illness also could be caused by forces beyond one's control: "Wind is the cause of a hundred diseases," and atmospheric conditions could upset the harmonious inner balance of the yang and yin. One had to be alert to this possibility and combat its effects as well as modify internal imbalances of the vital forces. Longevity and health were the rewards. Chinese medicine, in league with Taoism, was focused on the prevention of illness; for, as the legendary Huang Ti, father of Chinese medicine, observed, "the superior physician helps before the early budding of disease." Although Taoist hygiene called for temperance and simplicity in most things, sexual mores were governed by the yin-yang aspect of Chinese philosophy. Ejaculation in intercourse led to diminution of a man's yang, which, of course, upset the inner balance of his nature. On the other hand, one was strengthened by absorption of the yin released by the orgasm of one's female partner—unless she was over thirty, the point where female essence lost its efficacy. The tao was important in Confucianism also, as the path of virtuous conduct, and for centuries the precepts of Confucius (K'ung Fu-tzu, 550-479 B.C.) set the most prevalent standards of behavior. In early Chinese philosophy, there was a tendency to accept and combine aspects of all religions and to make way for new ideas. Nevertheless, the ancient Chinese were profoundly conservative once an institution, custom, philosophy, mode of dress, or even a furniture style was firmly established, and it remained relatively unchanged over centuries. As Confucius said: "Gather in the same places where our fathers before us have gathered; perform the same ceremonies which they before us have performed; play the same music which they before us have played; pay respect to those whom they honored; love those who were dear to them." Although ancient China's development was relatively isolated, there was early contact with India and Tibet. Buddhism came to China from India, and medical concepts and practices were an important part of its teachings. The gymnastic and breathing exercises in Chinese medical methodology also came from India and were closely related to the principles of Yoga and to aspects of Ayurvedic medicine. There were also contacts with Southeast Asia, Persia, and the Arabic world. In the second century B.C., the Chinese ambassador Chang Chien spent more than a decade in Mesopotamia, Syria, and Egypt, bringing back information on drugs, viticulture, and other subjects. Over the centuries, knowledge of humoral medicine and of numerous new medicaments filtered into China. The introduction of the wisdom of the Mediterranean world was greatly facilitated in the fifth century by the expulsion and wide dispersion from Constantinople of the heretical Nestorian Christians. The mother of Kublai Khan (1216-94), founder of the Mongol dynasty, was a Nestorian and asked the Pope to send European doctors to China. Early Medical Writings

Classical Chinese...
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